NEW YORK – New York Attorney General Letitia James has welcomed US President Donald J. Trump’s rescinding of what she describes as a “dangerous” policy that threatened to deport more than a million international students, including many from the Caribbean.
“This is welcome news for more than 100,000 international students in New York, more than one million students across the country, and millions of additional families across the world,” said James after the White House announced the reversal on Tuesday.
“President Trump and his team threatened the public health and safety of all students, all faculty, and hundreds of millions of residents across New York and the rest of the nation because of his rush to reopen schools, his anti-immigrant motives, and his sagging poll numbers.
“Enough is enough. It’s time for the president to stop treating immigrants like nothing more than scapegoats and for him to start leading our nation through this national pandemic. Politics should have never been a factor in our nation’s public health decisions,” James said.
“But as long as the President continues down this path, we will continue to use every legal tool at our disposal to stop him.”
In a lawsuit filed against the Trump administration on Monday, James said the move was aimed at coercing schools into offering in-person instruction at the risk of increasing the spread of the coronavirus (COVID-19) among students, faculty and other community members across New York and other states.
James also argued in the lawsuit filed against the US Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and US Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), in addition to the agencies’ respective leaders that ICE, just one week ago, had announced a major policy reversal affecting almost every college and university in New York, and thousands more across the country, and that the reversal in policy threatens public health, students’ education and New York’s larger economy.
But, in an extraordinary and quick immigration policy reversal, the Trump administration on Tuesday acquiesced to vehement opposition from universities and over 20 states in relinquishing its plan to strip international college students of their visas if they fail to attend at least some classes in person in the fall.
Two days after the policy was announced on Jul. 6, the Ivy League Harvard University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), both in Massachusetts, filed the first of myriad lawsuits seeking to prevent the policy from going into effect.
“This is a significant victory,” said Harvard’s president, Lawrence S. Bacow, in a statement. “The directive had disrupted all of American higher education.
MIT president, L. Rafael Reif, said the quick opposition exemplified “the important role international students play in our education, research and innovation enterprises here in the United States.
“These students make us stronger, and we hurt ourselves when we alienate them,” he said.
James said international students should never be used as “political fodder to force colleges to reopen their doors,” stating that Trump’s “inability to remove politics from public health decisions endangers us all.”
“The diversity of our colleges and universities is what makes New York schools among the world’s most competitive and most sought after,” she said.
Caribbean American Democratic Congresswoman Yvette D. Clarke had strongly condemned the Trump administration’s threat to deport international students, including Caribbean nationals, whose universities transition to online-only learning amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
“The recent decision by ICE and the White House do not prioritize public health nor the education of our next generation of leaders,” Clarke, the daughter of Jamaican immigrants, told the Caribbean Media Corporation (CMC) last Wednesday.
“Instead, it is just another naked attempt to callously force students to return to campuses in the fall, despite unsafe conditions, allowed to persist, primarily due to a lack of clear executive action.”