USM joins lawsuit against ICE over new student visa rule

The University System of Maryland will join a multistate lawsuit against the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement following last week’s announcement that international students may not take a full online course load and remain in the U.S., system Chancellor Jay Perman announced Monday.

Maryland Attorney General Brian Frosh will represent the state of Maryland and the university system in the lawsuit, according to the statement by Perman. The new ICE guidance could affect more than 5,300 visa-holding students enrolled in the system, according to the statement.

The statement calls the enforcement of the rule during a pandemic “unnecessary and cruel,” noting that the new rule punishes international students “without cause.”

Although USM institutions are set to hold a combination of online and in-person classes in the fall semester due to the spread of the coronavirus, a significant number of courses will be conducted virtually, according to the statement, meaning that some international students may be unable to comply with the rule and could face deportation.

All University of Maryland classes with more than 50 students enrolled will be conducted online, and about 20 percent of undergraduate classes are expected to be held partially in-person, according to an announcement from Provost Mary Ann Rankin earlier this month.

More than 6,000 international students were enrolled at this university in the fall of 2018.

[The entire UMD community needs to fight for its international students]

The rule also undermines efforts to reduce the number of students on university campuses, potentially increasing the risk of infection on campus, according to the system’s statement.

Maryland is joining 16 other states and the District of Columbia in the lawsuit against the Department of Homeland Security to block the new rule. The guidelines mark a reversal of the federal government’s stance last spring, when international students were allowed to attend online-only classes as universities closed with the spread of the coronavirus.

The lawsuit, filed on Monday, seeks an injunction to stop the rule from going into effect while it is disputed in court. It is separate from a similar lawsuit filed against ICE last week by Harvard and MIT, which more than 200 other universities have backed.

If enacted, the new ICE guidelines could hinder the system’s economic recovery, as well as the state’s: Students on F-1 visas contribute over $125 million to the system annually in tuition, housing and fees, and nearly $800 million to Maryland’s economy, according to the statement. The University System of Maryland has already lost over $200 million due to the coronavirus, the statement read.

Last week, University President Darryll Pines sent a campuswide email in solidarity with international students, stating that the university is working with representatives in Congress to protect international students’ immigration status.

“During these uncertain times, as we continue to fight a pandemic, these new regulations do not align with the university’s priority to put the health and safety of our community first,” Pines wrote.

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