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Emerson Opposes ICE International Student Rules, Joins Amicus Brief

Update: On Tuesday, July 14, the administration rescinded its proposal requiring international students to take classes in-person if staying in the U.S.

Emerson College has joined an amicus brief in support of a lawsuit filed July 8 by Harvard University and MIT to block Trump administration rules barring international students from studying in the United States if their college courses are conducted entirely online.

The brief was filed by The Presidents’ Alliance on Higher Education and Immigration, of which President Lee Pelton is a founding member. Amicus briefs in the case were due Monday, July 13.

The universities are seeking a temporary restraining order against the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) rule, according to the Harvard Gazette. Harvard President Larry Bacow told the Gazette that the policy seems to be an attempt to pressure colleges and universities to open their campuses with in-person instruction regardless of concerns surrounding the pandemic, and could discourage institutions from switching to remote instruction mid-semester should an outbreak of COVID-19 occur.

In a July 8 letter to the community denouncing the ICE policy, Emerson President Lee Pelton said Emerson would “stand in solidarity with our international students.”

“We were deeply disturbed and angered by the recent guidance, which places unfair and xenophobic restrictions on international students,” Pelton wrote. “Rest assured that we will work with academic coalitions vigorously to oppose these actions.”

Both Harvard and MIT have announced that their fall semesters will be conducted largely online, and that only a fraction of students would physically return to campus.

Emerson will offer One Emerson Flex Learning, a hybrid approach that will welcome back all students who wish to return to campus in the fall with a combination of online and in-person instruction alongside extensive protocols designed to prevent the spread of the virus.

In his letter, Pelton said that One Emerson Flex Learning will work for most international students, who will be able to study in Boston and Los Angeles for the fall term. Students who choose to stay abroad will be able to enroll in online courses through Emerson, or enroll for in-person classes through one of the College’s global partner programs.

The new ICE policy would prevent international students from living in the U.S. while exclusively taking online classes.

“Nonetheless, we continue to work to assess how we can continue to provide the best support for our students—no matter which Emerson program they select,” Pelton said in his letter. “The Office of International Student Affairs is reaching out to international students to provide immigration support, and we will continue to communicate information as it becomes available.”

In the 2019/2020 academic year, international students comprised 13 percent of Emerson’s entire student body.

In addition to Emerson, 180 institutions of higher learning have supported the Harvard/MIT suit, including Northeastern, Cornell, and Princeton universities, and the University of Pennsylvania.

Note: This story has been edited to indicate that the amicus brief had not yet been filed.

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