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MIT, Harvard Point to Administrative Procedures Act in Student Deportation Lawsuit

Two Northeast universities are pushing back against President Donald Trump’s plan to deport students studying abroad if schools conduct online-only classes. The move comes amid uncertainty about the status of in-person schooling starting normally in the fall as new COVID-19 cases continue to crop up. Some have speculated the decision is a political power play to pressure colleges to open their doors.

harvard 359920 640Harvard University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) filed a lawsuit against the U.S. Department of Homeland Security and U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement seeking a temporary restraining order and both preliminary and permanent “injunctive relief” to prevent enforcement of the July 6 directive calling for the potential deportations. 

“These students are being told to transfer to other institutions offering in-person instruction or leave the country, even though this late in the summer, it is highly unlikely students can apply for let alone successfully obtain such transfers,” according to Harvard. “Many of these students do not have the means to safely travel outside of the country and face substantial barriers to online learning as a result of unavailable or unreliable internet connections, time zone variations, and other obstacles.”

Per the Administration’s guidance, students taking online-only courses will not be permitted to remain in the country. Further, F-1 and M-1 designated students, who were taking classes outside the U.S., would not be permitted to enter, according to Harvard.

The lawsuit was filed in the United States District Court for the District of Massachusetts. It states the policy is in violation of the Administrative Procedures Act for three reasons. The July 6 guidance;

  • “Failed to consider important aspects of the problem before the agency acted”
  • “Fails to offer any reasonable basis that could justify the policy”
  • “Failed to provide the public with notice and the opportunity to comment on this rulemaking”

The decision, says representatives at Harvard, appears to “reflect an effort by the federal government to force universities to reopen in-person classes.” By doing so, they said, students would be tightly packed into residency halls even though many institutions find this inadvisable and unsafe. “The effect—and perhaps even the goal—is to create as much chaos for universities and international students as possible,” states the school.


Donald J. Trump @realDonaldTrump Jul 8

"In Germany, Denmark, Norway, Sweden and many other countries, SCHOOLS ARE OPEN WITH NO PROBLEMS. The Dems think it would be bad for them politically if U.S. schools open before the November Election, but is important for the children & families. May cut off funding if not open!"

MIT President L. Rafael Reif griped that the policy was made after many schools already issued final decisions regarding the fall semester and creates confusion for staff and students. “The announcement disrupts our international students’ lives and jeopardizes their academic and research pursuits. ICE is unable to offer the most basic answers about how its policy will be interpreted or implemented,” said Reif, in an email to the school’s community.

Reif also recalled his own experiences as a student travelling to a foreign country in defense of the importance of a diverse student body. “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,” Reif said.


Donald J. Trump @realDonaldTrump Jul 8

"I disagree with @CDCgov on their very tough & expensive guidelines for opening schools. While they want them open, they are asking schools to do very impractical things. I will be meeting with them!!!"

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