Home World News A swarm of lawsuits against Trump's administration

A swarm of lawsuits against Trump’s administration

The Trump administration's decision to expel non-immigrant students of F-1 & M-1 visa, who do not switch to in-person classes, has shocked many international families. Amid the ongoing pandemic, an additional burden has come upon the international and non-immigrant students who have to find alternatives in the face of the US government's decisions...

On July 6 2020, the US Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) passed an order, declaring that the non-immigrant students with F-1 and M-1 visas attending schools operating entirely online or taking only online courses, will not be permitted to remain in the United States. Post this decision, many universities, as well as families of non-immigrant students affected by this order, have come out in protest for justice. Around 17 states of the US have filed lawsuits against the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and the ICE, in the US District Court in Massachusetts; seeking an injunction to stop the entire rule from going into effect.

Cruel and abrupt

Eighteen attorneys have filed this case headed by Massachusetts Attorney General, Maura Healey. As per the statement of the attorneys, this act of the federal government is “cruel, abrupt, and unlawful action to expel international students amidst the pandemic that has wrought death and disruption across the United States.” The states that have filed the lawsuits are- Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Illinois, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Nevada, New Jersey, New Mexico, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont, Virginia, and Wisconsin.

The order passed by the ICE also limits students from taking more than one class or three credit hours online to remain in the country. It has been recorded that over 10 lakh international students were registered in the academic year 2018-19 alone.

Student and Exchange Visitor Program

The Student and Exchange Visitor Program’s (SEVP) report reveals that around 1,94,556 Indian students were enrolled in various academic institutions in the US in January. Out of that total figure, 1,26,132 were males and 68,405 females. The Attorney-General leading the lawsuits has remarked the following: “Massachusetts is home to thousands of international students who make invaluable contributions to our educational institutions, communities, and economy. We are taking this action to make sure they can continue to live and learn in this country.”

Lawsuits after lawsuits

Days after the Harvard University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology filed a lawsuit against the ICE’s latest order, another lawsuit was filed by the 17 states headed by Massachusetts’ Attorney-General. The lawsuit challenges an abrupt policy change by the ICE to reverse the guidance issued on March 13 that recognized the COVID-19 public health emergency and had provided flexibility for schools and allowed international students with F-1 and M-1 visas to take classes online for the duration of the emergency. It also alleges that the new rule levies significant economic harm by impeding thousands of international students from coming to and residing in the US; and finding employment in fields such as science, technology, biotechnology, healthcare, business and finance, and education, which would also contribute to the overall economy of the US.

It has been brought to notice that Massachusetts currently has 77,000 students with active visas. These students are estimated to bring more than USD 3.2 billion to its economy each year. The state houses 92 private colleges and universities and operates 29 public institutions of higher education, 15 community colleges, 9 state universities, and 5 separate campuses of the University of Massachusetts system.

Affected by the new order

The Northeastern University, the Tufts University, the University of Massachusetts, the Boston University, the Massachusetts Community Colleges, the Massachusetts State Universities, the Association of Independent Colleges and Universities in Massachusetts and the Greater Boston Chamber of Commerce, as well as Rochelle Walensky, a Harvard Medical School professor and the chief of the Division of Infectious Diseases at the Massachusetts General Hospital- all have issued around 40 declarations stating how they are going to be affected by the new order.

Seven international graduate students in California, which include six Chinese nationals and a German, have filed a federal lawsuit in the Central District of California.

Mark Rosenbaum, directing attorney of the Public Counsel’s Opportunity Under Law project said, “The ICE policy requiring foreign students to attend in-person classes, even where their universities have determined that to do so will cost lives and endanger the campus community, in keeping with the judgment of public health experts, treats them as pawns for the president’s politically motivated decision.”

The fate of international students

Education is an important part of every student’s life. Depriving them of that opportunity, by arbitrary means, is sheer abuse of power and authority vested in a person[s]. Amidst the ongoing pandemic and lockdown orders implemented all over the world, it is almost next to impossible for students to find a safe livelihood for themselves. Getting them evicted on the grounds that haven’t been fully or adequately specified by the authorities is an abuse of power. This will not contain but instead spread the contamination rate of the coronavirus disease.

A large chunk of the US economy receives its benefits from the education sector, and international students are major contributors to it. Still, the administration has gone ahead to impose such a harsh order. The F-1 visa holders pursue academic courses while M-1 students pursue “vocational coursework” in the USA. With economies being down in almost all countries, it would risk the lives of students whose families are forced to leave the country if they do not opt for an offline method of studying. This decision by the Trump administration is deemed to adversely affect the lives of many students. At this point, hopes run high that the lawsuits filed against this arbitrary order result in success for those fighting for the rights of the students.

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