Pa.’s Shapiro joins fellow AGs in lawsuit over Trump’s foreign student rule

    Pa. Attorney General Josh Shapiro holds a bottle of contaminated water from a home near a natural gas well. He was speaking at a press conference to unveil a 235-page grand jury report on fracking in Pennsylvania on June 25, 2020. (Screenshot of livestream)

    (*Updated, with comment from Pa. Attorney General Josh Shapiro)

    Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro has joined with a coalition of state attorneys general from more than a dozen states and the District of Columbia who are suing the Trump administration over a new rule that would force international students to return to their home countries if their colleges and universities are not offering in-person instruction.

    The lawsuit filed in U.S. District Court in Boston by Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey, names the U.S. Department of Homeland Security and U.S. Immigrations and Customs Enforcement as defendants. The attorneys are seeking to keep the rule from taking effect.

    In the litigation, the attorneys general accuse the federal government of a “cruel, abrupt, and unlawful action to expel international students amidst the pandemic that has wrought death and disruption across the United States,” NBC-10 in Boston reported.

    “The Trump Administration didn’t even attempt to explain the basis for this senseless rule, which forces schools to choose between keeping their international students enrolled and protecting the health and safety of their campuses,” Healey said in a statement obtained by the television station. “Massachusetts is home to thousands of international students who make invaluable contributions to our educational institutions, communities, and economy. We are taking this action today to make sure they can continue to live and learn in this country.”

    A spokeswoman for Shapiro confirmed Pennsylvania’s participation in the litigation.

    *U.S. Education Secretary “Betsy Devos’s attempt to take advantage of an international pandemic—to push a cynical, partisan agenda that threatens the health and safety of young people who want to pursue an education—is cruel, illegal, and puts our already fragile economy at risk,” Shapiro said in statement released by his office. “I’m working hard to ensure that students in Pennsylvania can safely continue their education at universities across the Commonwealth in the fall, without fear of partisan interference.”

    ‘We have to change our plans almost every day,’ Temple international students struggle with new visa rules

    The filing is the “latest legal effort to contest the federal edict, which has been described by states and universities in court filings as a politically motivated attempt by the Trump administration to force universities to hold in-person classes this fall, even as many have announced they will remain largely online because of health concerns,” the New York Times reported.

    In addition to Massachusetts, Pennsylvania and Washington D.C., the jurisdictions taking part in the action also include Colorado, Delaware, Illinois, Maryland, Michigan, Minnesota, Nevada, New Jersey, New Mexico, Oregon, Virginia, and Wisconsin.

    If the rule isn’t blocked, colleges across the nation have until Wednesday to notify ICE if they plan to be fully online this fall, NBC-10 reported.

    John L. Micek
    John L. Micek is the Pennsylvania Capital-Star's Editor-in-Chief. He's been covering Pennsylvania politics for more than 20 years and most recently served as Opinion Editor at PennLive/The Patriot-News in Harrisburg, Pa. Micek's commentary is syndicated to more than 800 newspapers nationwide by Cagle Syndicate. And he's a regular contributor to a host of broadcast outlets in Pennsylvania and abroad.