Iowa City joins other cities in filing amicus brief supporting international students

Iowa City joined 25 other cities and counties in filing an amicus brief opposing the recent announcement that international students will have to leave the U.S. if their university is offering virtual-only instruction.

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Thomas A. Stewart

Over 100 flags are on display on the Iowa Memorial Union Pedestrian Bridge to recognize the international students on campus.

Rylee Wilson, News Editor


Iowa City joined 25 other cities and counties in filing an amicus brief supporting international students and explaining their importance to the local economy in university towns. 

The brief was filed in support of a lawsuit filed by Harvard University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. The lawsuit challenges a recent decision by the Student Exchange and Visitor Program that asks international students to leave the United States if their college courses are all online because of the coronavirus pandemic.

The brief argued that requiring international students to take in-person classes to remain in the U.S was counter to public-health interests, as it may encourage universities to continue potentially harmful on-campus learning, and placed significant strain on local economies already suffering losses from COVID-19. 

Related: UI international students may need to leave U.S. after Thanksgiving per new ICE order

In addition to the harm the new rule will cause to the city, Iowa City joined the brief to support the many international students that call our community home and the right of the University of Iowa to make judgments about whether reopening in the fall is safe and educationally advisable without jeopardizing the status of its international students,” the city said in a press release. 

In addition to the brief Iowa City joined, the presidents of Iowa’s three regents universities signed a letter to Iowa’s congressional delegation calling for the immediate recession of the guidance. 

“We should be making it easier, not harder, for our international students to be welcomed and valued members of our campuses and society,” the letter stated

The UI plans to move to online instruction after Thanksgiving, meaning international students will be required to leave the UI under the current guidance.

“This guidance creates uncertainty for our international students both in their ability to maintain their visa status, and when they would be allowed back into the U.S,” the letter stated. “In addition to the harmful impact on our international students, the administrative burden for institutions to issue new I-20s and SEVIS records for all international students is problematic and unrealistic.” 

Ten Big Ten universities have signed an amicus brief supporting the plaintiff’s case in the lawsuit. The UI and other Regent universities in Iowa have not joined any briefs in support.

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