New York Attorney General Letitia James on Monday sued the Trump administration over a new policy that forces international students to leave the country or face deportation if their school offers online-only classes this fall.
James said the ICE directive endangers public health, as well as the immigration status of over 100,000 international students studying in New York State.
The attorney general’s office called the Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s policy “rash and ill-informed” and suggested it was an attempt by the Trump administration to force schools to reopen in person, even while the pandemic rages on.
“International students should never be used as political fodder to force colleges to reopen their doors, but the president’s inability to remove politics from public health decisions endangers us all,” James said in a statement. “The diversity of our colleges and universities is what makes New York schools among the world’s most competitive and most sought after, but President Trump’s reversal in policy not only threatens these innocent students’ educational paths, but our state’s hard-hit economy and the public health of millions of New Yorkers.”
James – who also filed a motion for a preliminary injunction and a temporary restraining order in an attempt to immediately stop the new policy – added that schools should not have to choose between enrolling international students in in-person classes and public safety.
The lawsuit also alleged that enforcing the policy – which ICE announced on July 6 – would drain the state’s already limited education resources, as well as result in millions in lost tuition and revenue for the economy. Forcing New York schools to start in-person classes, the lawsuit argues, may also result in a severe resurgence in coronavirus cases in the state as students travel to New York from other states where infections may be rampant.
The policy reverses an exemption made for international students in the spring, when most schools went online suddenly due to the virus. Now, those in the country on F-1 and M-1 visas – the two types of student visas in the U.S. – enrolled at schools operating entirely online must leave the country or, as the ICE announcement suggests, transfer to a school that offers in-person classes.
James’ office is not the first to sue the Trump administration over the new ICE policy. Seventeen other states and Washington D.C. have also sued the Trump administration over the new regulations.
On Monday, Mayor Bill de Blasio joined Harvard University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in filing an amicus brief against the policy, along with 23 other cities, towns and counties, including Los Angeles and Boston.
“This is yet another cruel and senseless immigration policy from the Trump Administration,” de Blasio said in a statement. “All students are welcome in New York City, and we will continue to ensure that our colleges and universities can reopen based on public health guidance, not threats from the President.”