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'Pawns In A Political Drama': International Students Studying In SoCal Sue Trump Administration Over New Visa Rule

SANTA ANA (CBSLA) -- International students studying in Orange and Los Angeles counties sued the Trump administration on Friday, alleging that the recent restrictions on foreign student visas makes them "pawns in a political drama."

The federal civil complaint was filed by attorneys for seven international students in Orange County. They are seeking a court order preventing the government from enforcing the policy that would retract student visas from any international students taking solely online classes in the fall.

The plaintiffs — identified only by their initials — Chinese nationals studying at UC Irvine School of Law and UCLA, and a German national studying at USC Gould School of Law.

On Monday, the Trump administration announced the policy that would bar international students from staying in the United States unless they were scheduled to take in-person classes.

"The administration's abrupt decision to expel international students during the pandemic is gratuitously cruel to the students and would do immeasurable harm to our universities and our country,'' said Mark Haddad, a professor at USC Gould School of Law. "Because this stunning policy change inflicts profound harm and yet was issued without any explanation, it is unlawful and should be swiftly blocked by the courts.''

MORE: California Sues Trump Administration Over New Visa Rule; USC To Offer In-Person Class For International Students

Due to COVID-19, universities across the country have opted to continue with online instruction through the fall.

Until now, international students were protected by guidance issued by the student visitor program, which kept nonimmigrant student visas in compliance regardless of how their colleges managed the shift from in-person classes.

"The ICE policy requiring foreign students to attend in-person classes, even where their universities have determined that to do so will cost lives and endanger the campus community, in keeping with the judgment of public health experts, treats them as pawns for the president's politically motivated decision,'' said plaintiffs' attorney Mark Rosenbaum, director of Public Counsel's Opportunity Under Law project.

"It is the latest of a series of irrational actions that is deepening the pandemic crisis in our nation and it comes as no surprise that the lives being threatened in the first instance are those of immigrants, here lawfully studying to contribute productively here and abroad.''

Plaintiffs' attorney Stacy Horth-Neubert said the government has abruptly taken "arbitrary and illogical action that presents these students with a Hobson's choice of either subjecting themselves and those around them to the risk of infection of COVID-19 by attending classes in person, or being forced from the country in which they have planned and prepared to spend the coming academic year.''

(© Copyright 2020 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. City News Service contributed to this report.)

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