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Trump administration rescinds policy that would have stripped visas from some international students

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The Trump administration has rescinded a policy that would have stripped visas from international students whose courses move exclusively online amid the coronavirus pandemic.

Diane Hernandez is an attorney at the national law firm Hall Estill in its employment and immigration law practice. Of the development she says,

“Despite the administration’s claims that it had lawful discretionary powers to end student visas for those attending online courses this fall, it has rescinded those guidelines with as much advanced notice as when it announced it,” Hernandez says.

“The administration was likely motivated to rescind the policy, either by the huge number of new lawsuits it faced from several universities and state institutions, or due to the idea that implementing such a measure in an already tumultuous election year could be detrimental to the president’s reelection efforts,” Hernandez says.

“Either way, the rescission of this policy should offer students and school administrators peace of mind as they begin the fall semester online.  However, questions remain about how the administration will handle those students who require new visas, or for whose visas are expiring and need renewal before classes start,” Hernandez says.

Facing eight federal lawsuits and opposition from hundreds of universities, the Trump administration on Tuesday rescinded a rule that would have required international students to transfer or leave the country if their schools held classes entirely online because of the coronavirus pandemic.

The decision was announced at the start of a hearing in a federal lawsuit in Boston brought by Harvard University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. U.S. District Judge Allison Burroughs said federal immigration authorities agreed to pull the July 6 directive and “return to the status quo.”

A lawyer representing the Department of Homeland Security and U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement said only that the judge’s characterization was correct.

The announcement brings relief to thousands of foreign students who had been at risk of being deported from the country, along with hundreds of universities that were scrambling to reassess their plans for the fall in light of the policy. With the policy rescinded, ICE will revert to a directive from March that suspended typical limits around online education for foreign students.

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