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Foreign student rule pulled in face of lawsuits that included Arizona schools

(University Photos)

PHOENIX — Arizona’s three state universities joined a lawsuit Monday that looked to block a federal rule that could have forced international students to leave the country if their classes had to be online because of the coronavirus pandemic.

But before a similar suit filed by more than 200 universities went to court Tuesday, the Trump administration rescinded the rule.

U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement announced the decision as a court hearing was getting underway on a challenge to the rule led by Harvard University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

U.S. District Judge Allison Burroughs said federal immigration authorities agreed to pull the July 6 directive and “return to the status quo.”

A lawyer representing the Department of Homeland Security and U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement said only that the judge’s characterization was correct.

The government was facing eight lawsuits over the issue, including the one involving Arizona State University, the University of Arizona and Northern Arizona University filed in Oregon by a group of 20 West Coast colleges.

The announcement brings relief to thousands of foreign students who had been at risk of being deported from the country, along with hundreds of universities that were scrambling to reassess their plans for the fall in light of the policy.

Under the policy, international students in the U.S. would have been forbidden from taking all their courses online this fall. New visas would not have been issued to students at schools planning to provide all classes online. Students already in the U.S. would have faced deportation if they didn’t transfer schools or leave the country voluntarily.

Immigration officials issued the policy last week, reversing earlier guidance from March 13 telling colleges that limits around online education would be suspended during the pandemic. University leaders believed the rule was part of President Donald Trump’s effort to pressure the nation’s schools and colleges to reopen this fall even as new virus cases rise.

ASU President Michael Crow said in a statement Monday that ICE’s directive went against the nation and university’s “commitments to enhancing access to education and global engagement.”

NAU President Rita Cheng and UArizona President Robert C. Robbins also issued statements in support of their institutions’ international students.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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