Spanberger, Herring lead fight against DOE rule on international students


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A coalition of attorneys general is filing a lawsuit to stop a new federal rule that threatens to bar hundreds of thousands of international students from studying in the United States.

Virginia Attorney General Mark Herring is joining in the effort on behalf of the more than 13,500 international students that currently study in Virginia.

On July 6, ICE announced that international students can no longer live in the United States and take all of their classes online during the pandemic, upending months of careful planning by colleges and universities to limit in-person instruction in favor of remote learning and adapt their coursework for the fall semester, and leaving thousands of students with no other choice but to leave the country.

ICE further demanded that educational institutions advise the federal government by July 15 whether they intend to offer only remote courses in the fall semester, and to certify by Aug. 4 for each of the institutions’ international students that the student’s upcoming coursework this fall will be in person or a “hybrid” of in-person and online learning in order to maintain their visa status.

The lawsuit details the substantial harms that the new rule places on schools and students. It also alleges that the federal government’s actions are arbitrary, capricious, and an abuse of discretion because they reversed previous guidance without explanation, input, or rationale – in violation of the Administrative Procedure Act – and failed to consider the need to protect public health and safety amidst the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

“President Trump and Secretary DeVos are trying to leverage international students as part of an unlawful and dangerous attempt to strong-arm Virginia colleges and universities,” Herring said. “Virginia’s colleges and universities are globally prestigious destinations for higher education, but instead of looking for ways to support our schools, the Trump administration is trying to co-opt them into a never ending quest to deny the realities of COVID and demonize immigrants.

“Our Commonwealth is better for the presence and contributions of international students to our economy and campus communities, and I will do all I can to fight this hasty, dangerous new rule.”

A related push is ongoing involving 136 members of Congress, including Rep. Abigail Spanberger, D-Va.

“The announcement that ICE will invalidate international student visas for students whose colleges mandate or suddenly move to online learning during the pandemic is unacceptable,” Spanberger said. “These students live and study in our communities, and ordering them to leave will harm not only the individuals, but the schools, towns, and cities where they reside.

“American colleges and universities face the major task of resuming operations in the fall in a manner that keeps all their students, faculty, and staff safe. We should be doing what we can to support their goal of reopening responsibly, not hobbling them with knee-jerk restrictions and shortsighted, politically-motivated policies. I strongly urge the administration to reconsider this decision,” Spanberger said.


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