California filed a lawsuit early Friday challenging the administration’s new rules canceling student visas for foreign students whose schools have gone to exclusive online classes this fall, calling it inexplicable as the coronavirus pandemic continues.
Attorney General Xavier Becerra said the state’s schools feel they are being bullied to offer in-person classes or else risk losing those students, and he said it was unfair to put schools in that positions.
High-profile schools Harvard and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology filed their own lawsuit earlier in the week challenging the new rules.
Under the Student and Exchange Visitor Program (SEVP), run by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, students are assumed to be in class, and schools are required to monitor attendance and report no-shows.
As the pandemic took hold this spring, SEVP announced an exemption for those whose schools went to online learning.
Now, as the fall semester looms, SEVP has narrowed that exemption.
While some online classes are allowed, students cannot attend schools that are exclusively online. Students can, however, transfer to schools that are holding in-person meetings in order to maintain their visas.
“Students attending schools operating entirely online may not take a full online course load and remain in the United States,” ICE said in a message to schools.
The SEVP attendance rules were tightened in the wake of the 2001 terrorist attacks, which saw one of the hijackers, Hani Hanjour, gain entry to the U.S. on a student visa. He never attended school, which should have invalidated his visa.
Hanjour would go on to pilot the plane that flew into the Pentagon on Sept. 11, 2001, killing all 64 people on board, and 125 people in the building.