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Boston and Los Angeles file amicus brief in support of Harvard, MIT lawsuit against U.S. Department of Homeland Security

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Mayor's Office

The cities are supporting blocking a federal policy that would deny visas to international students.

Mayor Martin J. Walsh today announced the City of Boston and the City of Los Angeles together with 24 American cities, counties and towns, filed an amicus brief in the Harvard College and Massachusetts Institute of Technology lawsuit against the U.S. Department of Homeland Security. The lawsuit follows a recently announced policy that would deny visas to international students whose classes are fully online this fall as part of their college's COVID-19 safety plan. 

"The Trump administration is trying to use this rule to pressure schools to open in the fall, but now is not the time for reckless, politically-motivated actions," wrote Mayor Walsh in a letter to U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). "The City of Boston is a welcoming community for students of all backgrounds, and we will continue to stand with our schools and their international student populations to protect their right to study, contribute, and succeed here."

"The Trump Administration is defying the best guidance from public health leaders, the best interests of our local colleges and universities and international students, and the best traditions of our nation as a beacon of hope, welcome, and belonging," said Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti. "The COVID-19 crisis is a threat to the health and well-being of people on and off campus - not a weapon meant to advance a dangerous agenda that treats international students as political pawns. Our cities will only push forward on reopening based on data, facts, science, and medical expertise."

There are over 70,000 international students who call Massachusetts home and contribute $3.2 billion to the economy and support nearly 39,000 jobs, according to NAFSA: Association of International Educators. Boston alone is home to 29 colleges and universities. There are more than 20,000 impacted international students enrolled in colleges and universities located in the City of Los Angeles for the fall. Both cities, in addition to 24 American cities, counties and towns, are asking the courts to side with Harvard and MIT in granting a preliminary injunction that would block ICE's directive to force students on F-1 and M-1 visas to choose between living in the United States and attending the school of their choice. 

"The Trump Administration's thinly-veiled attack on immigrant students puts colleges and universities to the Hobson's choice of opening against public health advice or losing valuable members of their student bodies," said Los Angeles City Attorney Mike Feuer.  "L.A. is home to some of the finest institutions of higher learning in the world, and proud to stand with Boston and a strong nationwide coalition to fight the Administration's latest ill-conceived directive."

The amicus brief argues local governments must provide for the health and welfare of its residents, businesses, and institutions. Therefore, it is critical that colleges and universities should make decisions to physically open campuses and resume in-person learning based on scientific research and data and determined by each school's capacity. The federal government's action threatens to upset operational plans that were carefully crafted by colleges and universities in conjunction with local public health officials, the cities argue.

The cities are also asking the court to consider the economic impact of this policy, given the role international students will play in the economic crisis' recovery caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. Economic estimates show that the one million international students studying at colleges and universities in the U.S. contributed $41 billion to the U.S. economy and supported 458,290 jobs during the 2018-2019 academic year alone, according to NAFSA: Association of International Educators. 

The amicus brief was filed by the Cities of Los Angeles and Boston, together with Albany, N.Y.; the Albuquerque, N.M.; Alexandria, Va.; Austin, Texas; Berkeley, Calif.; Cambridge, Mass.; Cameron, Texas; Chicago; Columbus, Ohio; Cook County, Ill.; Dayton, Ohio; Durham, N.H.; Hartford, Conn.; Iowa City, Iowa; Las Cruces, N.M.; New York; Oakland, Calif.; Pittsburgh; Sacramento, Calif.; Saint Paul, Minn.; Seattle; Santa Clara, Calif.; Amherst, Mass.; and Somerville, Mass. To read the amicus brief, visit here.