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ICE Rescinds Directive Opposed by Vassar and Many Other Colleges

In the face of mounting opposition from colleges across the country, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) rescinded a controversial directive that would have forced international students to leave the country if their schools switched to online learning due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Vassar had joined 180 educational institutions in signing an amicus brief in support of a lawsuit brought by Harvard University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology to block ICE from enforcing the now-abandoned policy, which President Elizabeth Bradley had called “cruel” and “inhumane.”

Photo: Tamar Thibodeau

Bradley hailed the news, which was announced July 14 during a hearing on the Harvard-MIT lawsuit in U.S. District Court in Boston. “I am delighted that this was reversed as quickly as it was,” she said. “It was unnecessary, cruel, and poorly thought through from the beginning, and thank goodness the Department of Homeland Security came to its senses. I hope in the future, the Department will abide by the Administrative Procedures Act, which requires public notice and comment—so that ineffective, inhumane policy is less likely to be promulgated.”

While Vassar has planned a return to campus for all students, some larger urban colleges are mandating online-only classes for some students to reduce density and promote physical distancing. According to the rescinded ICE directive, students who took all of their fall classes online would not have been allowed to remain in or to enter the United States. “Active students currently in the United States enrolled in such programs must depart the country or take other measures, such as transferring to a school with in-person instruction to remain in lawful status or potentially face immigration consequences including, but not limited to, the initiation of removal proceedings,” the directive had said.

During the July 14 hearing, U.S. District Judge Allison D. Burroughs announced that “the government has agreed to rescind the July 6, 2020 policy directive,” making the lawsuit moot.