Editor's note: This story was updated July 14 in the addition of the last two paragraphs. Since the original story was published, ICE has rescinded the directive impacting foreign exchange students. 

An email from NAU President Rita Cheng revealed that NAU, along with 19 other universities has filed a joint lawsuit against the U.S. Department of Homeland Security. The joint coalition lawsuit seeks a temporary restraining order, preliminary injunction and permanent injunction to halt the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) revocation of F-1 visas for international college students that are continuing their coursework online.

Although NAU currently plans to hold in-person classes, Cheng said in the Monday email statement that the university is also allowing students to choose the modality with which to pursue their studies, including remote online learning. Cheng explained that by forcing international students to leave the U.S., should their universities opt for an online only modality, the government is severely limiting those students’ educational opportunities.

“This is reckless at best and unfairly penalizes international students who can benefit from staying in the U.S. while pursuing their studies online,” Cheng’s statement said.

According to a July 10 New York Times article, the first two universities to file federal lawsuits against the president’s ICE directive were Harvard and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). Lawyers representing the two universities produced court papers arguing the revocation of the aforementioned F-1 student visas would adversely affect the lives of tens of thousands of students.

The New York Times article said though institutions of higher education such as MIT and Harvard wish to open their campuses back up to students, they have not yet deemed it prudent to do so.

“Because higher education institutions do not exist in a vacuum, an outbreak at one poses a threat to the health and safety of everyone in the surrounding community,” the universities said in court papers, according to the New York Times.

Cheng explained that the new rule for international students is a punitive one to both the students and universities similar to NAU in terms of the enhanced cultural experiences that improve higher education. There are nearly 1,300 international students that enroll at NAU each year and invest significant amounts of time, effort and resources to continue their education, Cheng said.

The joint coalition lawsuit statement lists a total of 20 universities within the western region of the U.S. including NAU, that have filed a lawsuit against the government’s ICE directive.

“Our more than 50,000 combined international students are an integral part of our communities and essential to our core missions,” the lawsuit states. “We are pursuing this case because all international students studying in this country deserve the right to continue their education without risk of deportation.”

By becoming a part of this joint coalition lawsuit, NAU stands with a multitude of other universities within the U.S. that are fighting for their international students’ education.

The Trump administration, on Tuesday, rescinded the recent U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (I.C.E.) directive involving the deportation of international college students who are attending a university that is only offering online courses due to COVID-19. This decision comes a day after NAU President Rita Cheng announced that NAU would be joining a joint coalition lawsuit alongside 19 other universities who opposed the directive.

An article from the Boston Globe stated the Trump administration’s decision to rescind the rule was initially announced at the beginning of a Boston hearing regarding Harvard and Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s (M.I.T.) federal lawsuit. The article states U.S. District Judge Allison Burroughs said immigration authorities have agreed to rescind the July 6 I.C.E. directive.