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Posted on: July 15, 2020

Amherst Joined 25 Other Communities in Support of Harvard & MIT’s Challenge to Proposed Visa Rules

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The Town of Amherst had signed on to an amicus brief in support of Harvard and MIT’s challenge to the Department of Homeland Security’s (DHS) recent changes to the F-1 and M-1 visa rules for foreign students.

The Town joined an effort spearheaded by the cities of Boston and Los Angeles. In addition to Amherst, 25 other cities and towns including: Albany, New York; Albuquerque, New Mexico; Alexandria, Virginia; Austin, Texas; Berkeley, California; Cambridge, Massachusetts; Chicago Illinois; Columbus, Ohio; Hartford, Connecticut; Iowa City, Iowa; New York, New York; Oakland, California; Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania; Sacramento, California; Seattle, Washington; and several others have signed on in support. 

On July 6th, Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) announced that:

  1. Nonimmigrant F-1 and M-1 students attending schools operating entirely online may not take a full online course load and remain in the United States;
  2. The U.S. Department of State will not issue visas to students enrolled in schools and/or programs that are fully online for the fall semester nor will U.S. Customs and Border Protection permit these students to enter the United States; and
  3. Active students currently in the United States enrolled in such programs must depart the country or take other measures, such as transferring to a school with in-person instruction to remain in lawful status. If not, they may face immigration consequences including, but not limited to, the initiation of removal proceedings.

The brief focused on the Plaintiffs’ likelihood of success on the merits due to ICE’s failure, under the Administrative Procedures Act, to consider the temporary rule’s broader impacts on municipalities, among others.

Subsequent to the filing of our brief, the federal government rescinded the ICE guidance that would have required international students to transfer or leave the country if their schools held classes entirely online because of the pandemic. The decision was announced at the start of the PI hearing in the Harvard/MIT litigation. Judge Burroughs said DHS agreed to pull the July 6 directive and “return to the status quo.” The lawyer representing DHS and ICE said only that the judge’s characterization was correct. The judge indicated this decision had mooted the pending motion and then the hearing was over.

The attorneys for Harvard and MIT sent an email thanking all amici (local governments, businesses, colleges, and student groups) for the "monumental work" that "led to this result."

A copy of the full brief can be found here.

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