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California sues Trump over rules to deport foreign students if colleges offer online-only classes

California sues Trump over rules to deport foreign students if colleges offer online-only classes
California has joined several Ivy League schools in challenging immigration rules that would send foreign students back if they can’t attend classes in person, claiming such a requirement would only spread Covid-19.

Attorney General Xavier Becerra announced on Thursday that the state will file a legal challenge against the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and US Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), over their recent clarification of the rule that foreign exchange students would have to leave the US if their schools operate online-only classes.

“Today’s lawsuit rests on America’s enduring principle that everyone who works hard and plays by the rules can earn a chance to get ahead,” said Becerra, flanked by California Community Colleges Chancellor Eloy Ortiz Oakley, and California State University Chancellor Timothy White.

Becerra’s move comes after Harvard and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) filed their own lawsuit in a federal court in Boston on Wednesday. Both petitions seek injunctions barring the federal government from enforcing the rule, in a tactic previously used to block the implementation of travel bans and visa restrictions imposed by President Donald Trump.

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Though the Trump administration ultimately prevailed, the cases went all the way up to the US Supreme Court and took years to resolve.

Earlier this week, the DHS and ICE published new guidance on foreign students’ status, clarifying that their visas will not be valid if the institutions they attend offer only virtual courses. 

Asked about the rule, White House Press Secretary Kayleigh McEnany pointed out that visas weren’t being issued for online classes such as those offered by the University of Phoenix, and that online-only classes from Harvard would be no different.

International students are a major cash cow for US universities, however, as they tend to pay full tuition rather than the discounted or loan-subsidized price most American students end up paying. California’s interest in maintaining this pipeline is understandable, since there were around 162,000 international students in the state last year.

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This profit motive was pointed out by some advocates for “undocumented” students – illegal immigrants whom California treats like legal residents for the purpose of tuition – who say that it’s notable the colleges are protesting “xenophobia” only when it hits their affluent foreign students as opposed to “undocs.”

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