Trump Admin Drops Plan To Force Some International Students Out Of U.S.

International students taking online classes this fall will not be forced out of the country — for now.

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The Trump administration on Tuesday dropped its plan designed to force international students out of the country this fall if they enrolled in exclusively online classes. 

The policy shift enables international students to remain in the U.S., at least for now, even if they are attending universities and colleges that will instruct classes fully online this fall. Many universities are shifting to a virtual model for the upcoming semester as a result of COVID-19’s sustained threat to public safety.  

Some immigration experts have called the announcement a huge win for international students and the educational institutions that host them.

During a hearing in the U.S. District Court in Boston on Tuesday, the Trump administration backtracked on its move to strip temporary protections from international students this fall.

The decision came as the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) faced a lawsuit from universities over the planned revisions to the Student and Exchange Visitor Program (SEVP).

The rule would have revoked previous exemptions that allowed international students to remain in the U.S. while they took online classes with their host universities or colleges during the COVID-19 outbreak. During the 2020 spring and summer semesters, the government allowed international students to remain in the U.S. as their classrooms shifted from in-person to fully online, as states across the U.S. initiated strict lockdowns.

ICE’s attempt to revoke those exemptions drew immediate pushback from some of the nation’s most notable universities. The universities claimed they needed the exemptions as the COVID-19 crisis in the U.S. has continued to worsen.

Harvard and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), which both plan to instruct all classes online this fall due to health concerns, filed the lawsuit last week seeking a temporary restraining order that would have prevented federal immigration authorities from enforcing the policy as federal courts determined the legality of the move.

Since that lawsuit was filed on July 8, more than 200 other universities and colleges publicly backed Harvard and MIT’s litigation against the Trump administration, the Associated Press reported. At least 17 states and the District of Columbia also filed similar litigation against the administration.

The Trump administration’s attempt to drop exemptions for international students came as Trump has ramped up efforts to pressure schools to reopen this fall, defying recommendations from public health officials, including that of the nation’s leading health expert, Dr. Anthony Fauci.

Earlier Tuesday, the Wall Street Journal’s Michelle Hackman reported that the administration is planning to issue a scaled-back version of the policy in the near future.