The Trump administration yesterday dropped its week-old rule that would have forced foreign students to leave the USA if the American schools they're attending held entirely online courses this fall. Harvard and MIT sued the administration the day after the rule was announced last week, and the end of the stupid policy was announced at what was to have been the first hearing in that case, the first of many lawsuits against the rule.

US District Court Judge Allison Burroughs said the school's request for an injunction against the rule was moot because the administration had agreed to rescind the policy, and then presumably everyone at both universities held a toga party, except at MIT the togas were worn by robots.

The proposal, which would have affected an untold number of students attending American schools on student visas, had thrown planning for the fall semester into even more chaos than it already had been because of the resurgence of coronavirus around the country. So hooray, back to the regular degree of Hell Year 2020 chaos!


International students had already been prohibited from attending online-only classes in the US, but when the pandemic hit earlier this year and virtually all schools switched to remote classes, the administration agreed to allow student visa holders to take their coursework online. That previous rule will now go back into effect, so no one will have to leave the US or try to transfer to a school holding in-person classes, risking exposure to COVID-19.

In addition to the Harvard-MIT lawsuit and other cases brought by educational institutions, at least 18 state attorneys general sued the Department of Homeland Security on Monday. Also Monday, the US Chamber of Commerce and over a dozen tech companies, including Google, Facebook, and Twitter, filed a brief in the Harvard-MIT case arguing that the rule would have "serious adverse economic consequences," not just for the students, but for the companies and the US as a whole. The companies said, "America's future competitiveness depends on attracting and retaining talented international students."

See, they admit the foreigns are taking our jobs! If it weren't for those talented international students, big tech would have to hire untalented Americans, the way it used to be.

The rule was seen as part of the administration's general war on immigration, like its earlier freeze on issuing new work visas until the end of the year, because "coronavirus," but really because "election." In addition, the universities argued the administration was trying to use the rule to bully universities to hold on-campus classes as part of its general insistence that the pandemic is gone and everything's normal, vote for Trump.

If the rule had remained in effect, it would have seriously hurt tens of thousands of students: there are roughly a million people attending US schools at all levels on student visas, and an economic analysis by NAFSA: Association of International Educators determined that during the 2018-2019 academic year, international students "contributed $41 billion and supported 458,290 jobs to the U.S. economy[.]" Further, because foreign students pay full price for their education, they help subsidize lower costs for American students.

Had students attending schools that went online been forced to leave the US, many would have had to leave family behind here, or find a way to uproot them, too; many might have returned to countries with iffy or censored internet. And of course the time difference would have made online classes hell for many. The New York Times reports that during the single week the rule was in effect, it had already caused chaos:

In court filings, universities said that some arriving students already had been barred from entering the country by immigration officials at airports who told them that their institutions were going online.

That good old Trump administration strategy of weaponized incompetence strikes again.

Universities and higher education organizations said the administration's reversal of the rule was a relief, but they also warned they'd remain vigilant against further fuckery. Somewhere in the deepest sub-basements of the White House, we can only assume Stephen Miller muttered that he would have gotten away with it if it weren't for those darn kids, their universities, the tech industry, and a raft of lawyers. Then he started working on a plan to prohibit green card holders from subscribing to cable TV, probably.

[USA Today / NYT]

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Doktor Zoom

Doktor Zoom's real name is Marty Kelley, and he lives in the wilds of Boise, Idaho. He is not a medical doctor, but does have a real PhD in Rhetoric. You should definitely donate some money to this little mommyblog where he has finally found acceptance and cat pictures. He is on maternity leave until 2033. Here is his Twitter, also. His quest to avoid prolixity is not going so great.

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