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UC Board of Regents Chair John A. Pérez. (Photo: universityofcalifornia.edu)

UC To Sue Federal Government, ICE Over New International Student Online Class Order

International students may face deportation if their universities don’t offer in-person classes

By Evan Symon, July 9, 2020 5:48 pm

On Wednesday, the University of California announced that it will sue the federal government over an Immigration and Customs Enforcement order to stop international students from staying in the United States if they attend universities that offer online only courses due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

UC to sue the federal government

The University of California wants a temporary restraining order, as well as an immediate halt for ICE to enforce the order at all UC campuses. UC has said that the order violates the rights of the University and UC students.

Classes have been planned to be largely online for the fall semester rather than in-person at most campuses to help stop the spread of COVID-19.

“The University of California’s legacy and leadership would not be the same without the international students and faculty who have come to this institution,” said UC Board of Regents Chair John A. Perez in a statement to the press. “As part of our effort to respond to COVID-19 and to protect the health of all our students, UC has increased online instruction and decreased in-person classes. Even last-ditch efforts can cause real harm, so it is imperative for UC to file this lawsuit in order to protect our students. To UC’s international students, I say: ‘We support you and regret the additional chaos ICE’s action has caused.’ To the courts, I say, ‘We are the University of California. UC knows science, UC knows law, and we approach both in good faith. Our opponents have shown you time and again that they do not.'”

UC President Janet Napolitano (Photo: University of California)

Outgoing UC President and former director of the Department of Homeland Security, which oversees ICE, gave similar comments.

“This is mean spirited and damaging to America,” said Janet Napolitano. “At a time when college students across America are struggling to deal with the challenges and uncertainty of the COVID-19 pandemic while focusing on their studies, this capricious and illegal order from the federal government plunges them into deeper anxiety and uncertainty. It is illegal, unnecessary and callous.”

ICE can remove students if they don’t meet the new orders

The new ICE orders were announced on Monday specifically target international students not going to physical classes. Those attending universities under hybrid online/in-class models will be allowed to stay. Despite the coronavirus pandemic forcing many colleges and universities to continue with more or total online classes, the new order does not give any allowances to international students on visas with all online classes.

“The order came from the Trump administration, and it does leave some unanswered questions,” international student advisor Mary Morgan told the California Globe. “A lot of students have signed leases and have been accepted, and now thousands are stuck due to closed borders. So a lot of them are between a rock and a hard place now. No college, no way of returning home, no degree, and now they have to pay for an apartment in a time where mass evictions are only months away in California.”

“The reasoning of the Trump administration is that, because they aren’t physically going to class and that online classes can be taken from anywhere and don’t require staying in the U.S., they don’t need to be here. And to that end they have a point. A lot of online classes in the US such as the University of Phoenix don’t require campuses and are all online.”

“But it’s leaving students in a dangerous situation, and I’ve been dealing with this since Monday. All of my students are worried since classes are all online at my college.”

ICE has said that international students under visas who only have online classes can be removed.

UC became the third university following Harvard University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in suing the federal government, with many more colleges also preparing such action.

“Colleges are also adjusting to combat this,” added Morgan. “Some are added a special course that takes place at the school in a large auditorium for social distancing. They’re finding loopholes to this. Hopefully we can reach some sort of decision to let everyone stay because of all of these colleges and universities fighting this.”

The new ICE orders became the second major federal overhaul in the US college system since June following the Supreme Court’s decision to allow the DACA ‘Dreamer’ program to continue.

Evan Symon
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