New York has sued the Trump administration over its policy to deny student visas to international students attending American schools that have switched completely to online learning, joining a growing number of schools and localities that oppose the Department of Homeland Security’s new directive.
State Attorney General Letitia James filed the lawsuit Monday in federal court against the Department of Homeland Security and Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), as well as the agencies’ respective leaders, Acting Homeland Security Secretary Chad Wolf and Acting ICE Director Matthew Albencey. James is asking for a preliminary injunction and a temporary restraining order from the ICE policy.
“International students should never be used as political fodder to force colleges to reopen their doors, but the president’s inability to remove politics from public health decisions endangers us all,” James said in a press release Monday. “The diversity of our colleges and universities is what makes New York schools among the world’s most competitive and most sought after, but President Trump’s reversal in policy not only threatens these innocent students’ educational paths, but our state’s hard-hit economy and the public health of millions of New Yorkers. Schools should never have to choose between enrolling international students in in-person classes and maintaining public health, which is why we will use every legal tool at our disposal to stop the president.”
The Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey is leading a coalition of 18 attorneys general in a similar lawsuit also filed Monday. New York City officials joined the City of Boston and the City of Los Angeles together with 23 other cities, counties and towns, in an amicus brief in a lawsuit that Harvard and MIT filed last week against the ICE directive.
Meanwhile, CUNY chancellor Félix V. Matos Rodríguez announced the schools would offer some version of in-person learning this fall: “We are preparing for a range of scenarios that combine in-person, virtual and hybrid instructional modalities,” Rodríguez said in a letter posted online Friday, after the CUNY board of trustees voted to approve the plans Thursday. He also urged caution: “We have seen other universities announce they will return with in-person instruction for the Fall term only to backtrack and reverse course because of a surge in coronavirus cases, contributing to an already disruptive and confusing climate. We want to avoid these kinds of interruptions.”
The CUNY plan, Rodríguez said, will protect the school’s estimated 9,000 international students from the “misguided” ICE policy.
“We are also devising plans to help our international students in response to the misguided policy announced by Washington earlier this week. The resolution approved by the Board last night also helps us in this matter by providing maximum latitude to offer them some degree of in-person instruction. We will leave no stone unturned to make sure our international students are able to stay and continue their studies at CUNY.”
The other big universities in New York City, NYU and Columbia, have announced some form of hybrid learning and staggered in-person instruction this fall. Columbia filed an amicus brief in support of the Harvard and MIT's lawsuit, and NYU said it planned to do the same.