AG Ellison sues Trump Administration to stop new visa rule for international students

Joins coalition of 18 AGs in fighting dramatic reversal that hurts Minnesota’s schools, community, and economy

July 13, 2020 (SAINT PAUL) — Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellisontoday joined a coalition of 18 attorneys general in filing a lawsuit to stop a new federal rule that threatens to bar hundreds of thousands of international students from studying in the United States.

The lawsuit, led by Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey and filed in the U.S. District Court in Massachusetts against the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), challenges what Attorney General Ellison and the coalition call the federal government’s “cruel, abrupt, and unlawful action to expel international students amidst the pandemic that has wrought death and disruption across the United States.” Today’s lawsuit seeks an injunction to stop the entire rule from going into effect. 

 “Every community in Minnesota benefits from international students who make their home here, whether it’s for a year or two or a lifetime. The economic, social, and cultural value that International students bring to Minnesota has made us one of the most resilient economies in America and helps us all afford our lives. They deserve to live with the same dignity and respect that all Minnesotans do,” Attorney General Ellison. “Instead, the President has once chosen to divide us instead of unite us. I did not hesitate for a second to join this lawsuit and will use the power of my office to protect Minnesotans of all backgrounds and keep this rule from taking effect.”

Minnesota State Colleges and Universities filed a declaration in the lawsuit. MnSCU alone serves 4,300 international students from around the world on its 54 campuses, which are located in 47 communities throughout Minnesota.

Today’s lawsuit challenges an abrupt policy change by ICE to reverse guidance issued on March 13 that recognized the COVID-19 public health emergency, provided flexibility for schools, and allowed international students with F-1 and M-1 visas to take classes online for the duration of the emergency. On July 6, ICE announced that international students can no longer live in the United States and take all of their classes online during the pandemic, upending months of careful planning by colleges and universities to limit in-person instruction in favor of remote learning and adapt their coursework for the fall semester, and leaving thousands of students with no other choice but to leave the country.

ICE further demanded that educational institutions advise the federal government by July 15 whether they intend to offer only remote courses in the fall semester, and to certify by August 4 for each of the institutions’ international students that the student’s upcoming coursework this fall will be in person or a “hybrid” of in-person and online learning in order to maintain their visa status. This demand comes not only amidst an ongoing nationwide emergency, but also at a time when many faculty, staff, and students are not on campus and may not even be in the country; students may not even have registered for their classes for the fall; and schools and individual teaching staff members may not yet have determined whether their classes will be held remotely, in person, or a combination.

The lawsuit details the substantial harms that the new rule places on schools and students. It also alleges that the federal government’s actions are arbitrary, capricious, and an abuse of discretion because they reversed previous guidance without explanation, input, or rationale – in violation of the Administrative Procedure Act – and failed to consider the need to protect public health and safety amidst the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

Attorney General Ellison and the attorneys general say the new rule and abrupt reversal of the previous guidance threatens their states in a number of ways:

The lawsuit also alleges the new rule imposes significant economic harm by precluding thousands of international students from coming to and residing in the United States and finding employment in fields such as science, technology, biotechnology, healthcare, business and finance, and education, and contributing to the overall economy.

Joining Attorney General Ellison in filing the lawsuit are Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey, who led it, and the attorneys general of Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, District of Columbia, Illinois, Maryland, Michigan, Nevada, New Jersey, New Mexico, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont, Virginia, and Wisconsin.