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Case Name President and Fellows of Harvard College v. U.S. Department of Homeland Security IM-MA-0020
Docket / Court 1:20-cv-11283 ( D. Mass. )
State/Territory Massachusetts
Case Type(s) Education
Immigration and/or the Border
Special Collection COVID-19 (novel coronavirus)
Case Summary
COVID-19 Summary: This is a lawsuit brought by Harvard and MIT regarding the July 2020 release of ICE regulations which, in effect, meant that students on F-1 visas would risk deportation if their school shifted to online learning. On July 14, the parties informed the court that the government ... read more >
COVID-19 Summary: This is a lawsuit brought by Harvard and MIT regarding the July 2020 release of ICE regulations which, in effect, meant that students on F-1 visas would risk deportation if their school shifted to online learning. On July 14, the parties informed the court that the government agreed to rescind the July 6 directive, as well as the associated FAQ on the ICE website, and also agreed to rescind the implementation of the directive. Instead, the government said it would return to the March policy. As a result, the court mooted the preliminary injunction and temporary restraining order motions and in October 2020, the plaintiffs filed a notice of voluntary dismissal.


Background
Generally speaking, F-1 visas (colloquially "student visas") can be granted to international students who attend American universities. However, regulations on the granting of these visas limit the amount of online or distance learning the student can engage in. According to these regulations, an international student can engage in only one such class or three credits of that class per semester. 8 C.F.R. § 214.2(f)(6)(i)(G).

The COVID-19 outbreak in early 2020 made this regulation untenable, as schools and universities had to shift to online learning systems. In response, defendant ICE issued an exemption on March 13, 2020, affirming that international students would be permitted to continue distance learning in the United States under their F-1 visas. The exemption would apply until the end of the emergency. However, on July 6, 2020, ICE issued a new directive stating that it would rescind that exemption. This directive would then mean that international students at schools that would still be fully online would have to either transfer to other schools that were at least partially in-person, go back to their countries voluntarily, or risk deportation. The directive also ordered schools that had gone fully online or had simply decided not to have classes to submit an "operational change plan" within nine days, and ordered schools that would have a hybrid system to certify each F-1 student to make sure that they were not taking entirely online courses.

The Lawsuit
This lawsuit was filed on July 8, 2020, two days after the directive was issued. Plaintiffs were the President and Fellows of Harvard College and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and were represented by private counsel. Defendants were the U.S. Department of Homeland Security and the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). The universities claimed that the new directive violated the Administrative Procedure Act in three ways: 1) the directive was arbitrary and capricious in that it failed to address the reliance interests of both universities that had already engaged in extensive planning and international students expectations of their immigration status; 2) the directive was arbitrary and capricious in that it failed to offer a reasoned basis to justify the policy; and 3) defendants failed to comply with notice-and-comment rulemaking procedures in issuing this directive. Plaintiffs sought injunctive relief in the form of a temporary restraining order as well as preliminary and permanent injunctions prohibiting the agencies from enforcing the new directive. Plaintiffs also requested that the court vacate and set aside the directive in addition to declaratory relief and attorney's fees and costs.

The case was originally assigned to Judge Douglas P. Woodlock but he immediately recused himself and it was reassigned to Judge Allison D. Borroughs. Fifteen parties filed amicus briefs in support of the universities motion, representing the interests of dozens of higher education institutions, education nonprofits, labor unions, and tech corporations.

On July 14, the parties informed the court that the government agreed to rescind the July 6 directive, as well as the associated FAQ on the ICE website, and also agreed to rescind the implementation of the directive. Instead, the government said it would return to the March policy. As a result, the court mooted the preliminary injunction and temporary restraining order motions.

On October 6, 2020, the plaintiffs filed a notice of voluntary dismissal.

Jack Hibbard - 07/09/2020
Chandler Hart-McGonigle - 11/29/2020


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Issues and Causes of Action
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Issues
Defendant-type
Jurisdiction-wide
Law-enforcement
General
School/University Facilities
School/University policies
Immigration/Border
Admission - criteria
Admission - procedure
Deportation - criteria
Deportation - procedure
Visas - criteria
Visas - procedures
Plaintiff Type
Non-profit NON-religious organization
Causes of Action Administrative Procedure Act, 5 U.S.C. §§ 551 et seq.
Defendant(s) U.S. Department of Homeland Security
U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement
Plaintiff Description Harvard and MIT
Class action status sought No
Class action status granted No
Filed Pro Se No
Prevailing Party None Yet / None
Public Int. Lawyer No
Nature of Relief None
Source of Relief None
Filed 07/08/2020
Case Closing Year 2020
Case Ongoing No
Case Listing IM-CA-0165 : The Regents of the University of California v. U.S. Department of Homeland Security (N.D. Cal.)
IM-CA-0166 : Z.W. v. U.S. Department of Homeland Security (C.D. Cal.)
IM-WA-0045 : State of Washington v. United States Department of Homeland Security (W.D. Wash.)
IM-DC-0081 : Johns Hopkins University v. U.S. Department of Homeland Security (D.D.C.)
IM-CA-0167 : State of California v. U.S. Department of Homeland Security (N.D. Cal.)
IM-MA-0021 : Commonwealth of Massachusetts et al v. United States Department of Homeland Security (D. Mass.)
IM-OR-0011 : University of Oregon v. United States Department of Homeland Security (D. Or.)
Additional Resources
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  See this case at CourtListener.com (May provide additional documents and, for active cases, real-time alerts)
Court Docket(s)
D. Mass. 1:20-cv-11283
IM-MA-0020-9000.pdf | Detail
Date: 10/06/2020
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
General Documents
D. Mass.
Complaint for Declaratory and Injunctive Relief [ECF# 1]
IM-MA-0020-0001.pdf | Detail
Date: 07/08/2020
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
D. Mass.
Request for Oral Argument [ECF# 4, 4-1]
IM-MA-0020-0002.pdf | Detail
Date: 07/08/2020
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
D. Mass.
Memorandum of Law in Support of Plaintiffs' Motion for Temporary Restraining Order [ECF# 5]
IM-MA-0020-0007.pdf | Detail
Date: 07/08/2020
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
D. Mass.
Declaration of Felicia H. Ellsworth in Support of Plaintiffs' Motion for Temporary Restraining Order [ECF# 6, 6-1, 6-2, 6-3]
IM-MA-0020-0003.pdf | Detail
Date: 07/08/2020
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
D. Mass.
Declaration of Alan M. Garber [ECF# 7, 7-1]
IM-MA-0020-0004.pdf | Detail
Date: 07/08/2020
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
D. Mass.
Declaration of Mark C. Elliott [ECF# 8, 8-1, 8-2]
IM-MA-0020-0005.pdf | Detail
Date: 07/08/2020
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
D. Mass.
Declaration of Cynthia Barnhart [ECF# 9, 9-1]
IM-MA-0020-0006.pdf | Detail
Date: 07/08/2020
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
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Judges Burroughs, Allison Dale (D. Mass.) show/hide docs
IM-MA-0020-9000
Plaintiff's Lawyers Ellsworth, Felicia H. (Massachusetts) show/hide docs
IM-MA-0020-0001 | IM-MA-0020-0002 | IM-MA-0020-0003 | IM-MA-0020-0007 | IM-MA-0020-9000
Fleming, Mark C. (Massachusetts) show/hide docs
IM-MA-0020-0001 | IM-MA-0020-0002 | IM-MA-0020-0007 | IM-MA-0020-9000
Hemmer, Alex (District of Columbia) show/hide docs
IM-MA-0020-9000
Holtzblatt, Ari (District of Columbia) show/hide docs
IM-MA-0020-0001 | IM-MA-0020-0002 | IM-MA-0020-0007 | IM-MA-0020-9000
Lee, William F. (Massachusetts) show/hide docs
IM-MA-0020-0001 | IM-MA-0020-0002 | IM-MA-0020-0007 | IM-MA-0020-9000
Sandals, Michelle L. (Massachusetts) show/hide docs
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Waxman, Seth (District of Columbia) show/hide docs
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Wolfson, Paul Reinherz (District of Columbia) show/hide docs
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Defendant's Lawyers Farquhar, Rayford A. (Massachusetts) show/hide docs
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Other Lawyers Alladi, Om (New York) show/hide docs
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Aviki, Allison (New York) show/hide docs
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Babha, Ishan K. (District of Columbia) show/hide docs
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Carter, Abigail (District of Columbia) show/hide docs
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Cederbaum, Adam N. (Massachusetts) show/hide docs
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Cedrone, Michael A. (New Jersey) show/hide docs
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Chen, Sean (Massachusetts) show/hide docs
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Cotter, John J. (Massachusetts) show/hide docs
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Dalsen, William D. (Massachusetts) show/hide docs
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Dundas, Michael Joseph (California) show/hide docs
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Fick, William W (Massachusetts) show/hide docs
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Goldstein, Danielle L (California) show/hide docs
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Harrison, Lindsay C (District of Columbia) show/hide docs
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Hartz, Lauren J. (District of Columbia) show/hide docs
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Hogarth, Sarah P. (District of Columbia) show/hide docs
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Hughes, Paul W. (District of Columbia) show/hide docs
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Johnson, Geoffrey R. (Pennsylvania) show/hide docs
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Long, Sari M. (District of Columbia) show/hide docs
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McGee-Tubb, Mathilda (Massachusetts) show/hide docs
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Mitchell, Bradley L. (New Jersey) show/hide docs
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Noonan, Gregory Francis (New York) show/hide docs
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O'Keefe, Joseph C. (New York) show/hide docs
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Oppenheimer, Elisabeth (District of Columbia) show/hide docs
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Price, Matthew E. (District of Columbia) show/hide docs
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Pyle, Jeffrey Jackson (Massachusetts) show/hide docs
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Rosenthal, Joshua A. (District of Columbia) show/hide docs
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Shapanka, Matthew S. (District of Columbia) show/hide docs
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Shouvlin, David (Ohio) show/hide docs
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Siegrist, Carrie G. (District of Columbia) show/hide docs
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Vanaskie, Thomas Ignatius (Pennsylvania) show/hide docs
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Vora, Hena M. (Massachusetts) show/hide docs
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Walters, Sarah E. (Massachusetts) show/hide docs
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Young, Tyler Paul (California) show/hide docs
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