University of Minnesota joins schools challenging federal government's visa restrictions

U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement has announced policy changes that could lead to the deportation of international students or prevent them from entering the country.

File: University of Minnesota Duluth
An aerial view of the University of Minnesota Duluth campus. (Photo courtesy of UMD)

After U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement announced policy changes Monday that would prevent international students from living in the country if they're only enrolled in online classes, University of Minnesota President Joan Gabel announced Thursday the system is joining an amicus brief in support of a lawsuit that challenges the federal government.

Harvard University and Massachusetts Institute of Technology, both colleges that are offering most of their fall semester classes online, filed the lawsuit in U.S. District Court for the District of Massachusetts.

The lawsuit asks for the court to declare the new guidelines unlawful and prevent ICE and the U.S. Department of Homeland Security from enforcing them.

Because of the U of M's system-wide decision to offer both in-person and online classes this fall, ICE's decision won't have as big of an impact on the nearly 6,200 international students in the system, Gabel said in a statement.

“However, we cannot stand by in good conscience as international students are forced out of the country through no fault of their own," she said. "We stand with our international students, and international students across the country, in asking that the ICE directive be overturned immediately."


She added that educational institutions are offering online learning opportunities in order to comply with public health advice to reduce larger gathering and promote physical distancing in order to minimize the spread of COVID-19, guidelines President Donald Trump has voiced his disapproval of.

The lawsuit U of M is supporting states: "ICE’s action leaves hundreds of thousands of international students with no educational options within the United States. Just weeks from the start of the fall semester, these students are largely unable to transfer to universities providing on-campus instruction, notwithstanding ICE’s suggestion that they might do so to avoid removal from the country. Moreover, for many students, returning to their home countries to participate in online instruction is impossible, impracticable, prohibitively expensive, and/or dangerous."

Other Big Ten schools are joining U of M in its support of the lawsuit, including the University of Michigan.

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