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ICE rescinds policy forcing out international students in all-online classes

MIT Campus dome.

MIT (pictured) and Harvard have settled their lawsuit against the U.S. Department of Homeland Security and U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement. (Travel_Adventure/

In a welcome reversal, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement will not enforce a policy that threatened to send home international students enrolled in U.S. colleges offering online-only instruction this fall because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

In today’s hearing on a temporary restraining order in Harvard University and Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s lawsuit against the U.S. Department of Homeland Security and ICE, Judge Allison Burroughs announced that the parties had reached a settlement under which the policy in question had been rescinded. 

Harvard, MIT, the Regents of the University of California, the State of California, Johns Hopkins University, and others filed lawsuits over the past week after ICE announced that international students would be required to leave the country if their classes would not be held in-person this fall. 

FIRE filed an amicus curiae brief in the lawsuit brought by Harvard and MIT on Monday. FIRE argued that the policy would lead to heightened risks to academic freedom on two fronts by affecting both students who may have to continue their studies in regions with censored internet and severe speech restrictions as well as the faculty who would have to consider self-censoring to ensure their classes would not run afoul of foreign censorship laws. 

FIRE is pleased to see this result, and will continue watching to see if ICE offers further guidance on this issue. 

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