President Bollinger Applauds Reversal of Policy Restricting International Student Visas

The move came after outcry from colleges, universities, students, and other educational organizations.

Editor's note:

This article was updated on the afternoon of July 14 to reflect the news that the Trump administration had rescinded its policy directive on international student visas. 

July 14, 2020

On Tuesday afternoon, U.S. District Judge Allison D. Burroughs in Boston announced that the Trump administration had agreed to rescind the policy that prevented international students from maintaining F-1 and M-1 student visas if they were enrolled in an online-only course of study in the fall of 2020. 

The decision settles a lawsuit filed by Harvard University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology over the restrictions. Columbia University had filed an amicus brief in support of Harvard and MIT’s legal challenge earlier in the week. 

"Thanks to overwhelming opposition from across higher education and beyond, hundreds of thousands of international students have been spared the potentially devastating consequences of this ill-conceived government policy,” said Columbia President Lee C. Bollinger. “The outcome in court today can be attributed to the nationwide outcry over a policy at odds with basic American values and basic tenets of public health. This victory should serve as a reminder of the need to loudly and swiftly oppose departures from America’s heritage of embracing the world."

Earlier in the day, President Bollinger joined with leaders of colleges, universities, students, elected officials, and unions to back New York Attorney General Letitia James and her office’s efforts to oppose the new ICE restrictions.

“I stand in full support of New York Attorney General Letitia James and her efforts to stop this damaging directive before it takes effect,” said Bollinger. “The Attorney General should be commended for adding her voice and the weight of her office to those opposing immigration policies that harm international students and the institutions of higher education that benefit immeasurably from their presence.”

“International students should never be used as political fodder to force colleges to reopen their doors, but the president’s inability to remove politics from public health decisions endangers us all,” said Attorney General James. “The diversity of our colleges and universities is what makes New York schools among the world’s most competitive and most sought after, but President Trump’s reversal in policy not only threatens these innocent students’ educational paths, but our state’s hard-hit economy and the public health of millions of New Yorkers. Schools should never have to choose between enrolling international students in in-person classes and maintaining public health, which is why we will use every legal tool at our disposal to stop the president.”

In an email to the Columbia community on July 7, President Bollinger reached out to international students to voice his opposition to the federal rules, which were provided by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). He reiterated his position in an interview with “All Things Considered” on NPR.

President Bollinger has also spoken out against the Trump administration’s efforts to expand existing restrictions that impede the entry of international faculty, physicians, and research scholars into the U.S.