Update, July 14: The Trump administration has agreed to withdraw the rule that would have required international students attending schools with all-online classes to return to their home countries.
State Attorney General Bob Ferguson has asked a federal judge to put a halt to a plan by the Trump administration to make international students return to their home countries if their colleges go to all-online instruction. The administration’s rule, which has been condemned by university leaders across the country, is set to take effect Wednesday.
Last week, Ferguson filed a lawsuit against the Trump administration challenging the proposed rule. On Monday, Ferguson also requested that a judge issue a temporary restraining order to stop the rule.
Meanwhile, more than 200 universities across the country are backing a separate legal challenge to the restrictions, and have signed court briefs supporting Harvard University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in their lawsuit against U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, filed in federal court in Boston. A judge is scheduled to hear arguments Tuesday in that case.
Separate from Washington’s lawsuit, Massachusetts filed a federal suit Monday that was joined by Democratic attorneys general in 16 other states and the District of Columbia.
And another coalition of 180 colleges, known as the Presidents’ Alliance on Higher Education and Immigration, has filed a brief saying colleges were “blindsided” by the policy.
The Trump administration’s rule would revoke student visas for all international students attending colleges and universities that are holding classes remotely. It would also require international students who attend a college that is offering a hybrid model — part online, part face-to-face — to take at least one class in person.
In the Harvard/MIT case, if the judge does not suspend the rule, colleges across the U.S. will have until Wednesday to notify ICE if they plan to be fully online this fall.
Colleges are asking the court to block the rule as quickly as possible, saying it’s already being used to turn students away.
About 27,000 international students attend colleges in Washington, and a number of Washington schools submitted declarations in support of Ferguson’s lawsuit and temporary restraining order. To date, only one state university — Eastern Washington University — has announced plans to teach all fall classes online, and a spokesman said the school does not have many international students.
According to Ferguson’s office, the University of Washington has 8,300 students on student visas from 123 countries, who add about $185 million in revenue to the university. UW enrollment figures from spring 2020 show that about 7,300 of those students attend the Seattle campus, making up nearly 17% of enrollment overall in Seattle.
There are nearly 2,000 international students studying at Washington State University, and about 13,000 international students at the state’s 34 community and technical colleges.
The administration has said the point of the directive is to encourage schools to open. In a statement, Ferguson said the policy would undermine public safety decisions at the local level, and jeopardize money from tuition revenue and economic activity, “in order to pursue a political goal.”
Information from The Associated Press is included in this report.