The attorney generals for Massachusetts, Connecticut, Rhode Island and Vermont have joined their counterparts in 14 other states in filing a lawsuit seeking an injunction over the Trump administration's new visa rule for international students.
Colorado, Delaware, the District of Columbia, Illinois, Maryland, Michigan, Minnesota, Nevada, New Jersey, New Mexico, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Virginia and Wisconsin are also part of the suit, which challenges a recently announced directive saying international students cannot stay in the U.S. if they take all their classes online this fall.
The lawsuit, filed in the U.S. District Court in Massachusetts against the U.S. Department of Homeland Security and U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, challenges what the attorneys general call the federal government’s “cruel, abrupt, and unlawful action to expel international students amidst the pandemic that has wrought death and disruption across the United States.”
The suit includes a request for preliminary relief blocking the rule from going into effect while the case is litigated, and the attorneys general have requested a hearing as soon as possible.
“The Trump Administration didn’t even attempt to explain the basis for this senseless rule, which forces schools to choose between keeping their international students enrolled and protecting the health and safety of their campuses,” Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey said in a statement. “Massachusetts is home to thousands of international students who make invaluable contributions to our educational institutions, communities, and economy. We are taking this action today to make sure they can continue to live and learn in this country.”
A hearing is scheduled for 3 p.m. Tuesday in a separate lawsuit filed by Harvard College and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. More than 200 universities are backing that challenge, arguing that the policy jeopardizes students' safety and forces schools to reconsider fall plans they have spent months preparing.
If the rule is not suspended, colleges across the U.S. will have until Wednesday to notify ICE if they plan to be fully online this fall. A brief filed Monday by 59 universities says the rule throws their plans into disarray with less than a month before some schools start the fall term. They challenged the policy's legal grounds and say it forces schools across the nation to "choose between opening their campuses regardless of the public health risks, or forcing their international students to leave the country."
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Speaking at a news conference Monday afternoon, Connecticut Attorney General William Tong called the policy a "midnight attack on Connecticut colleges and universities."
"This is an extraordinarily important case," Tong said, adding that the policy affects thousands of students who are getting ready for school, including 13% of students at the University of Connecticut.
The group in the lawsuit includes all of Harvard's companions in the Ivy League and other prestigious schools including Stanford and Duke universities. They collectively enroll more than 213,000 international students, according to the brief.
"These students are core members of our institutions," the schools wrote. "They make valuable contributions to our classrooms, campuses and communities _ contributions that have helped make American higher education the envy of the world."
Healey is scheduled to join a rally at noon on the steps of the State House with students and employees from Harvard, Boston College, Northeastern University and the University of Massachusetts.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.