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ICE rescinds rule on international students and online learning

President L. Rafael Reif reflects on the decision to withdraw the July 6th policy from Immigration and Customs Enforcement.
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The following letter was sent to the MIT community today by President L. Rafael Reif.

To the members of the MIT community,

I am delighted to join you in taking pleasure in the news that the federal government just rescinded the July 6th policy from Immigration and Customs Enforcement that would have prohibited many international students from studying in the United States if – as was likely at many institutions, in response to the pandemic – their classes would be fully online. For our international students, and thus for all of us, this comes as an enormous relief.

Since we joined Harvard in pressing a lawsuit against the original directive last week, I have been inspired by the outpouring of support and action from higher education and other organizations, including dozens of U.S. states. I was especially moved by the involvement of our own students, including those who contributed their personal stories to the legal effort and those who organized a national coalition of students in filing a brief. You show us what it means to be One MIT.

I am also immensely grateful to Harvard University President Larry Bacow ’72 for his leadership, and to all the colleges and universities who signed court briefs in support of our suit.

My great respect and gratitude also go to Vice President and General Counsel Mark DiVincenzo and his Office of General Counsel colleagues Dahlia Fetouh and Anthony Moriello, who worked around the clock to make such a powerful case, and to all the staff who helped our international students handle this long week of painful uncertainty. And my thanks to everyone who reached out to help or spoke up in support of our students. 

It’s deeply encouraging that this case has inspired so much reflection about and enthusiastic recognition of the vital role international students play in academic communities across the United States – and absolutely at MIT. 

This case also made clear that real lives are at stake in these “bureaucratic” matters, with the potential for real harm. We need to approach policy making, especially now, with more humanity, more decency – not less. 

When we joined this suit with Harvard, we knew our case was strong, and we are pleased with this outcome. But we also stand ready to protect our students from any further arbitrary policies.

With gratitude and appreciation,

L. Rafael Reif

Press Mentions

The Wall Street Journal

Wall Street Journal reporters Michelle Hackman, Melissa Korn and Andrew Restuccia report on the Trump administration’s reversal of a new policy that would have prevented thousands of foreign students from studying in the U.S. “These students make us stronger, and we hurt ourselves when we alienate them,” said MIT President L. Rafael Reif.

WBUR

WBUR’s Max Larkin and Shannon Dooling report that the Department of Homeland Security has agreed to withdraw its July 6th policy. "Lawyers from across the United States had swarmed behind Harvard and MIT as they challenged the policy,” note Larkin and Dooling. “As of Tuesday morning, the docket showed over a dozen amicus briefs filed in the case’s weeklong history.”

New York Times

In an op-ed in The New York Times, MIT President L. Rafael Reif writes that it is “self-defeating” for the U.S. government to signal that it wants foreign students to stay away. “Precisely at a time when we face sharp economic rivalries, we are systematically undermining the very U.S. strength our competitors envy most,” he cautions.

Associated Press

AP reporter Collin Binkley writes that the Department of Homeland Security rescinded a rule that would have barred foreign students from studying in the U.S. “This case also made abundantly clear that real lives are at stake in these matters, with the potential for real harm,” said MIT President L. Rafael Reif. “We need to approach policy making, especially now, with more humanity, more decency — not less.”

Boston Globe

In response to a lawsuit filed by MIT and Harvard, the Department of Homeland Security rescinded a directive that would have prevented thousands of foreign students from studying in the U.S. “It’s a huge relief,” graduate student Angie Jo told The Boston Globe. “I’ve really put down roots here. It would be like leaving home for me.”

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