Attorney General William Tong plans to sue the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency after it announced plans to prohibit international students who are taking online classes in the U.S. from living in the country, according to a spokesperson for Tong.
Tong will file the lawsuit on behalf of the state’s public colleges and universities.
Harvard and MIT filed a lawsuit Wednesday seeking a temporary restraining order to prevent ICE from enforcing the policy. Tong’s spokesperson said the Connecticut office is coordinating with other state attorneys general on the lawsuit.
The policy announced by ICE will require any international college students who attend a school that will offer only online classes this fall to transfer to a university offering in-person instruction.
“This is yet another cruel, unnecessary and harmful policy decision from the Trump administration,” Tong said in a statement. “I have already heard from Connecticut students who are in danger of being kicked out of the country because of this rule change.”
Kim Kerremans is an international graduate student at Quinnipiac University. Her entire graduate program is online so she fears that the policy will force her to be deported to Portugal where her parents live. Kerremans, who is currently staying in the U.S., is concerned.
“As of right now, I can stay but I don’t have enough information to confirm that ICE can’t deport me,” Kerremans said.
The international student office at Quinnipiac told Kerremans that administrators are working on ways to offer some in-person experiences so that students will be able to stay in the country.
“We pay to go to school in the U.S., so why are they kicking us out?” Kerremans said. “For many international students, it costs hundreds of dollars to fly home, some students can’t go home due to travel bans. So what are the students that have travel bans going to do? ICE is risking another spike of COVID-19 because they are sending thousands of students away.”
UConn Provost Carl Lejuez says the state’s flagship university is working on similar plans even as the attorney general works on a legal remedy for the state’s public higher education system.
“We’re actively engaging with our UConn international students on plans to ensure that their coursework includes enough in-person offerings to prevent them from being affected by this directive,” Lejuez said in a statement. “We’re already seeing some faculty members coming forward to offer more in-person opportunities for affected students, in fact.”
Tong highlighted UConn’s large international population in his written condemnation of the policy.
“The University of Connecticut, our flagship state school, hosts around 3,700 international students from dozens of countries,” Tong said in a statement. “That’s roughly 13 percent of the student body. These students often become immigrants who allow our nation’s economy to grow and thrive. That’s particularly the case in Connecticut, where thousands of immigrants have come to study at our world-class universities and stayed to work in advanced manufacturing and other high skill jobs.”
Trinity College in Hartford also plans to file an amicus brief in support of Harvard and MIT’s lawsuit. In a statement from Trinity, Sonia Cardenas, vice president for academic affairs said the college will be advising international students to enroll in at least one in-person class, but will still accommodate international students who do not get into an online class.
“We will remain vigilant against risks to our international students and push back vigorously against these directives,” Cardenas said.