July 13, 2020

New Mexico one of 18 states to sue Pres. Trump over international student policy

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Courtesy photo

New Mexico Attorney General Hector Balderas.

New Mexico is one of 18 states suing the Trump administration over the new U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement rule that targets international students.

The lawsuit calls the new regulation an “insuperable burden” on American colleges and universities as they now have to certify every international student’s respective class schedule to demonstrate that the students are not taking all of their course work online, by August 4. ICE issued the new regulation last week, which some affected New Mexico institutions of higher learning called “vague.” New Mexico Institute of Mining and Technology has 134 international students. The University of New Mexico has 1,100 and New Mexico State University has about a 1,000.

The regulation states that students on nonimmigrant F-1 or M-1 visas cannot legally remain in the country if all of their course work is online. A hybrid model of some online learning and some in-person coursework is allowed, but how many in-person classes the international students have to take to remain in compliance is unclear.

Related: NM universities respond to new ICE rule targeting international students

This is one of New Mexico Attorney General Hector Balderas’ approximately 150 cases against the Trump administration and its policies — eight of which name the president directly. There are 36 lawsuits Balderas signed onto as a part of a group of states challenging President Donald Trump’s executive agencies. Balderas has a total of 107 friend (amicus) of the court filings advocating the state’s interest in ongoing litigation.

Balderas said through a spokesperson that the state’s universities must “improve innovative research.”

“Our economy is more robust when we recruit the best students in the world; so we must protect their health and safety when they choose to live and study in New Mexico,” Balderas said through a written statement to NM Political Report.

UNM, NMSU and New Mexico Tech are all planning a hybrid model of classes, some online and some in person, starting in the fall. But the new rule makes no provision for what happens if states initiate a new stay-at-home public health order during the upcoming school year. This past spring, when Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham issued a public health order requiring workers and students to work and learn from home, NMSU and other state colleges shifted to online learning. ICE allowed international students to remain legally in the country and shift to online learning as well.

Meanwhile, cases of COVID-19 continue to rise at alarming rates all around the country, including in New Mexico, which has seen more than 200 cases for 11 straight days.

The lawsuit is led by Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey. The other states that signed on are Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, the District of Columbia, Illinois, Maryland, Michigan, Minnesota, Nevada, New Jersey, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont, Virginia and Wisconsin. California filed its own lawsuit separately.

The states are seeking a court injunction on the new rule while the lawsuit is pending.