Today, the U.S. District Court for the District of Massachusetts announced that the federal government has agreed to rescind, on a nationwide basis, a policy that could have required hundreds of thousands of immigrant students studying at U.S. institutions to leave the country and likely curtail their studies. In the litigation challenging this policy, Mayer Brown represented and filed an amici curiae brief on behalf of 19 businesses and business associations that collectively power the U.S. economy.

On July 6, 2020, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (“ICE”) released a directive (the “Directive”) requiring all international students on F-1 visas studying in the United States, whose educational programs were going to remain fully remote, to depart the country. This Directive, and the FAQs explaining it that were released on July 7, replaced an earlier (and diametrically opposed) policy, announced in March 2020, under which ICE agreed to allow students to continue their programs remotely “for the duration of the emergency.”

In response, on July 8, 2020, the President and Fellows of Harvard College (“Harvard”) and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (“MIT”) filed a lawsuit against the U.S. government, seeking a temporary restraining order and preliminary injunction to prevent enforcement of the July 6 Directive.

On July 13, Mayer Brown and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce filed an amici curiae brief on behalf of numerous companies and organizations, representing business interests across the United States, in support of Harvard and MIT. The brief sought to explain to the Court the “benefits to the economy—and to American society as a whole—from the more than one million international students who choose to study at [U.S.] educational institutions, as well as the serious adverse economic consequences that [would have] result[ed] from [the] July 6 Directive.”

International students contribute billions of dollars each year to the U.S. economy and help to sustain the excellence of U.S. colleges and universities that produce skilled graduates and research critical to U.S. businesses. “[W]ithout international students, many U.S. STEM programs [would] contract sharply and ultimately cease to exist.” U.S. businesses rely on such programs (and the international students who populate them) for research to stay on the cutting edge of innovation and for a pool of talented future employees. Moreover, international students contribute directly to U.S. businesses as employees both during and after their courses of study—through special programs that permit students and recent graduates to stay in the United States and work in jobs relevant to their academic pursuits. Finally, international students provide “significant long-term benefits to businesses and the entire economy” through their contributions as entrepreneurs and educators, often long after their period of study has ended.

The July 6 Directive considered none of these factors, nor the substantial and legitimate reliance interests of international students and U.S. businesses on the original March 2020 policy.
Today, the plaintiffs and amici scored a significant victory that allows international students to continue their studies in the United States. This not only benefits them, but also the schools they attend, the classmates they learn with, and the businesses that hope to benefit from their patronage as customers and their contributions as employees. Mayer Brown is proud to have played a part in this meaningful outcome.

Mayer Brown attorneys Andrew Pincus, Lauren Goldman, Allison Aviki, and Joshua M. Silverstein represented the business amici.  Our Global Mobility practice attorneys, Liz Stern, Paul Virtue, and Max Del Rey supported the effort.

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