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Congressional delegation slams ICE guidance for international college students, Dartmouth to file brief in suit

New Hampshire’s congressional delegation criticized an ICE proposal that could force international college students to leave the country if they take only online classes.

Immigration and Customs Enforcement announced the proposal last week, saying that college students from other countries will not be able to get visas if they take only online classes. In March, ICE had said international students would be able to stay in the country for the duration of the COVID-19 emergency even if they took only online courses.

New Hampshire colleges and universities have more than 4,000 international students, according to NAFSA: the Association for International Education. The group estimates these students support 1,786 jobs in the state and contribute some $143.5 million to the state’s economy each year. Most of those international students attend Dartmouth College, the University of New Hampshire and Southern New Hampshire University.

The state’s congressional delegation called for ICE to rescind its plan.

“Cutting off international students’ access to their education while our nation and world stares down the greatest health crisis of our lifetime is both cruel and unnecessary,” said Sen. Jeanne Shaheen in a statement, adding that the policy will worsen colleges’ financial problems.

Sen. Maggie Hassan said the ICE announcement appeared to be an attempt to coerce colleges to re-open by threatening international students with deportation.

“Moving forward with this decision would create additional challenges as schools prepare for the fall, and it would undermine public health,” she said in a statement.

“Students who live and study here should not be forced to leave the country or transfer schools just because their classes are being held online — especially during a pandemic when it may be unsafe for them to travel and put themselves and our communities at greater risk,” Rep. Chris Pappas said in a statement.

“New Hampshire has a strong tradition of welcoming the best and brightest, and we are better because of that,” Rep. Annie Kuster said in a statement. “I strongly urge the Trump Administration to reconsider this decision and the far-reaching impact it will have on students across our nation.”

Harvard University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology have filed suit to block the move, and Dartmouth College announced it would file an amicus brief in the case.

In a complaint filed in U.S. District Court in Massachusetts last week, attorneys for Harvard and MIT wrote that the proposed rule seemed to be “an effort by the federal government to force universities to reopen in-person classes” before the universities think it is safe to re-open.

“The effect — and perhaps even the goal — is to create as much chaos for universities and international students as possible,” the complaint read.

Dartmouth’s leaders said welcoming the best students from around the world is key to the university’s mission.

“Any action inhibiting the free exchange of talent and ideas limits our ability to advance Dartmouth’s core academic mission,” read a university statement.

“By restricting international students’ participation in any online courses our faculty choose to offer to protect the health and safety of our community members in the face of the continuing pandemic, the SEVP (Student and Exchange Visitor Program) guidance strikes at the heart of that mission.”

University of New Hampshire president James W. Dean said last week the policy “{span}serves no one’s interests and will set back the United States’ ability to attract the world’s brightest minds.”