International students, universities express relief over Trump administration’s reversal on visa rule

Ritu Jha-

It was a huge sigh of relief for International students in the US on learning the Trump administration has agreed to take back the blunt and erratic policy announced July 6, which asked the international students to either take on-campus classes or leave the country.

The policy outraged not just the students but universities and IT sectors across the country leading to a court case filed on July 8 at the US District Court for Massachusetts by Harvard University of the Ivy League and MIT with amicus support from over 19 associations and individual companies.

“It’s wonderful breaking news for us as international students,” Adit Kumar, a student at the University of Fullerton, told indica reacting to the reversal of the DHS rule.

“Finally a sigh of relief. Thank you, President Trump,” said Kumar, adding that his friends along with himself were worried by the growing coronavirus in California and the possibility of being forced to join on-campus classes. He said, “we all were so scared.”

“We all are happy. We do not have to risk our lives,” said Kumar.

According to Law360, it took just two minutes in court for the Trump administration and the groups and institutions who filed the lawsuit to come to terms.

“The hearing was slated for a 90-minute spar between the two sides over a motion for a preliminary injunction. Instead, it ended in less than two minutes, after the parties acknowledged a truce had been reached,” reported Law360.

The lawsuit argued that international students do not harm businesses or the economy but rather help generate tens of billions of dollars that international students contribute to U.S. GDP each year. The lawsuit said international students play a critical role at U.S. educational institutions and help students learn skills that businesses need to continue leading innovation.

The suit also argued that the defendants did not take account of the substantial benefits to U.S. businesses from international students’ employment in the United States during and after their course of study, or businesses’ reliance on international students to provide a critical element of their workforce. It also ignored the significant long-term benefits to businesses and the entire economy from international students who remain in the U.S. after graduating.

“The decision to withdraw the misguided policy guidance provides a welcome measure of relief to returning international students pursuing their higher education goals through the California State University,” Toni Molle, director, Public Affairs, California State University, Office of the Chancellor told to indica through an email and added, “There are still outstanding questions related to new students, and it is our hope that forthcoming clarification will maintain opportunities for those students. We continue to review for potential impacts, and as we gain more clarity will share additional guidance.”

California AG Becerra
California AG Becerra

A statement released by California Attorney General Xavier Becerra following the Trump administration backing off from its decision said, “The Trump Administration appears to have seen the harm of its July 6 directive, but it shouldn’t take lawsuits and widespread outcry for them to do their job. In the midst of an economic and public health crisis, we don’t need the federal government alarming Americans or wasting everyone’s time and resources with dangerous policy decisions. President Trump’s arbitrary actions put the health and safety of our students and communities across the country at risk. We’ll continue doing our part to ensure his Administration follows the rule of law.”

Prior to the pandemic, Student and Exchange Visitor Program (SEVP) students were required to take the majority of their classes in person. On March 13, 2020, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), which oversees SEVP, issued guidance to exempt students from the program’s requirements in light of the ongoing pandemic, and efforts by universities across the country to adapt to the challenges of COVID-19. In its guidance, ICE declared that the exemptions would be in effect for the duration of the emergency.

Ajay Bhutoria, a member of the National Finance committee for Joe Biden for President  2020 said he welcomes the rule being rescinded.

“This is a big relief for international students and colleges, teachers, parents, especially international students from India,” Bhutoria said in an email to indica. “The new rule was disruptive and was heavily criticized by Democratic lawmakers. International students are welcome in the United States and are the backbone of our education system and a source of major revenue for colleges.”

Bhutoria added that international students contribute to the US economy in many ways, including college fees, spending on food, lodging, and travel in addition to creating startups and US companies.

“Several current Indo American CEOs and executives of US companies came as students in US and transformed the companies they worked for, created Jobs and contributed heavily to growth of US economy,” Bhutoria said.

Harvard University, in a series of tweets, cheered the decision.

“Today the U.S government withdrew the ICE directive that would have prevented international students from staying in the country if they attend institutions that are holding courses online this fall.”

Harvard Bacow
Harvard President Bacow

Harvard President Lawrence Bacow was quoted on the university’s official Twitter account as saying, “This is a significant victory… We are immensely grateful for the widespread support that we and our students have received over the course of the past week.”

“At a time when this pandemic continues to rage, we must continue to act with vigilance, informed by the best available science and with a commitment both to carrying forward the vital enterprise of learning and to safeguarding public health,” Bacow said.

Google, Facebook, Microsoft and other tech firms joined the lawsuit filed by Harvard and MIT last week to block the Trump administration’s decision to ban foreign students taking only online courses.


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