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The University of Colorado campus. (File photo)

Colorado joined 16 other states on Monday in suing the Trump administration over its new rule forcing international college students to leave the U.S. if they don’t take in-person classes.


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The lawsuit was filed in a federal court in Boston and is being led by the attorney general in Massachusetts, Democrat Maura Healey. It seeks to block the rule from going into effect.

“The thousands of international students studying in Colorado have already had their lives disrupted by the COVID-19 pandemic, which has brought travel restrictions, quarantine requirements, and safety risks associated with both remaining in the U.S. and returning home,” Weiser said in a written statement. “They, and the institutions they attend, deserve to continue the plans schools painstakingly developed to ensure student and educator safety before this abrupt reversal.”

The lawsuit said the policy change “leaves colleges and universities with an agonizing dilemma” of whether to lose international students or put their health at risk by requiring them to attend classes in person.

“In-person instruction offered only for the purposes of meeting this arbitrary directive risks sacrificing the health and safety of students, faculty and staff — and, indeed, our states more generally,” the lawsuit says. “Losing the presence — and in many cases the enrollment — of international students would result in the loss of invaluable perspectives and contributions by these students, hundreds of millions of dollars in foregone tuition as well as fees for housing and other services, and hundreds of billions of dollars in revenue for our states’ economies.”

The legal action says colleges and universities are already hurting financially because of the coronavirus crisis. Forcing them to lose out on revenue from international students or spend a great deal of money to accommodate the new order would make a bad situation worse, the attorneys general representing the states involved in the lawsuit claim.

The policy change, issued last week by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, was met with backlash from Colorado colleges and universities that said they were working to parse the details and protect the thousands of international students who attend their institutions.

MORE: Colorado colleges, universities scramble after Trump orders international students to leave if classes go online

The new policy says that international students must take at least some of their classes in person to maintain their visas, even if their college or university offers online classes. Students who attend schools or programs that are entirely online will not be issued a new visa.

President Donald Trump has pushed for the resumption of in-person classes this fall. Getting schools back up and running is seen as key for the nation’s economic recovery.

Most Colorado colleges and universities are planning to offer a hybrid of in-person and online classes in the fall, giving students the option to decide whether or not they feel comfortable being on campus.

The University of Colorado Boulder last week announced that all students living in dorms must be tested for coronavirus within the five days before they move into campus housing. They can also be tested on campus.

MORE: Read the lawsuit filed against the Trump administration.

“ICE’s message that the United States does not welcome foreign students is wrong, counterproductive, and illegal,” Weiser said in his statement.

Other states that are part of the lawsuit include Connecticut, Delaware, Illinois, Maryland, Michigan, Minnesota, Nevada, New Jersey, New Mexico, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont, Virginia and Wisconsin. Washington, D.C., also signed onto the legal action.

Weiser, a Democrat, has been prolific in filing lawsuits against the Trump administration.

Jesse Paul

The Colorado Sun — Desk: 720-432-2229 Jesse Paul is a political reporter and editor at The Colorado Sun, covering the state legislature, Congress and local politics. He is...