Last week, the Trump administration announced that, if college classes are held only online this fall, immigrant students would have to return to their home countries. Now, the administration has cancelled that announcement. The plan to send students home will not be put into place.
Instead, the policy will return to what it has been since March. In a March directive, Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) suspended the usual limits around online courses “for the duration of the emergency.”
The move to change the policy back came after at least eight federal lawsuits. States and universities alike opposed the change.
If the policy had changed so that foreign students couldn’t remain in the U.S. to take online courses, many students would have been deported. Colleges and universities were scrambling for how to keep their valued international students in the country.
The universities who sued the administration to block the policy called it arbitrary and capricious. This is a legal argument that the policy had not been proposed using the official rulemaking process.
The president of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) said that MIT stands ready “to protect students from any further arbitrary policies.”
“This case also made abundantly clear that real lives are at stake in these matters, with the potential for real harm,” he added in a statement. “We need to approach policy making, especially now, with more humanity, more decency — not less.”
Taking online courses from their home countries would have been problematic
One student, who is pursuing a Ph.D. at The City College of New York, said it would have been hard to finish her thesis and defend it if she were forced to return to Ecuador. Home internet access is spotty there. If she had been sent back, she would have had to try to return to the U.S. later, and that would have been too expensive.
If you are a student at a U.S. college or university, you can stop worrying for now. The current policy allows you to continue taking online courses during the pandemic.