BALTIMORE (WJZ) — Johns Hopkins University has joined a growing list of higher education institutions suing the Trump administration over changes to the Student And Exchange Visitor Program brought on by the coronavirus pandemic.
On Monday, the Trump administration announced new rules for international students for the upcoming fall semester that requires them to take an in-person class to remain in the country, CBS News reported. Many universities have scaled back or eliminated in-person classes due to the pandemic.
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The 43-page lawsuit, filed Friday in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia, seeks a temporary restraining order and injunctive relief that would stop the federal government from enforcing the new policy, which the university argues is unlawful.
The suit names the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement and both agencies’ leaders as defendants.
Johns Hopkins said the policy change sending international students back to their home countries if they don’t enroll in in-person classes, “suddenly and unexpectedly plunged Johns Hopkins—and virtually all of higher education in the United States—into chaos.”
The suit reads in part:
“This action undercuts the country’s longstanding commitment to harnessing the ideas, energies, and contributions of citizens from around the world. Only by virtue of their ability to attract the world’s most talented and ambitious people, including international students who may one day become immigrants to this country, do research universities like Johns Hopkins play their integral role in enhancing the country’s dynamism, competitiveness, and global influence. By visiting arbitrary and capricious consequences on foreign students, the challenged action contravenes our country’s most vaunted values and interests.”
Following the lawsuit’s filing, the university issued a lengthy statement saying the policy change would “severely impact” nearly 5,000 international students at Hopkins alone.
The university also alleges the government didn’t provide an opportunity for schools to weigh in on the plan.
“The administration’s decision is gratuitous, cruel and inimical to what this country is about,” Johns Hopkins President Ronald Daniels said in the statement. “The university was left with no option but to bring an emergency lawsuit in federal court to stop the administration from pushing ahead with an illegal and unconstitutional directive that, if permitted to stand, would fundamentally undermine the educational freedoms and humanitarian values that animate higher education in our country.”
Earlier this week, university officials said they were “deeply concerned” about the new federal guidance.
For its part, ICE said all students who were scheduled to study at U.S. colleges and universities will still be able to do so but may have to do so from their home countries.
“Through this guidance, DHS is seeking to maximize flexibility for students to continue their studies, while minimizing the risk of transmission of COVID-19 by not admitting students into the country who do not need to be present to attend classes in-person,” the agency said in a document outlining the changes.
Under the policy change, international students who are already in the U.S. and will not be enrolled in in-person classes will have to leave the country.
Johns Hopkins currently plans to resume undergraduate instruction on August 31 but at a reduced capacity. Classes are set to be offered in a number of forms, ranging from in-person to online and a hybrid of the two.
Other schools, including Harvard University, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and the University of California, are also suing over the guidance.