USC filed court papers Wednesday in support of Harvard and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in a lawsuit challenging U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement restrictions on visas for international students taking a full online course load in the fall.
USC President Carol Folt said the university is also “actively considering all other legal options” and “working with our congressional delegation and fellow universities on legislative and other solutions to this terribly misguided decision.”
Folt said the university filed an amicus brief — an advisory brief filed in cases by non-litigants with a strong interest in the subject matter. Such “friend of the court” briefs advise the court of relevant, additional information or arguments that the court might wish to consider, and must be approved by a judge.
The lawsuit, filed Wednesday morning in the U.S. District Court for Massachusetts, asks the court to prevent ICE and the Department of Homeland Security from enforcing the new guidance and to declare it unlawful, according to an MIT statement.
ICE announced Monday that international students cannot remain in the country if they are taking solely online courses.
“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,” according to an ICE statement.
Many universities, including USC and the California State University system, are planning primarily online instruction this fall due to the ongoing pandemic.
During the 2019-20 academic year, more than 12,000 international students were enrolled at USC, more than half of them from China, according to the university’s website.
Anthony Bailey, USC vice president for strategic and global initiatives, said international enrollment for this fall is similar.
“Due to the uncertainty surrounding visas, travel restrictions and flight availability, USC is working to accommodate those international students who will not be able to attend classes on campus this fall by providing the option for many to take their courses online and in their respective time zone,” Bailey said in a statement.
Folt wrote on Twitter that student diversity “is foundational to the university’s mission and our international students are an integral part of who we are as Trojans. We are doing everything to ensure that our students’ education will continue here in the United States.”
In a letter Wednesday to the USC community, Folt wrote that the university was “strongly advocating” against the Trump administration’s policy and was “working closely and collaboratively with higher education colleagues across the nation.”
She said that the university was “optimistic we will be able to support our international students to study in person safely if they wish, but it may take a few days. We understand that you have many time-sensitive decisions. We will write soon with more details and options, and appreciate your patience.”
The University of California announced late Wednesday it plans to seek a temporary restraining order and preliminary and permanent injunctive relief to bar ICE from enforcing the order.
“The University of California’s legacy and leadership would not be the same without the international students and faculty who have come to this institution,” said UC Board of Regents Chair John A. Perez.
“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. 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.’ 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.”