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Harvard and MIT sue ICE to halt new student visa guidelines

A man stands with his back to the camera in front of a one-story house. He is wearing a jacket that reads "POLICE" and "ICE."
U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents are shown outside a San Fernando Valley home in 2012. Harvard and MIT are suing ICE in an attempt to halt its new student visa guidelines.
(Al Seib / Los Angeles Times)

Harvard University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology are seeking a temporary restraining order to prevent the U.S. from enforcing new visa guidelines that could force international students out of the country if schools offer only online classes in the fall.

“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,” Harvard President Lawrence Bacow said Wednesday in a statement.

The U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency issued the rules Monday. Students on existing visas who wish to remain in the U.S. must transfer to a school with in-person instruction or attend an institution that offers both remote and on-campus learning, according to ICE.

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Universities that rely heavily on international students, who typically pay full price, are uncertain how many undergraduates will come if their college experience is altered by COVID-19 testing, masks and limited social interaction. About 1.1 million international students were studying at U.S. colleges in the 2018-19 school year, according to the most recent data from the Institute of International Education. The most, more than a third, come from China, followed by India and South Korea.


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