WASHINGTON: Tens of thousands of foreign
in America, many from India, are holding their breath with eyes trained on a courtroom in Boston that will determine whether they can, at least for now, stay on in the United States if they take only online courses their universities and colleges are offering because of coronavirus fears.
A case filed by Harvard and MIT, supported by scores of US universities, institutions, and organizations is coming up at 3 p.m., on Tuesday (1230 a.m IST Wednesday), hours before Wednesday’s deadline for academic institutions to file “operation change plans” offering in-person classes. Many universities have responded swiftly to ICE guidelines seeking this and devised ways to offer in-person courses, but because there is so little time to do paperwork relating to student visa, some students fear they may fall afoul of the guidelines even if they comply with the new guidelines.
Hundreds of companies (including Google and
), organisations (including the American Medical Association and Autoworkers’ Unions) and even university towns and communities are backing the lawsuit, some of them combining forces to file "friend of the court" briefs to share their legal arguments. But it will be up to Judge Allison Burroughs, a district judge in Massachusetts, to rule on the plea from academia seeking at least a temporary restraining order on the ICE guidelines and eventually its dismissal.
Judge Burroughs, an Obama appointee, is best known for her order putting a hold on President Donald Trump's travel ban in January 2017 and a lawsuit challenging Harvard's admissions program as discriminatory against Asian Americans (which went in favor of the university). She also heard the case involving Indian-American pharma executive John Kapoor, a former billionaire, who was convicted of racketing after being deemed a lynchpin of the opioid crisis that ravaged Middle America.
On Tuesday, New Jersey joined 17 other states in a separate lawsuit in the same court, with the state’s Indian-American Attorney General Gurbir Grewal saying the ICE Directive "puts the lives of all of our students at risk by using international students and the tuition they pay as leverage," and calling the Trump administration’s move "reckless, irresponsible, immoral, and illegal." Several Democrats have characterized it is political move that ignores the reality of the
Like with New York, Massachusetts,
, California, New Jersey too has a huge complement of foreign students it sees as assets, both in terms of financial and intellectual infusion. Rutgers University, located in Camden, New Brunswick and Newark, NJ, which has more than 6000 foreign students, said it could suffer financial losses of $200 million or more in the 2020-2021 academic year alone if the ICE rules stand.
There have already been reports of foreign students being denied entry to the US. A brief filed by universities in support of the MIT/Harvard lawsuit is said to cite the case of a DePaul University student returning from South Korea who was denied at San Francisco International Airport.