SACRAMENTO — The University of California announced on Wednesday that it plans to sue the Trump administration over a rule that forces international college students to attend in-person classes in order to stay in the country, despite mass online learning due to the coronavirus pandemic.
Immigration and Customs Enforcement announced on Monday that international students who attend college in the United States on visas will be barred from staying if their school’s classes are entirely online in the fall. The new rule means that international students cannot take all their courses online like some of their classmates, even as colleges across the country are switching to distance learning in an attempt to curb the spread of the virus.
Failure to comply with in-person learning regulations could result in removal proceedings, according to ICE.
UC joins Harvard and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in lawsuits filed against the federal government over the matter so far. UC is home to more than 27,000 undergraduate international students and nearly 14,000 international graduate students.
“As part of our effort to respond to Covid-19 and to protect the health of all our students, UC has increased online instruction and decreased in-person classes,” UC Board of Regents Chair John A. Pérez said in a statement Wednesday. “Even last-ditch efforts can cause real harm, so it is imperative for UC to file this lawsuit in order to protect our students.”
“To UC’s international students, I say: ‘We support you and regret the additional chaos ICE’s action has caused,’” he said. “To the courts, I say, ‘We are the University of California. UC knows science, UC knows law, and we approach both in good faith. Our opponents have shown you time and again that they do not.’”
The suit will seek a temporary restraining order and preliminary and permanent injunctive relief to bar ICE from enforcing the order, UC said in its release.
This is the second time UC has sued over federal immigration policies impacting students. In 2017, the university system successfully sued over the revocation of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, championed by outgoing UC President Janet Napolitano, who served as secretary of the Department of Homeland Security under former President Barack Obama. In a statement, Napolitano called the ICE order “mean-spirited, arbitrary and damaging to America.”
Last month, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that the government could not immediately end the DACA program.
On Tuesday, the UC Board of Regents named Napolitano’s replacement: former Ohio State University President Michael V. Drake. Napolitano announced her retirement last year.