Hannah Rosenberg / Sun Assistant Photography Editor

Cornell will be joining Harvard and MIT in an amicus brief supporting international students, after ICE said international students cannot stay in the U.S. if classes are online.

July 8, 2020

Cornell Joins MIT, Harvard in Amicus Brief Against ICE and Dept. of Homeland Security

Print More

President Martha E. Pollack announced Wednesday that Cornell will join Harvard and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in a lawsuit challenging recent U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement restrictions on visas for international students taking a full online course load in the fall.

This statement — which is Cornell’s first on the subject — comes two days after ICE introduced the restrictions and a few hours after MIT and Harvard announced that they filed the suit.

The ICE restrictions state that “nonimmigrant F-1 and M-1 students may not take a full online course load and remain in the United States.” This leaves international students with the option of either transferring to a school that offers in-person teaching or leaving the country for the semester.

“This was wholly unexpected, and it is a senseless and unfair policy that runs counter to all that we stand for as a global academic community,” Pollack wrote in an email to the Cornell community.

The lawsuit, filed in the U.S. District Court for Massachusetts, asks the court to “prevent ICE and DHS from enforcing the new guidance and to declare it unlawful,” according to an MIT statement.

The suit notes that ICE’s recommendation for students to transfer to universities with in-person restrictions is largely impossible since the fall semester is only weeks away. The plaintiffs also assert that “ICE’s decision reflects an effort by the federal government to force universities to reopen in-person classes.”

Pollack expressed her “unqualified support” for the international community at Cornell and the University’s “strongest opposition to this recent policy decision.” However, Pollack added that she does not expect the decision to negatively affect Cornellians “because of our recent decision to use hybrid teaching (both in person and online) this fall.”

However, before Pollack issued the statement, students on Twitter called for a response from Cornell and expressed discontent about the University’s lack of comment.

Professors from several universities have also offered to hold independent study classes to prevent students from having to leave the country.

Pollack echoed a similar commitment to international students: “To each of our international students, I want to say directly: You belong here, and we will fight for you to be here.”