OSU, UO among 20 universities filing lawsuit over international student order

CORVALLIS – Oregon State University – along with 19 other western United States universities – filed a lawsuit today that seeks to keep the U.S. Department of Homeland Security from enacting proposed restrictions on international students taking online college courses while in the United States.

The lawsuit seeking a temporary restraining order was filed in U.S. District Court in Eugene, Oregon, and seeks to protect the educational status of nearly 3,500 students attending OSU.

“The federal government’s proposed restrictions are reckless and arbitrary, and without notice put at risk the education and wellness of thousands of international students,” said F. King Alexander, Oregon State University’s president.

The coalition of public research universities and liberal arts colleges seeks to keep the federal government from imperiling visas or deporting international students whose studies end up being entirely online in the fall due to the COVID-19 pandemic. OSU and the other universities are seeking an injunction against new guidance issued July 6 by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE).

Other universities in the coalition include: the University of Oregon, the University of Southern California, Arizona State University, California Institute of Technology, Chapman University, Claremont McKenna College, Northern Arizona University, Pitzer College, Pomona College, Santa Clara University, Scripps College, Seattle University, Stanford University, St. Mary’s College of California, the University of Arizona, University of the Pacific, University of San Diego, University of San Francisco and the University of Utah.

Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, OSU and many U.S. universities and colleges transitioned in spring from in-person to remote instruction.

“The federal government’s proposed restrictions are reckless and arbitrary, and without notice put at risk the education and wellness of thousands of international students.”
– F. King Alexander, OSU President

At the time, the federal government relaxed existing immigration rules to allow international students to take courses online while in the U.S. or abroad while retaining their immigration status due to the pandemic. Prior to March, international students could only take one course or three credit hours online per term.

In the weeks ahead, it is anticipated that the U.S. Department of Homeland Security will issue new orders to reverse the COVID19-related flexibility provided since March.

The lawsuit says that the proposed order will force tens of thousands of international students to leave the country before fall term classes start in late August or September or transfer to a U.S. school that offers in-person instruction. At OSU, such an order could affect up to 11% of the university’s student body. Last fall, OSU enrolled 3,492 international undergraduate and graduate students.

“OSU fully supports its international students in completing their education,” said Alexander. “If enacted, the federal order will force students to return to their home countries during a global pandemic and to relocate to their home countries – many of which have unstable political and public health conditions. Meanwhile, some students no longer have homes in those countries.”

On Friday, OSU also joined 178 U.S. colleges and universities in signing onto an amicus brief supporting Harvard University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s legal complaint against proposed U.S. Department of Homeland Security restrictions on international students taking online courses while in America.

The amicus brief was filed by the Presidents’ Alliance on Higher Education and Immigration. The amicus brief and list of signatories is available here.

Meanwhile, the state of Oregon is among 17 states and the District of Columbia suing in federal court in Massachusetts to block ICE from implementing its guidance. OSU submitted a declaration of impact to the Oregon Attorney General in support of the states’ lawsuit.


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