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22 state attorneys general oppose proposed Trump immigration rule on foreign students and media

22 state attorneys general oppose proposed Trump immigration rule on foreign students and media
© Greg Nash

Nearly two dozen state attorneys general are opposing a rule proposed by the Trump administration that would impose new restrictions on international students, exchange visitors and foreign media and limit the amount of time they can spend in the U.S.  

The rule, proposed by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) last month, would put a fixed term of between two and four years for international students and exchange visitors with the option to renew their permissions to stay in the U.S.  

International media would only be allowed to enter the U.S. for a period of up to 240 days.

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The 22 attorneys general criticized the move as “xenophobic” and the time limits as “arbitrary, unnecessary, and unduly burdensome.”

Currently, international students, exchange visitors and foreign media under the specific F, J and I visas, respectively, can stay in the U.S. as long as they are in compliance with the terms of the visa, known as “Duration of Stay.”  

But the proposed rule by DHS would remove the “duration of status framework” and impose new time limits.  

In a letter sent Monday to acting Homeland Security Secretary Chad WolfChad WolfBiden picks first Latino to lead Homeland Security Republican senators urge Trump to label West Bank goods as 'Made in Israel' Judge says acting DHS secretary appointment unlawful, invalidates DACA suspension MORE, the attorneys general criticized the agency for rushing through the process implementing the rule. They said that it discourages foreign students and media from coming to the U.S. and possibly violates federal law, including the Administrative Procedure Act (APA).  

The proposed rule is “arbitrary and capricious, and therefore cannot withstand scrutiny under the APA, on several grounds, including faulty logic, defective data, and tenuous reasoning,” the AGs wrote. 

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The letter was led by District of Columbia Attorney General Karl Racine (D) and Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey (D).

“The Trump administration’s proposed rule to severely restrict time limits on international student visas is yet another xenophobic and unlawful attempt to keep foreign citizens out of the United States,” Racine said in a statement. 

DHS, in its notice of the proposed rule, said that the two-year visa restriction will depend on if a student was born in a country that is designated as a state sponsor of terrorism; if a student is from one of 55 countries that has an immigration overstay rate of more than 10 percent; and whether a school or program sponsor is in an “E-verify participant in good standing.” E-verify is a federal program that requires enrollment by employers who contract with the government. 

The attorneys general said this is likely to impose a two-year restriction on the more than half of international students who are enrolled in four-year bachelor's programs and will discourage them from coming to the U.S. 

“Given the risk involved, it is more than likely that significant numbers of students will not apply for those programs at all,” they wrote.  

The attorneys general further criticized the move as having negative effects on American students and state economies. While the number of international students studying in the U.S. has declined by 11 percent since 2016, this group of foreign visitors is estimated to contribute about $41 billion to the U.S. economy and support half a million jobs. 

In July, an outcry from education groups promoting and supporting international students in the U.S. led to the administration backtracking on a proposed rule to rescind visas for foreign students whose classes had moved online because of the COVID-19 pandemic. 

“The more than 12,000 foreign students studying at colleges and universities in the District of Columbia are valued members of our community. These students make important contributions to their schools and add millions of dollars to our local economy,” Racine continued. “Our coalition urges the Department of Homeland Security to abandon this drastic proposal because it could prevent many international students from finishing their degrees, drive down enrollment at American schools, and harm state economies.”

Racine and Healey were joined on the letter by the state attorney generals for California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Illinois, Iowa, Maine, Maryland, Michigan, Minnesota, Nevada, New Mexico, New York, Oregon, Rhode Island, Vermont, Virginia, Washington and Wisconsin.