View of Bertrand Library from Malesardi Quad

Bucknell Joins Schools Backing Harvard, MIT Lawsuit Over Student Visas

July 13, 2020

by Mike Ferlazzo

A view of Bertrand Library from the Bucknell campus on Malesardi Quad.

Bucknell University joined 58 other U.S. colleges and universities in filing an amicus brief supporting Harvard University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in their effort to stop the Trump administration from enforcing new visa guidelines that would bar some international students from entering and staying in the country to attend college. The brief was filed Sunday night in U.S. District Court, District of Massachusetts.

Harvard and MIT sued the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement last week after it issued the new guidance which puts immigration status at risk for international students who are not engaged in in-person instruction. Under the guidance, international students who are enrolled only in online classes risk deportation or the obligation to transfer to another school offering in-person courses.

The amicus brief supports the lawsuit's contention that the guidance is "arbitrary and capricious" and a violation of the Administrative Procedure Act for four specific reasons.

"First, it entirely fails to address the reliance that schools and students across the nation placed on the government's March 13 Guidance, which afforded schools broad flexibility to navigate the current public health crisis," wrote the authors in the brief. "Second, it entirely fails to consider the dilemmas schools and students will face in conforming to the new policy, and does not explain why those dilemmas are justified. Third, it does not consider in any way the substantial compliance burdens it imposes on schools. Fourth, it includes no reasoned explanation for the new policy."

The institutions call for a preliminary injunction to be granted on a nationwide basis.

"International students are a vital part of our scholarly communities, and their participation in academic life enhances the educational experience for all," they conclude in the brief. "The July 6 Directive will inevitably force some international students to withdraw from our colleges and universities. In all cases — and in addition to the tremendous harm this will do to these students — our universities and our society will suffer."

Bucknell will be offering both in-person and remote education classes, and students have been offered the flexibility to determine how their personal situations will be best accommodated. The University has been planning for the return of students for months and has been relying on the continuation of past federal guidance to allow international students to take all courses remotely without jeopardizing their visa status.

In addition to Bucknell, colleges and universities that have signed on to the amicus brief include American University, Amherst College, Arizona State University, Barnard College, Boston University, Bowdoin College, Brandeis University, Brown University, California Institute of Technology, Carnegie Mellon University, Case Western Reserve University, Colby College, Columbia University, Cornell University, Dartmouth College, DePaul University, Duke University, Emory University, Franklin & Marshall College, George Washington University, Georgetown University, Hobart and William Smith Colleges, Indiana University, Johns Hopkins University, Michigan State University, Middlebury College, Muhlenberg College, Northeastern University, Northwestern University, Pennsylvania State University, Princeton University, Purdue University, Rice University, Rutgers University (The State University of New Jersey), Smith College, Stanford University, Suffolk University, Swarthmore College, Syracuse University, Trinity College, Tufts University, Tulane University, Union College, University of Chicago, University of Illinois, University of Michigan, University of Minnesota, University of Nebraska, University of Notre Dame, University of Pennsylvania, University of Southern California, Vanderbilt University, Washington University, Wellesley College, Wesleyan University, Williams College, Worcester Polytechnic Institute, and Yale University.

The institutions were represented by Jenner & Block, which was among several law firms that convinced the Supreme Court to protect young undocumented immigrants known as Dreamers from deportation.

The hearing on a temporary restraining order and preliminary injunction against U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement will take place at 3 p.m. Tuesday.

Last Friday, Bucknell President John Bravman was among a group of presidents belonging to the Patriot League who also announced their opposition to the federal government's ruling on international students.