California Attorney General Xavier Becerra sued the Trump Administration last Thursday over its edict that would revoke the visas of foreign students who only take classes online, claiming that ICE exceeded its authority with the directive, and it would endanger students and harm universities, California Globe reported.
“At a time when COVID-19 cases are surging across the state, the policy requires international students to take classes in person — putting themselves, teachers, other students, and the community at large at risk of getting and spreading the coronavirus — or be subject to deportation,” his office stated. “Beyond the myriad significant direct harms to individual students, the mission of California’s higher education institutions would suffer if international students are forced to dis-enroll because of the Trump Administration’s arbitrary actions. It will also likely further burden educational institutions at a time when the state faces significant budget shortfalls and schools are already struggling to confront the economic and public health impacts of COVID-19.
The lawsuit was filed on behalf of the California State University system and the California Community Colleges system. The University of California has announced plans to file its own claim.
The lawsuit, filed in the United States District Court for Northern California, seeks a preliminary injunction to prevent ICE from enforcing the newly-announced policy. It is the 86th claim that Becerra has filed against the Trump Administration.
Foreign students in the United States through the Student and Exchange Visitor Program (SEVP) were normally required to take most of their classes in person. At the start of the pandemic ICE put a temporary hold on the policy and authorized foreign students to take classes online. But on July 6 ICE essentially returned to what has always been American policy, saying it would revoke the visas of students who only take classes online.
Becerra is supposed to be the chief legal officer of California. But his statement announcing the lawsuit was not very legalistic; it sounded like some kind of hyperbolic assault on Trump Xenophobia that you would expect from MSNBC anchors.
“Shame on the Trump Administration for risking not only the education opportunities for students who earned the chance to go to college, but now their health and well-being as well,” said Becerra. “Today, President Trump appears set to do just that — amidst a global pandemic of historic proportions. Not on our watch. No one graduates more students from college or assembles a more talented and diverse group of future leaders than California. Today’s lawsuit rests on America’s enduring principle that everyone who works hard and plays by the rules can earn a chance to get ahead. We’ll see the Trump Administration in court.”
California Community Colleges Chancellor Eloy Ortiz Oakley said in a statement released by Becerra’s office that “With this lawsuit, California is standing up for the 21,000 international students who attend our community colleges and standing up for our right to continue teaching and learning in a safe and responsible way during the pandemic.
The federal complaint against ICE and the Department of Homeland Security states that “In addition to being cruel, Defendants’ attempt at a policy change to force in-person learning in the middle of a pandemic is absurd and the essence of arbitrary and capricious conduct in violation of the Administrative Procedure Act.”
It claims the ICE policy was basically a Trojan Horse, calling it a “callous plan” by the Trump Administration to “force either (a) 32,000 international students, who are attending public higher education institutions in California, to depart the United States; or (b) the State’s higher educational institutions to increase the risk of transmission of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) through expanded in-person instruction contrary to the advice of public health experts.”