Harvard, MIT Sue ICE Over Plans to Deport International Students

Harvard and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) filed a lawsuit against the Trump administration over a new rule barring international students who attend colleges and universities only offering online courses amid the pandemic from staying in the country.

The two colleges filed the lawsuit against the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and the Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agency in District Court in Boston on Wednesday morning, a Harvard spokesperson told Newsweek.

The lawsuit, which was first reported on by The Harvard Crimson, seeks a temporary restraining order and preliminary and permanent injunctive relief preventing the government from enforcing its new policy, which was announced on July 6.

They argued that the July 6 directive, announced by ICE, violates the Administrative Procedures Act, which dictates how agencies can establish regulations.

In a statement made to the Harvard community, Harvard President Larry Bacow condemned the order as cruel and reckless.

"The order came down without notice—its cruelty surpassed only by its recklessness," Bacow said. "It appears that it was designed purposefully to place pressure on colleges and universities to open their on-campus classrooms for in-person instruction this fall, without regard to concerns for the health and safety of students, instructors, and others."

Noting that the policy shift came "at a time when the United States has been setting daily records for the number of new infections, with more than 300,000 new cases reported since July 1," Bacow said Harvard has already "undertaken careful planning to address the unique circumstances of our community and to enable students to make educational progress safely."

"We have done so recognizing that the nation is in the grip of a pandemic that poses risks to the health of millions and that threatens to overwhelm our capacity to manage it," he said.

In order to prevent students from being forced to leave the country, Bacow said "we filed pleadings together with MIT in the US District Court in Boston seeking a temporary restraining order prohibiting enforcement of the order."

Not only is the rule "bad public policy," he said, but both universities also "believe that it is illegal."

In rolling out the policy, Harvard and MIT have argued that ICE failed to properly notify the public, as per the APA, and failed to provide a reasonable basis for the rule.

"We will pursue this case vigorously so that our international students—and international students at institutions across the country—can continue their studies without the threat of deportation," Bacow said.

"For many of our international students, studying in the United States and studying at Harvard is the fulfillment of a lifelong dream. These students are our students, and they enrich the learning environment for all."

He continued: "We fervently hope that, before long, the circumstances that necessitate online learning will pass.

"As a university with a profound commitment to residential education, we hope and intend to resume full in-person instruction as soon as it is safe and responsible to do so.

"But, until that time comes, we will not stand by to see our international students' dreams extinguished by a deeply misguided order. We owe it to them to stand up and to fight—and we will."

This is a developing story and it will be updated as more information becomes available.

HARVARD
A general view of Harvard University campus is seen on April 22, 2020 in Cambridge, Massachusetts. Harvard is suing the DHS and ICE over a new policy barring international students attending online courses only at universities and colleges from remaining in the country. Maddie Meyer/Getty