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State wants quick hearing to block new student visa rules

UPDATED: Mon., July 13, 2020

Bryan Clock Tower glows at dawn on September 17, 2016, on WSU’s Campus in Pullman, Wash.  (TYLER TJOMSLAND/The Spokesman-Review)
Bryan Clock Tower glows at dawn on September 17, 2016, on WSU’s Campus in Pullman, Wash. (TYLER TJOMSLAND/The Spokesman-Review)

OLYMPIA – Washington’s colleges and universities have more than 20,000 foreign students who could be forced out of the country or barred from entering it under proposed Trump administration’s new immigration rules, the state said Monday.

Those state schools could lose a total of $300 million in revenue if those rules keep the students from enrolling for the fall term, Attorney General Bob Ferguson said in a request for a hearing for an order to block those rules.

Ferguson asked for a Wednesday hearing in U.S. District Court in Seattle for his effort to get a temporary restraining order against the rules announced last week by the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement Agency.

The federal government has not yet replied to the state’s claims.

Under the new ICE rules, scheduled to take effect Wednesday, foreign students on F1 or M1 visas will not be allowed to stay in the United States if the colleges where they are enrolled offer only online courses in the fall. Students enrolled in colleges that will offer a “hybrid” schedule of online and in-person classes must return to the United States or lose their visas.

Those rules could force state colleges to make what Ferguson describes as an “impossible choice”: Lose many of their foreign students or open in-person classes even if their best judgment is to offer some or all instruction online.

In documents filed with the request for the hearing on the temporary restraining order, Asif Chaudry, the vice president for international programs at Washington State University, said that school has 1,869 students with F1 visas, most of them currently in the United States. It has admitted 681 for undergraduate studies in the fall “if they can get to the United States,” he wrote.

Another 172 international students also plan to start graduate degrees at WSU if they are able to travel to Washington, Chaudry said.

International students would contribute more than $31 million in revenue to WSU, the state’s request for a restraining order says.

The university is still making plans for the fall semester, and expects a combination of face-to-face classes and “distance learning” he said, but the final schedules won’t be set until Aug. 1.

Ana Mari Cauce, president of the University of Washington, said that school has about 6,000 international students on F1 visas registered for the fall quarter plus another 2,500 newly admitted international students who will need visas.

UW plans to begin its fall quarter on September 30, also with a hybrid of face-to-face and online classes, she said.

International students represent some $185 million in annual revenue to UW, the request for the restraining order says. They also provided about $107 million in annual revenue for the state’s community and technical colleges in the 2018-19 school year, and $14 million last year for Central Washington University.

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