California will become the first state to sue the Trump administration over guidelines issued this week that bar international students from remaining in the U.S. if they can take classes online, state Attorney General Xavier Becerra announced Thursday afternoon.
The lawsuit, which was expected to be filed Thursday in U.S. District Court for Northern California, seeks a preliminary injunction against enforcement of the new visa policy.
Under the directive, students on F-1 and M-1 visas “must depart the country or take other measures, such as transferring to a school with in-person instruction to remain in lawful status,” Immigration and Customs Enforcement said in a statement.
Those who violate the rules “may face immigration consequences including, but not limited to, the initiation of removal proceedings,” the agency said.
Some colleges and universities have announced plans to hold online-only courses in the fall as the U.S. struggles to get the coronavirus pandemic under control. The policy would disproportionately affect California, which has more students on visas than any other state, Becerra said.
International students contributed nearly $41 billion to the national economy in the 2018-19 academic year, according to the nonprofit NAFSA: Association of International Educators.
According to 2019 fall enrollment data for the University of California system, 27,205 out of 226,125 students enrolled in undergraduate studies were listed as nonresident international, while 13,995 of the university’s 58,941 graduate students were nonresident international.
At the University of Southern California, a quarter of all students enrolled in the 2019-20 academic year were international students. More than half of the international students are from China, according to the university’s website.
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