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Rice University supported a Harvard lawsuit against federal immigration authorities over guidance from ICE that would have forced international students taking all online classes to leave the country. On Tuesday, ICE did away with the controversial new rule.
Rice University supported a Harvard lawsuit against federal immigration authorities over guidance from ICE that would have forced international students taking all online classes to leave the country. On Tuesday, ICE did away with the controversial new rule.
Photo by Schaefer Edwards

ICE Decides Not to Deport International Students Taking All Online Classes

After being sued and raked over the coals for the past several days, the Trump administration backtracked on a controversial policy that would have sent thousands of foreign college students packing back to their home countries.

On Tuesday afternoon, the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency officially reversed course by agreeing not to forbid international students from staying in America if they’re taking all online courses for the fall semester.

Back on July 6, ICE announced that international students with 100 percent virtual course loads would be subject to deportation if they didn’t leave the United States, just hours after Harvard University announced they wouldn’t be offering any in-person classes this upcoming semester

At the beginning of a federal court hearing in Boston on Tuesday, U.S. District Judge Allison Burroughs said that ICE had agreed to withdraw the new rule they’d issued on July 6 and go back to the more lenient policy adopted in March of this year that allows international students flexibility to stay in the country while taking online classes.

ICE’s decision last week was met with swift condemnation — Harvard and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology sued the Trump administration, and scores of American universities filed amicus briefs in support of that lawsuit. In addition to benefiting from the talents of international scholars, American universities are buoyed by the tuition paid by foreign students, many of whom do not receive significant financial aid from their schools.

Houston’s own Rice University was one of the schools that publicly supported Harvard and MIT’s legal action against ICE. In an emailed letter to Rice students late last week, Rice President David Leebron wrote that although he believed the school’s planned dual online and in-person course delivery system for the fall would have been “consistent with" ICE's new rules, he and the Rice administration “regret the cruelty of these arbitrary regulations.”

“We disagree deeply with policies and actions that diminish opportunities for international students to study in the United States or to remain in the United States following their studies for internships, work experience or other purposes. Please know that we are working tirelessly to find the best path forward for our students and our community,” Leebron wrote.

During a Tuesday afternoon appearance on CNN, Leebron said he welcomed the Trump administration’s change of heart after being informed on-air that ICE had agreed to drop their controversial new requirements.

“We thought the original rules that were suggested were cruel and misguided and didn’t serve our universities, didn’t serve our students,” Leebron said, “and frankly, didn’t serve our country.”

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