Harvard students on campus on July 8. Anik Rahman/NurPhoto via Getty Images


  • In a Tuesday hearing for a Harvard and MIT lawsuit against Immigration and Customs Enforcement, the Trump administration rescinded last week’s directive that would have revoked the visas of international students studying at colleges that plan to remain entirely online this fall.
  • The July 6 directive was met with swift backlash, with 17 states and Washington, DC, filing a lawsuit to block the policy.
  • Harvard and MIT’s lawsuit received the support of 200 more universities.
  • Despite the policy’s cancellation, it has already affected American schools — with many foreign students saying they feel unwanted and a study predicting international enrollment could decline to World War II lows.

The Trump administration issued a directive on July 6 saying that international students attending schools operating entirely online may not remain in the US. Schools, according to the policy, were supposed to report their reopening plans by Wednesday.

But on Tuesday, the White House rescinded the directive in a hearing for a lawsuit that Harvard and MIT brought against Immigration and Customs Enforcement on July 8.

The cancellation of the policy came after a week of nonstop backlash. Harvard and MIT’s suit was supported by more than 200 additional universities. On Monday, 17 states and the District of Columbia filed a separate lawsuit to block the same policy.

The multistate lawsuit represented over 370,000 international students at over 1,100 colleges, according to the filing. Those same students contributed about $14.5 billion to the economy in 2019, according to the states and Washington.

The directive came as many campuses were announcing their virtual reopening plans.

On July 7, Trump singled out Harvard’s plan to bring back 40% of undergraduates but continue remote learning.

“I think it’s ridiculous. I think it’s an easy way out, and I think they ought to be ashamed of themselves, if you want to know the truth,” Trump said.

In a news conference last week, White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany defended the policy: “You don’t get a visa for taking online classes from, let’s say, University of Phoenix. So why would you if you were just taking online classes generally?”

Students said the Trump administration’s anti-immigration stance changed their “idealized vision” of the US, with one telling Insider’s Inyoung Choi she was considering transferring to another country. A new study by the National Foundation for American Policy showed enrollment of new international students at US universities was projected to decline this year by 63 to 98% — the lowest level since World War II.

The Department of Homeland Security, which ICE is a part of, did not immediately respond to Business Insider’s request for comment.

As reported by Business Insider