The United States backed down and will not withdraw visas for foreign university students who attend online courses

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A student reads under a tree on the campus of Harvard University in Cambridge (EFE / CJ GUNTHER / File)

The government of US President Donald Trump gave up on Tuesday to withdraw visas for foreign university students who must continue their studies exclusively in modality online in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic, a Boston federal judge reported Tuesday.

The decision, which had been taken on July 6 by the United States Immigration and Customs Enforcement Service (ICE), was questioned in court by Harvard University and MIT, with the support of other universities, teachers unions and 18 states, which were also joined by the District of Columbia (Washington DC).

“The parties reached a solution (…) the Government agreed to annul the decision”Judge Allison Burroughs indicated in a brief hearing that she should deal with the demand of the two mentioned study houses. The magistrate specified that the understanding was reached “in less than five minutes”. An attorney representing the Department of Homeland Security and the United States Immigration and Customs Enforcement only said that the judge’s characterization was correct.

Building 10 at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) in Cambridge, Massachusetts (REUTERS / Brian Snyder / Archive)

Building 10 at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) in Cambridge, Massachusetts (REUTERS / Brian Snyder / Archive)

The universities argued in their lawsuit that the order would “immensely” harm students, both personally and financially. According to the Institute of International Education (IIE), in the 2018-19 academic year there were over a million international students in the United States.

The measure implied that No new visas would be issued to students at universities planning to teach all of their classes. online. Students who were already in the United States would have faced deportation if they did not transfer from home or leave the country voluntarily.

“Students with F-1 and M-1 nonimmigrant visas who are enrolled in institutions that operate fully online no they will be able to meet their required class load in this way and remain in the United States. ”, ICE had indicated in a statement.

Students and pedestrians walk through the courtyard of Harvard University (REUTERS / Brian Snyder / File Photo)

Students and pedestrians walk through the courtyard of Harvard University (REUTERS / Brian Snyder / File Photo)

The decision was considered as an attempt by President Trump to pressure educational institutions that are taking a cautious approach to reopen in the midst of the global pandemic of COVID-19. Many universities and teaching centers announced that they will not resume face-to-face classes when the next school year begins in September, at a time when there is still no vaccine against COVID-19 and cases are on the rise especially in the southern and western regions of the country.

Had the measures been followed, the universities would also have suffered financially, considering that many depend on the enrollment of international students.

Harvard and MIT were the first to challenge the policy, but at least seven other federal lawsuits were filed by universities and states that opposed the rule. More than 200 signed writings in support of the claim by Harvard and MIT were filed with the Justice. After the agreement, ICE will return to the guidelines it issued in March, which allow students taking online courses to reside in the United States on F-1 visas..

With information from AFP and AP

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