TUCSON, Ariz. (KOLD News 13) - The University of Arizona joined a coalition of 20 universities to sue the federal government for its order issued last week requiring international students to attend classes in person or face the risk of deportation.
The lawsuit was filed today, July 13, 2020, in federal court in Eugene, Oregon.
Thousands of students are in limbo after an announcement from U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) last week stating that foreign students must leave the country if their university goes fully online.
According to ICE, those with F-1 and M-1 visas must attend classes in person or face removal to their home countries. This revokes the previous exemption for remote learning that went into place in March.
There is an exception for universities using a hybrid model.
"Many of our 3,700 international graduate and undergraduate students stayed in this country during the pandemic to make sure their education was not interrupted by visa issues," said UArizona President, Dr. Robert Robbins. "We see this as a sign of their determination and commitment to earning an education in the United States from a top research university, and this guidance unnecessarily puts our international students at risk."
The joint coalition issued the following statement:
A coalition of 20 of the country’s premier research institutions, liberal arts colleges and public universities in the West sued the federal government today to block the U.S. Department of Homeland Security from revoking visas for international students whose studies will be entirely online in the fall. The lawsuit is seeking a temporary restraining order, preliminary injunction, and permanent injunction to stop the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s July 6 directive from being enforced and its policies from being implemented. The government’s thoughtless and arbitrary action not only harms these students, but also robs institutions of higher education of the autonomy and flexibility to adapt models of instruction to meet the urgent needs posed by a global pandemic. Our more than 50,000 combined international students are an integral part of our communities and essential to our core missions. We are pursuing this case because all international students studying in this country deserve the right to continue their education without risk of deportation. Many of these students, in a sign of their determination and commitment, have stayed in the United States during this international health crisis to ensure their education was not interrupted by returning home and not being granted a visa to return.
“I think that’s a great step from the University to go and support that incentive because I think the international students add a large part to our University of Arizona community,” said Sami Muslmani, a UArizona student.
“Everyone is going through various struggles; I mean really tough times due to the pandemic,” said Bryan Savic, another UArizona student. “So, it’s important to show in light of this that these students … we care, we care about them. They are human beings as well and they should be given equal opportunities.”
Arizona State University and Northern Arizona University have also joined the lawsuit along with other post-secondary institutions in California, Oregon, Seattle and Utah.
On Monday, a separate lawsuit was also filed by 17 states and the District of Columbia to block ICE from implementing these policies. Arizona is not one of those states.