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Oregon Joins Legal Action Against ICE Over International Students

Students walk across Oregon State University's Corvallis campus in this Oct. 27, 2017, file photo.
Students walk across Oregon State University's Corvallis campus in this Oct. 27, 2017, file photo.

The Oregon Department of Justice and two of its largest universities have joined a legal fight against the Trump Administration over new limits on international students during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Immigration and Customs Enforcement announced last week that international students would not be able to continue their education plans if they involved taking an entirely online course load. Instead, they’d lose their F-1 or M-1 visas, if in-person instruction wasn’t part of their education. ICE’s order drew immediate condemnation from many higher education leaders, including a lawsuit led by Harvard University and Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

Oregon officials announced Monday that they are also joining lawsuits aimed at stopping ICE's new limits on international students. University leaders say they’re part of an effort among institutions up and down the West Coast, and Oregon Attorney General Ellen Rosenblum said she’s aligned with states from New Jersey to New Mexico seeking to stop ICE’s new limits on students from other countries.

University of Oregon and Oregon State University said they’ve joined a 20-college coalition representing institutions from the University of San Diego north to Seattle University. According to a press release from OSU, the coalition has requested a temporary restraining order against ICE’s order in U.S. District Court in Eugene.  

“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, who has been Oregon State University president for just a few weeks.

University officials say they’re facing a July 15 deadline to lay out their plans for hybrid or in-person instruction.

The Trump administration has defended the changes as a return to a policy from before the pandemic shut down college campuses across the country. However, the change comes as coronavirus numbers are climbing in many states, including Oregon.

The Oregon DOJ said it’s joining a lawsuit filed in the U.S. District Court in Massachusetts, along with 17 other Attorneys General. In announcing that step, Oregon justice officials said the case is challenging what it calls the administration’s “cruel, abrupt, and unlawful action to expel international students amidst the pandemic that has wrought death and disruption across the United States.”

In a filing in support of the Attorney Generals’ action, Oregon’s Higher Education Coordinating Commission said the direct economic loss to the state for the upcoming academic terms is more than $144 million. State officials count more than 13,000 international students in Oregon, including about 3,500 at Oregon State University alone.

Copyright 2020 Oregon Public Broadcasting