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MIT, Harvard sue over ICE rule that would boot foreign students out of the country; say administration seems out to deliberately create chaos

MIT and Harvard today asked a federal judge to block a new ICE ruling that would force foreign students already enrolled in college here to either find schools that would teach them in person or leave the country.

As have many other schools, Harvard and MIT have announced fall plans to conduct classes online, even for students allowed to live on campus - only seniors at MIT and mainly freshmen at Harvard - because of Covid-19 concerns. The new ICE regulation, announced without prior notice on Monday, will screw both the students and colleges across the country and violates federal law, the two say.

ICE’s action leaves hundreds of thousands of international students with no educational options within the United States. Just weeks from the start of the fall semester, these students are largely unable to transfer to universities providing on-campus instruction, notwithstanding ICE’s suggestion that they might do so to avoid removal from the country. Moreover, for many students, returning to their home countries to participate in online instruction is impossible, impracticable, prohibitively expensive, and/or dangerous.

ICE’s action also leaves universities across the country, including Harvard and MIT, in the untenable situation of either moving forward with their carefully calibrated, thoughtful, and difficult decisions to proceed with their curricula fully or largely online in the fall of 2020 - which, under ICE’s new directive, would undermine the education, safety, and future prospects of their international students and their campus community - or to attempt, with just weeks before classes resume, to provide in-person education despite the grave risk to public health and safety that such a change would entail.

They add:

By all appearances, ICE’s decision reflects an effort by the federal government to force universities to reopen in-person classes, which would require housing students in densely packed residential halls, notwithstanding the universities’ judgment that it is neither safe nor educationally advisable to do so, and to force such a reopening when neither the students nor the universities have sufficient time to react to or address the additional risks to the health and safety of their communities. The effect - and perhaps even the goal - is to create as much chaos for universities and international students as possible.

Universities and students have been planning the 2020-2021 academic year for months in reliance on ICE’s recognition that the COVID-19 pandemic compelled allowing international students to remain in the country even if their studies had been moved entirely online. ICE’s rescission of that recognition failed to consider numerous weighty interests, and is itself arbitrary and capricious and an abuse of discretion. Further, ICE’s action is procedurally defective under the Administrative Procedure Act. It should be set aside, and the government required to abide by the guidance it put forward in March and on which universities and students relied in planning a fall semester during an ongoing pandemic.

Separately, MIT President L Rafael Reif sent a letter to MIT students and staffers this morning:

Our international students now have many questions – about their visas, their health, their families and their ability to continue working toward an MIT degree. Unspoken, but unmistakable, is one more question: Am I welcome?

At MIT, the answer, unequivocally, is yes.

MIT’s strength is its people – no matter where they come from. I know firsthand the anxiety of arriving in this country as a student, excited to advance my education, but separated from my family by thousands of miles. I also know that welcoming the world’s brightest, most talented and motivated students is an essential American strength.

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Comments

As a fallback position, each university should create a one-credit, free, in-person class on "History of Campus and Local Area." The in-person component could be a two-hour socially-distanced walking tour outside.

Students could have a choice of dates to attend. Would be better if this weren't necessary, but I assume this would be enough so that any student who chose technically needs to be on-campus and in-country for the semester.

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Even if students need to be on campus for only a few minutes a week they still need to live on or near campus, eat somewhere, and travel. These are biggest concern regarding COVID.

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My thought was that there would only be a single in-person class all semester long. So if someone lives elsewhere, they'd only need to make a single trip to campus.

I imagine that most students who would be affected (that is, students who want to remain in the U.S. and take remote classes) already live near campus anyhow.

And while forcing students to travel during a pandemic is stupid, the current ICE plan of kicking them out of the country would lead to even more travel and more exposure.

Obviously the best solution is to get this ICE policy revoked. But as a backup, I think this would be far better than having thousands of students kicked out of country or reopening indoor classrooms when it isn't safe.

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That wouldn't help. ICE is saying they need to take THREE-QUARTERS of their classes in person, in order to qualify as full-time students. So if somebody is (for instance), taking classes in molecular biology, psychology, public health, and statistics, a sensible university would put the class with the lab component on campus and the other 3 online. More likely, they would just have the labs on campus and put the lectures and discussions online.

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There are already significant limitations on international students taking online courses in "normal" times. For example: F1 and M1 students have to maintain full-time status and can only take one course/3 credits online per semester as part of this.

By all accounts, SEVP was going to be flexible on this, given the fact that, you know, we're in the midst of a global pandemic and all. The latest update is essentially backtracking on that. So even if schools did this, ICE can still just say it's not enough in-"classroom" credit.

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Thanks for the info, ChrisInEastie.

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Also to be fair, I did love the idea otherwise!

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Someone suggested a one credit class called "SCREW ICE 101."

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The new ICE regulation, announced without prior notice on Monday, will screw both the students and colleges across the country

The Trump administration has raged war against knowledge and learning and is something which the GOP has followed in lockstep. It's hard to find the biggest atrocity of Trump's (and Fox News, etc) policies but demonizing those who seek to better themselves through learning has got to be towards the top of the list along with trying to eliminate immigration.

It is horribly depressing so many Americans are willing to go along with it. This is the country which harnessed electricity and found a way to fly. Knowledge, discovery, education, and immigration are the cornerstone of American history and the reason why we had been the most successful and prosperous country for the past 200 years.

Policies designed to hurt and curtail education and immigrants isn't just stupid, it's suicidal. It's the equivalent of putting a drop of antifreeze in your morning coffee. It won't kill you right away but in time you'll die a slow and painful death.

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Voting closed 70

They should have done what he would do: pay somebody to take their tests, attend their classes, do their service in the military, whatever. In other words, cheat. It's the Trump way. Make America Cheat Again!

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For seventy grand a year you should be able to accommodate these students. By doing so you won't have to fire or lay off your underpaid workers.

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How would you provide in-person instruction and provide housing for students given Covid-19 issues?

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Do BU, BC, etc not have international students? Are they just not coming back at all?

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The reality is beyond money.

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No amount of money is going to build the dorm, classroom or laboratory space needed to accommodate the number of students normally enrolled, allowing for safe distancing and health practices, between now and September.

Some local institutions have decided to make major investments that will allow for a hybrid solution, which if everyone tried to follow suit, would exceed the supply for the equipment that would need to be installed, so that is not a universal solution either.

I can't think of any business model in any sector that hasn't been pushed to maximize value per square foot and reduce costs per square foot. A seat in a lecture hall may occupy what, 6 sq feet per student? And now we're talking about mandatory distancing that requires 125-150 sq feet of space allotted per person in the room, including the instructors.

I can speak (as an individual, not as a representative of any employer) that is making investments in hybrid teaching. When you reduce the population inside classrooms to the required spacing, you end up with classrooms that can hold between 1/6 and 1/3 their normal capacity. And we normally assign classes to classrooms so that they are good uses of space, meaning close to or completely full. And they are in close to full usage 5 days a week, from 8am to 9pm.

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Once we get away from the "Eye of Gneut & Toe of Frog" [apologies to William Shakespeare, Dead Caucasian Poet, and witches everywhere] bunch and their ostensibly science incantations -- i.e. the Public Health Experts and their constantly changing 'Guidance" -- We can look at the indoor COVID-19 transmission problem from a much more logical and realistic perspective

MIT and Harvard and probably the other major U's and even a fair number of colleges have purpose-built large lecture halls whose design unintentionally is optimum for safety in the COVID-19 era.

No Lecture Hall designed to seat more than 100 people has a low ceiling -- it just can't be done due to sight lines. Hence, the air puffs bearing the virus emitted by infected asymptomatic students will rise upward where it will be diluted by lots of non-virus bearing air both from outside and filtered recirculated air.

In addition, not too many lecture halls are filled with screaming students -- well OK if a really BAD Movie was being played for entertainment back a few decades ago. Lacking a lot of excitement in the typical lecture the emission of virons from the asymptomatic students is minimized.

So -- if you feel compelled wear a mask, have a bunch of hand sanitizer dispensers near the doors and use every other seat -- Otherwise the large lecture format courses can be held just as they always were -- with a mixture of bored, sleeping and attentive students [having been all of these at various times in my undergraduate and even graduate student days and also having seen them from the perspective of the person giving the lecture]

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If you have some sound public health guidance that you'd like to cite for us, that would be very helpful. Because right now, we are planning to operate under significantly reduced classroom density.

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Once we get away from the "Eye of Gneut & Toe of Frog" [apologies to William Shakespeare, Dead Caucasian Poet, and witches everywhere] bunch and their ostensibly science incantations -- i.e. the Public Health Experts and their constantly changing 'Guidance"

Yes, once we do that, we are then free to take advice from pseudonymous idiots on the Web. Before saying that no lecture halls at MIT are larger than 100 seats, look up the MIT floor plans.

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A US based University should prioritize their reopening for foreign nationals.

US student be damned.

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So maybe you should bear in mind those foreign students are human beings, and that using them as pawns in this fashion is a shitty thing for the President to do, and if you're willing to speak this way about people who have done you no wrong, the world would be better off if you were never born.

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That is part of the Trump way: create chaos. Pardon the fancy language: it is his raison d'être.

Part of his Nazi like behavior is to also single out the weakest groups for persecution. He already uses government to persecute children of illegal immigrants by putting them into cages.

Now he finds another way to, if not persecute, at least beat on another group for the pleasure of beating on them.

Donal Trump may be beyond redemption at this point. In other simply and plainly a fully evil individual.

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because this all seems very Millerian and I doubt that Trump knows anything about how international student visas work.

Or how anything actually works.

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I agree ..I think Miller is behind this. He's a truly evil little pest.

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Is this a new ruling (i.e. ICE action)? Or is this merely longstanding policy (i.e. ICE inaction)? There's a difference. The reporting yesterday said it was expiration of a temporary exemption, not like a totally new regulation.

If you want it changed, the House should start the process by passing a law.

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Those bills suffer from controversy over the issue of granting amnesty to illegal/undocumented/unauthorized aliens.

A clean bill, concerning authorized immigrants and COVID, that has an expiration date in 2021, is more likely to pass the House and Senate.

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so the issue is writing a bill you like

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No, the issue is writing a bill that the fewest voters dislike.

But the bigger issue is getting Congress to pass actual laws, so that we don't end up with a situation where one President enforces it the way they like, then another President enforces it the way they like, and then someone who doesn't like the way the new President likes it, finds a Judge who dislikes the President, sues in that Court, and then the Judge blocks the new President under the pretense of Administrative Procedure. And all the while, Congress sits back more motivated to complain than to actually pass anything, because we've devolved into a system of men not laws.

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No, the issue is writing a bill that the fewest voters dislike.

This is so very far removed from the way legislatures in this country work, it's laughable. Especially since the Citizens United decision, the only voters whose likes and dislikes actually make a difference to most lawmakers are those who are capable of donating piles of cash to them. That boils down to corporations and the 1%, and does not include ordinary voters, no matter how many of them like or dislike a bill.

It's interesting, how you can pretend to support an idealistic model when it suits your argument, then trash it when it doesn't.

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Seems like the conditions that prompted that exemption are still in place. What harm is done by extending the exemption?

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...

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These are long standing rules passed by a bipartisan majority.

Further, student visas are granted so students can be present for said studies. If the college/uni don’t allow in person classes their presence in the US is not required.

Their counties infrastructure is not the concern of our federal government.

This ruling isn’t some crazy bigoted ruling, rather it’s logical and leans in long-standing immigration rules.

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But nice deflection to pretending that things are all normal lah dee dah.

So the real problem is that the Trump in his delusional incompetence is failing to acknowlege that an emergency exists.

Never mind that the COVID slaughter in Texas and Florida in one month has exceeded the hurricane death toll for the last 20 years, and the national situation is exploding despite already exceeding 40 times the 9/11 death toll.

Nothing to see here. No emergency. Noting different. Fuck you there's no problem.

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the once-in-a-lifetime emergency created by a worldwide pandemic. Remember, the original extension was because of an emergency situation -- which we're still in. So why not keep extending it?

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I'd stay anon too if I had voted for Trump. With that twisted version of America you share I'm surprised the armbands haven't been handed out yet.

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Where is the idea that students only need to take one in person class coming from? The ICE mandate states that they are ending the exemption and returning to the regular rule that f-1 students can only take one online course per semester. Also, what happens if a school pursues a hybrid model and then is forced to go totally virtual because of a second wave?

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A lot of people are coming up with the idea of students taking just one in-person class. It's pure wishful thinking, possibly combined with misreading the rule that allows foreign students to maintain their status while taking a single online class. If they're taking the minimum course-load of 12 credits, they're allowed to take 9 credits in person and 3 credits online. If you really want to, you can read that as requiring 1 class in person and 3 online, and one class in person only takes an hour. Right?

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This may be the conspiracy theorist in me, but it strikes me as odd that there are multiple Facebook and Twitter posts spreading this false idea that schools only need to offer one in person class to prevent the deportation of their international students. This piece of misinformation is a GREAT excuse to condemn universities for not caring. As in “schools like Harvard won’t even offer one in person class? What a liberal crapshoot of a school!” Deff works to trump’s advantage.

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