Trump administration backs down, won’t require in-person classes for international students

By: - July 15, 2020 2:53 pm

Outside the University Memorial Center at University of Colorado Boulder. (

U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement won’t require international students to take in-person classes for the fall semester, rescinding a plan announced July 6 that met swift backlash from universities and state governments.

During a July 14 telephone conference among parties from the federal government, Harvard University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology — the schools that first sued to prevent the rule from taking effect — U.S. District Court Judge Allison Burroughs was informed that President Donald Trump’s administration would not implement the new requirement after all, according to court records.

The rule would have forced international students to take at least some classes in person in order to receive visas that allow them to live and study within the United States. Students enrolled in all online classes for the fall semester could have been deported unless they signed up for in-person classes at their current school or transferred to a different institution that offered such classes.

The announcement means that ICE will revert to a March policy that allows students temporarily to take all-online classes and remain in the United States. Under normal circumstances, international students on visas can take just a few credits online.

In a brief filed by the Presidents’ Alliance on Higher Education and Immigration in Harvard and MIT’s case, leaders representing 180 colleges and universities had declared their opposition to the policy. They included Colorado College, the Colorado State University system and the University of Denver.

“ICE’s abrupt policy change guts the enormous reliance interests of higher education institutions and their students — all of whom planned for the fall 2020 semester based on ICE’s earlier confirmation that its March 2020 position would remain so long as the ’emergency’ continued,” they wrote.

The University of Colorado system had said prior to the July 14 announcement that it was reviewing opportunities to join court briefs.

In a statement issued the following day, it lauded the decision to rescind the policy.

“We are happy with today’s announcement reversing the Immigration and Customs Enforcement ruling that may have negatively impacted our international students,” CU President Mark Kennedy said in the statement. “It will ensure that international students at the University of Colorado will be able to continue their educational journeys.”

Colorado Attorney General Phil Weiser had also joined a separate multi-state lawsuit to oppose the Trump administration’s plan.

“We prevailed in standing up for Colorado universities to welcome international students in a responsible and humane fashion,” Weiser tweeted July 14.

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Faith Miller
Faith Miller

Reporter Faith Miller covers the Colorado Legislature, immigration and other stories for Colorado Newsline.