SACRAMENTO – California Attorney General Xavier Becerra today issued the following statement in light of news that the Trump Administration will back off from its dangerous July 6, 2020 directive on the Student and Exchange Visitor Program (SEVP). At a time when COVID-19 cases are surging across the state and country, the policy would have required international students to take classes in person — putting themselves, teachers, other students, and the community at large at risk of getting and spreading the coronavirus — or be subject to deportation.
“The Trump Administration appears to have seen the harm of its July 6 directive, but it shouldn’t take lawsuits and widespread outcry for them to do their job,” said Attorney General Becerra. “In the midst of an economic and public health crisis, we don’t need the federal government alarming Americans or wasting everyone’s time and resources with dangerous policy decisions. President Trump’s arbitrary actions put the health and safety of our students and communities across the country at risk. We’ll continue doing our part to ensure his Administration follows the rule of law.”
Prior to the pandemic, SEVP students were required to take the majority of their classes in person. On March 13, 2020, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), which oversees SEVP, issued guidance to exempt students from the program’s requirements in light of the ongoing pandemic and efforts by universities across the country to adapt to the challenges of COVID-19. In its guidance, ICE declared that the exemptions would be in effect for the duration of the emergency. On July 6, 2020, in a drastic about-face and after many schools had already announced plans for the fall semester, ICE reversed course on that guidance and announced a policy that will disqualify students from SEVP for taking classes entirely online during the pandemic. For those enrolled in programs with no in-person classes available, ICE’s only guidance to students was to either leave the country or transfer to another program. Today, the Trump Administration has again appeared to return to its March 13, 2020 guidance. The most recent decision comes after Attorney General Becerra sued the Trump Administration last week and filed for preliminary injunction this week.