Ohio State joined an amicus brief opposing new U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement guidance requiring international students leave the country if classes go online again due to COVID-19 | Credit: Jack Westerheide | Former Photo Editor

Ohio State joined 179 other higher education institutions in an amicus brief opposing the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s new guidance requiring international students to leave the country if their course schedule is fully virtual due to COVID-19.

The amicus brief supports a suit filed Monday by Harvard and MIT following the Student Exchange and Visitor Program’s changes to temporary exemptions for international students. The changes require international students who are unable to take in-person classes at their university to either transfer to one offering in-person instruction or return to their home countries. Ohio State signed an amicus brief — an official document submitted to the court by a third party agreeing with one party’s claims — in support of Harvard and MIT’s position.

“The Ohio State University disagrees with the federal guidance issued this week by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement about the autumn 2020 semester,” the university statement, issued Thursday by University Provost Bruce McPheron and Dr. Hal Paz, executive vice president and chancellor for health affairs at Ohio State and CEO of the Ohio State Wexner Medical Center, reads. “We are committed to our international students and will work to develop a solution that ensures that students who attend our campuses can successfully complete their academic work this autumn.”

Ohio State’s signing onto the brief follows the university community’s outrage at the new guidance. Undergraduate Student President Roaya Higazi, President of the International Student Council Jacob Chang and other student leaders published an open letter, signed by “international students and scholars,” Wednesday condemning the changes to the temporary exemptions and asking the university to address it.

The suit claims that the new guidance is “arbitrary and capricious” and, as the creation of a policy instead of the interpretation of an already existing policy, was not within ICE’s power.

“ICE’s Directive reveals no consideration of its action’s impact on the health of students, faculty, staff, or the surrounding communities. Further, ICE’s action of July 6 does not account for the reality that the COVID-19 pandemic continues to this day, and that record daily numbers of infections are being reported in the United States,” the suit reads. “ICE’s action also did not account for the reliance of both students and universities on ICE’s statements in the March 13 Guidance that the exemptions it announced were due to the COVID-19 pandemic and would be ‘in effect for the duration of the emergency.’”