California is pursuing a legal challenge against the Trump administration’s controversial new student visa policy, which will force foreigners studying in the U.S. to leave the country or switch schools if they attend a university doing online-only instruction this fall because of the coronavirus pandemic.
California Attorney General Xavier Becerra said he’s filing a lawsuit against the administration over the rule, which his office described as an “unlawful policy that threatens to exacerbate the spread of COVID-19 and exile hundreds of thousands of college students studying in the United States through the Student and Exchange Visitor Program (SEVP.)”
The state is home to the largest public university system in the country.
U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement announced the revised visa measure earlier this week, saying any students found in violation of the rule may be subject to deportation. International students attending a school conducting both online and in-person instruction may remain in the U.S. if they have at least one in-person class.
“Shame on the Trump Administration for risking not only the education opportunities for students who earned the chance to go to college, but now their health and well-being as well,” Becerra said in a statement. “Today, President (Donald) Trump appears set to do just that — amidst a global pandemic of historic proportions. Not on our watch.”
There are roughly 1 million foreign students attending college in the U.S. The biggest share of them come from China and India, which more than half of those students call home.
Those students are a major source of funding for U.S. universities, as the vast majority of them fund their education with money from their home countries instead of relying on financial assistance or scholarships from U.S. schools, according to the Institute of International Education.
Becerra’s office said Trump’s plan would “further burden educational institutions at a time when the state faces significant budget shortfalls and schools are already struggling to confront the economic and public health impacts of COVID-19.”
Harvard University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology have also filed a lawsuit against the administration’s new rule. Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey has vowed to back up the schools, saying, “This decision from ICE is cruel, it’s illegal, and we will sue to stop it.”