Northeastern joins Harvard, MIT in lawsuit against immigration policy


Kelly Thomas

Northeastern has the third most international students in the country.

Jayden Khatib, deputy city editor

Northeastern University, Harvard University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology are suing the Trump administration over its decision not to allow international students enrolled in fully online programs to remain in the United States this fall.

To prevent the spread of COVID-19, many universities are embracing online instruction. Some, like Harvard and Rutgers University, will offer classes almost entirely online, while others like Northeastern and Boston University will offer a hybrid of online and in-person instruction. This change in policy could force international students to choose either to continue their studies in-person and risk exposure to COVID-19 or leave the country.

U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, or ICE, announced this change Monday after a previous policy change in March temporarily allowed international students to remain in the country while taking remote classes as college campuses closed nationwide.

Wednesday, Harvard and MIT announced their lawsuit against the Trump administration alleging that the policy change is a ploy to force universities to hold in-person classes and to reduce the number of international students in the country. Later that day, Northeastern announced it is joining the lawsuit.

On Tuesday, ICE Director Ken Cuccinelli told CNN in an interview that students would be allowed in the United States for “anything short of 100 percent online classes.” Northeastern’s statement Wednesday afternoon said international students will be able to remain in the U.S. to take NUflex classes, which include in-person requirements for international students, or to take classes remotely from their home countries.

The university’s Frequently Asked Questions page for F-1 visa students also noted that students who want to take a term off can always request a non-medical leave of absence.