BOSTON (CBS/AP) -- Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey announced Monday she's leading a lawsuit filed by 18 attorneys general that seeks to stop the Trump Administration from forcing foreign students to leave the United States or transfer to another college if their schools offer classes entirely online this fall.
Colleges received the new guidance from ICE the same day that some institutions, including Harvard University, announced that all instruction will be offered remotely. Many universities are speaking out against the new policy that the lawsuit calls "cruel, abrupt and unlawful."
"The Trump Administration didn't even attempt to explain the basis for this senseless rule, which forces schools to choose between keeping their international students enrolled and protecting the health and safety of their campuses," Healey said in a statement. "Massachusetts is home to thousands of international students who make invaluable contributions to our educational institutions, communities, and economy. We are taking this action today to make sure they can continue to live and learn in this country."
President Donald Trump has insisted that schools and colleges return to in-person instruction as soon as possible.
"It's another shameful, cruel and yes illegal move by the Trump administration," Healey said. "What this is about is Trump wants to demonstrate to the country and make it seem like everything is fine and by getting colleges back open and bringing kids back to campus and students back to campus, he thinks that that's going to pull one over on the American people and show that he has taken us through this coronavirus."
Under the updated rules, international students must take at least some of their classes in person. New visas will not be issued to students at schools or programs that are entirely online. And even at colleges offering a mix of in-person and online courses this fall, international students will be barred from taking all their classes online.
"It's quite uncertain what's going to happen next month," said Oya Gursoy, a rising senior at Harvard majoring in social studies. She's worried about getting deported and isn't sure if she can even make it home to Turkey.
"Currently there are no commercial flights back to Turkey actually for the entire month of August so it's actually not even clear if I can go back home," Gursoy said.
It creates an urgent dilemma for thousands of international students who became stranded in the U.S. last spring after the coronavirus forced their schools to move online. Those attending schools that are staying online must "depart the country or take other measures, such as transferring to a school with in-person instruction," according to the guidance.
Healey's lawsuit is backed by Northeastern University, Tufts University, UMass, Boston University and more Massachusetts state universities and community colleges. Harvard and MIT have filed a separate lawsuit against the Trump Administration.
States joining Healey's lawsuit include Rhode Island, Connecticut and Vermont.
(© Copyright 2020 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)
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