180 Institutions of Higher Education Join Litigation in Opposing Administration’s “International Student Ban”



July 10, 2020

Contact: Jose Magaña-Salgado (

Washington, D.C.—Today, the Presidents’ Alliance on Higher Education and Immigration, represented by international law firm McDermott Will & Emery, led 180 member colleges and universities in filing an amicus brief in support of Harvard University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT)’s legal complaint against the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS). The plaintiffs seek an injunction against new guidance from the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) that effectively implements a ban on international students enrolled in online-only courses. The amicus brief argues that higher education institutions and international students will experience significant burdens due to the guidance’s arbitrary prohibition, without notice, to online-only courses for international students, particularly after investing substantial resources in planning their fall 2020 operations. Institutions, the amicus argues, relied heavily on the existing SEVP guidance that flexibility would continue “for the duration of the emergency.”

The brief and list of signatories may be accessed here.

Miriam Feldblum, Executive Director, Presidents’ Alliance on Higher Education and Immigration, stated: “ICE’s new policy serves only to severely disrupt international students’ educational attainment, and our country is worse off for it. This quasi–international student ban represents another unfortunate assault by the administration against immigrants and higher education—a ban made especially disappointing given SEVP’s former guidance that promoted and recognized the need for flexibility amidst a global pandemic. The number of institutions speaking out on behalf of international students demonstrates the breadth of support for international students and the appreciation of the immense contributions they bring to all our campuses.”

Paul Hughes, Partner, McDermott Will & Emery, stated: “Today, 180 colleges and universities from virtually every part of the country voiced their vociferous opposition to the administration’s destructive policy regarding international students and COVID-19. In March, DHS released common-sense rules, which it said would remain in place for ‘the duration of the emergency.’ Colleges and universities planned their fall semesters in reliance on this guidance. And one need only to look at any headline to appreciate that the ‘emergency’ has not ended. The government’s action backtracking now is plainly unlawful, and we urge the court to swiftly enjoin it.” 

Alan W. Cramb, President, Illinois Institute of Technology, stated: “I am deeply concerned about the timing, motivation, and substance of this government action. Our university, our city, and our nation are profoundly enriched by the contributions of international students. We stand with them and higher education institutions across the nation to ensure that America continues to be a place where all are welcomed and encouraged in their pursuit of educational excellence.”

Danny J. Anderson, President, Trinity University, stated: “While so many people in the United States are suffering and recovering from COVID-19, it is even more important that campuses protect and ensure the health and safety of their students. By issuing such ill-advised guidance, the administration is in effect pressuring campuses to reopen prematurely, thereby endangering their students’ health; or to deport their international students, placing their international students’ health in danger. This policy represents an arbitrary decision with no basis in reason. ICE must rescind this dangerous guidance and enable campuses to flexibly protect their students.”  

Nathan O. Hatch, President, Wake Forest University, stated: “Wake Forest welcomes the opportunity to join more 179 higher education institutions to resist new federal restrictions that threaten the education and wellbeing of international students. This ICE policy will have far-reaching detrimental effects on our students and communities. We stand with our students, who greatly enrich our campuses, and we will fight for their opportunity to pursue their education with us.”

Dr. Dwight A. McBride, President of The New School, stated: “The proposed ICE guidelines are cruel, unnecessary and deeply flawed–for students, for higher education, and for the country. As COVID-19 cases steadily increase throughout the United States, the new rule undercuts the prudence, careful planning, and reliance on public health and safety guidance that have informed university decisions around teaching and learning in the near term. Caught in the crosshairs of politics, dedicated scholars and future leaders who contribute mightily to U.S. culture and the economy could be exiled from the country they have seen as a haven. We need to be building educational bridges for our students right now, not bureaucratic trap doors.”

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The non-partisan Presidents’ Alliance on Higher Education and Immigration brings together college and university leaders dedicated to increasing public understanding of how immigration policies and practices impact our students, campuses and communities, and supporting policies that create a welcoming environment for undocumented, immigrant, and international students. The Alliance is composed of over 450 presidents and chancellors of public and private colleges and universities, representing over five million students in 41 states, D.C. and Puerto Rico.