Yale supports challenge to policy affecting international students
Earlier this year, Yale University announced it had joined with more than 60 other institutions of higher education to support the filing of an amicus (friend of the court) brief in a case regarding the calculation of “unlawful presence” for international students. The new Department of Homeland Security policy strictly limited the amount of time nonimmigrant students had to address issues involving their status.
This month, a judge for the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of North Carolina imposed a preliminary injunction on the government’s unlawful presence memorandum, preventing the new rule from taking effect nationwide, for now.
The DHS rule, which went into effect Aug. 9, 2018, backdated “unlawful presence” for individuals with F, J, and M nonimmigrant status. This change allowed immigration officials to start counting days of unlawful presence the day after a status violation occurred. The prior policy did not start the clock until an official or judge made a formal finding of a status violation.
The change significantly reduced the length of time for affected individuals to address the status issue — which could be the result of minor errors — or to leave the country legally. If enforced, the rule could lead to severe penalties for international students who might not know their status had been affected. It could result in an automatic ban on reentry to the United States for 3 or 10 years, with no opportunity for appeal.
But the preliminary injunction halted the policy nationwide until a final decision is made by the court.
Yale joined other education leaders in their concern for the policy’s potential impact on international students and U.S. institutions of higher education. In their amicus brief, which was filed on Dec. 21, 2018, the leaders explained that the “presence of international voices adds invaluable diversity to our campus communities, and foreign graduate students and instructors enable us to offer STEM courses that would otherwise be unavailable to American undergraduates.”
Changing the current “unlawful presence” policy could deter such students from seeking to study in the United States and undermine the U.S. economy, the brief said.
The other schools challenging the policy change represent large public and private universities, and smaller liberal arts and community colleges, from 24 states and the District of Columbia.