Last week, Immigration and Customs Enforcement announced that international college students in the U.S. on academic and vocational visas must take classes in person or risk deportation. Following immediate pushback from academia and tech — a field that hires a substantial number of F-1 visa grads — a federal judge in Boston announced on Tuesday that the Trump administration would rescind the order, allowing international students enrolled in online-only classes to remain in the country for the coming semester.
The rollback came as part of Harvard and MIT’s lawsuit against ICE and the Department of Homeland Security, filed in the U.S. District Court for the District of Massachusetts. “The order came down without notice — its cruelty surpassed only by its recklessness,” wrote Harvard president Larry Bacow, whose university announced hours before the ICE directive that all its classes would be online-only for the coming school year. “It appears that it was designed purposefully to place pressure on colleges and universities to open their on-campus classrooms for in-person instruction this fall, without regard to concerns for the health and safety of students, instructors, and others.”
On Monday, tech giants including Google, Microsoft, Facebook, and PayPal filed a court brief in support of the Harvard-MIT lawsuit, arguing that the visa order would cause “significant harm” to American businesses. “America’s future competitiveness depends on attracting and retaining talented international students,” the brief states. While details about the reversal are still emerging, Reuters reports that “the U.S. government and Harvard University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology who sued over the measure had come to a settlement that would make the rule moot.”
As is standard in the current White House, the revocation of the ICE order appears to be a matter of failing to effectively carry out its will, not a change of heart regarding the punitive policy. CNN reports that “the White House has felt the blowback to the proposal and that some inside the West Wing believe it was poorly conceived and executed.”