California officials on Thursday said they intend to file a lawsuit against the Trump administration to block it from forcing out international students whose schools in the U.S. move their courses online because of the coronavirus pandemic.
The state's lawsuit in federal court comes a day after Harvard and MIT sued in federal court to stop the sudden policy change from Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE).
"Shame on the Trump Administration for risking education possibilities for students who earned the chance to study here, along with their health and wellbeing,” California Attorney General Xavier BecerraXavier BecerraThe Hill's Morning Report - Biden to make voting rights play in Atlanta Democrats eager to fill power vacuum after Pelosi exit Overnight Health Care — Insurance will soon cover COVID-19 tests MORE said.
In March, ICE had announced a new policy that student visa holders in the U.S. would be allowed to remain in the country if they're forced to attend virtual classes in light of the public health crisis.
Then on Monday, without warning, ICE reversed itself, saying that any international students attending schools that had moved their classes online would have to leave the country or transfer to a new school.
“The U.S. Department of State will not issue visas to students enrolled in schools and/or programs that are fully online for the fall semester nor will U.S. Customs and Border Protection permit these students to enter the United States,” ICE said Monday.
“Active students currently in the United States enrolled in such programs must depart the country or take other measures, such as transferring to a school with in-person instruction to remain in lawful status. If not, they may face immigration consequences including, but not limited to, the initiation of removal proceedings.”
The order affects more than a million student visa holders in the U.S. California is suing on behalf of 21,000 international students at its public community colleges throughout the state. Becerra said there are about 184,000 total student visa holders in California.
"This could put everyone at risk of getting and spreading the coronavirus, or be subject, in the case of these international students, to deportation if they don’t comply with this latest Trump policy," Becerra said Thursday. "This policy isn’t just unlawful, it’s dangerous and morally reprehensible."
The normal policy requires international students to attend a majority of their classes in person in order to remain in the U.S. The policy change in March was announced as part of an effort allow for social distancing at schools to protect against spreading infections.
The reversal comes as President TrumpDonald TrumpJudge rules Alaska governor unlawfully fired lawyer who criticized Trump Giuliani led fake electors plot: CNN Giuliani associate sentenced to a year in prison in campaign finance case MORE is pressuring schools to fully reopen in the fall despite the number of infections in the U.S. reaching new heights.