Covid-19 Info Center

July 14, 2020

ICE rescinds rule on international students and online learning

To the members of the MIT community,

I am delighted to join you in taking pleasure in the news that the federal government just rescinded the July 6th policy from Immigration and Customs Enforcement that would have prohibited many international students from studying in the United States if – as was likely at many institutions, in response to the pandemic – their classes would be fully online. For our international students, and thus for all of us, this comes as an enormous relief.

Since we joined Harvard in pressing a lawsuit against the original directive last week, I have been inspired by the outpouring of support and action from higher education and other organizations, including dozens of U.S. states. I was especially moved by the involvement of our own students, including those who contributed their personal stories to the legal effort and those who organized a national coalition of students in filing a brief. You show us what it means to be One MIT.

I am also immensely grateful to Harvard University President Larry Bacow ’72 for his leadership, and to all the colleges and universities who signed court briefs in support of our suit.

My great respect and gratitude also go to Vice President and General Counsel Mark DiVincenzo and his Office of General Counsel colleagues Dahlia Fetouh and Anthony Moriello, who worked around the clock to make such a powerful case, and to all the staff who helped our international students handle this long week of painful uncertainty. And my thanks to everyone who reached out to help or spoke up in support of our students.

It’s deeply encouraging that this case has inspired so much reflection about and enthusiastic recognition of the vital role international students play in academic communities across the United States – and absolutely at MIT. 

This case also made clear that real lives are at stake in these “bureaucratic” matters, with the potential for real harm. We need to approach policy making, especially now, with more humanity, more decency – not less.

When we joined this suit with Harvard, we knew our case was strong, and we are pleased with this outcome. But we also stand ready to protect our students from any further arbitrary policies.

With gratitude and appreciation,

L. Rafael Reif