Colorado Colleges, Universities Join Lawsuit to Stop New ICE Directive

By Kelley, Debbie | The Gazette (Colorado Springs, CO), July 14, 2020 | Go to article overview

Colorado Colleges, Universities Join Lawsuit to Stop New ICE Directive


Kelley, Debbie, The Gazette (Colorado Springs, CO)


Colorado has joined 16 other states and the District of Columbia in a lawsuit that seeks to overturn a new federal directive that would revoke the visas of international college students who take classes entirely online for the fall semester.

In Monday's announcement about the litigation, Colorado Attorney General Phil Weiser called the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement rule issued last week an “abrupt reversal” that sends a message that is “wrong, counterproductive and illegal.”

International students are being told to return to their home countries or not enter the U.S. for the fall semester if they are attending colleges and universities that resume classes online only because of the global COVID-19 pandemic.

The lawsuit seeks an injunction to stop the Trump administration's advisement, challenging what the attorneys general call the federal government’s “cruel, abrupt and unlawful action to expel international students amidst the pandemic that has wrought death and disruption across the United States.”

As of January, there were 11,316 students in Colorado who could potentially be impacted by the new ICE policy, if the campuses had to revert to remote learning for all students, said Megan McDermott, spokeswoman for the Colorado Department of Higher Education.

While most colleges in Colorado are planning to combine in-person instruction with online classes for the fall semester, all international students could be impacted and forced to return home if schools were ordered by Gov. Jared Polis to provide online-only education at any time during the academic year, like they were in March, she said.

Though international students study at campuses across the state, the majority attend the University of Colorado at Boulder, Colorado State University, the University of Denver and the University of Colorado at Denver, McDermott said.

“We do not yet know full impacts on fall, just as we don’t know the impacts with regard to domestic students,” she said in an email. “There are too many uncertainties.”

While many international students who were attending college in Colorado last year have stayed here through the pandemic, not all have.

“We don’t know how many new freshmen will enroll, nor if they will actually be able to get a visa and travel to the United States,” McDermott said.

The University of Colorado at Colorado Springs is anticipating a 21% decrease in international students for the fall semester, said Chris Valentine, assistant vice chancellor of marketing and communications.

Foreign student enrollment is expected to be 160, he said, down from 202 students in the fall of 2019.

The natural graduation cycle is one reason, Valentine said. Another is that 30 international students returned home in the spring as the pandemic began spreading and are prevented from returning by travel restrictions in their native countries.

The Asian continent produces the most international students studying in the U.S., according to the newly released “Future of International Education Report” from Western Union Business Solutions.

International students comprised 1.7% percent of UCCS’ fall 2019 enrollment of 12,197.

In comparison, international students represented more than 9% of last fall’s enrollment at CU Boulder.

While schools are still solidifying plans for fall, UCCS is preparing to deliver one-half to two-thirds of its classes in-person and one-third to one-half online, spokesman Jared Verner told The Gazette earlier this month. …

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