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MIT and Harvard file suit against new ICE regulations

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The following email was sent to the MIT community today from MIT President L. Rafael Reif.

To the members of the MIT community,

On Monday, in a surprising development, a division of Immigration and Customs Enforcement announced that it will not permit international students on F-1 visas to take a full online course load this fall while studying in the United States. As I wrote yesterday, this ruling has potentially serious implications for MIT’s international students and those enrolled at institutions across the country.

This morning, in response, MIT and Harvard jointly filed suit against ICE and the US Department of Homeland Security in federal court in Massachusetts. In the lawsuit, we ask the court to prevent ICE and DHS from enforcing the new guidance and to declare it unlawful.

The announcement disrupts our international students’ lives and jeopardizes their academic and research pursuits. ICE is unable to offer the most basic answers about how its policy will be interpreted or implemented. And the guidance comes after many US colleges and universities either released or are readying their final decisions for the fall – decisions designed to advance their educational mission and protect the health and safety of their communities.

Our international students now have many questions – about their visas, their health, their families and their ability to continue working toward an MIT degree. Unspoken, but unmistakable, is one more question: Am I welcome?

At MIT, the answer, unequivocally, is yes.

MIT’s strength is its people – no matter where they come from. I know firsthand the anxiety of arriving in this country as a student, excited to advance my education, but separated from my family by thousands of miles. I also know that welcoming the world’s brightest, most talented and motivated students is an essential American strength.

While we pursue legal protections for our international students, we will continue to stay in close touch with them through email and updates on the International Students Office’s website. If you have questions, you may write to the ISO at


L. Rafael Reif

Press Mentions

National Public Radio (NPR)

Graduate student Maya Nasr speaks with NPR’s Jenn White about a new rule from DHS and ICE that would bar thousands of foreign students from studying in the U.S. “One of the big things that all of us as international students have been facing over the last few years is the feeling of hostility in the U.S.,” says Nasr. “It’s important to realize the long- term impact of such an environment on the U.S.”

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