Muhlenberg Joins Legal Challenge in Support of International Students

The College supports the Harvard and MIT lawsuit attempting to block the United States Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) rule.

By: Kristine Yahna Todaro  Monday, July 13, 2020 03:05 PM

Update: President Kathleen Harring sent the following message to the Muhlenberg community at 4:30 p.m. on July 14:

Good News for International Students

Within the past hour it was announced that the federal government has settled the lawsuit challenging the new U.S. Immigration and Enforcement rules and that the Temporary Rule for the Student Exchange and Visitor Program will be rescinded. The proposed guidelines would have prevented international students holding an F-1 visa to remain in the country if they were taking an entirely online course program. In announcing that the trial had been settled, the presiding judge informed parties involved that the rules would revert to those put in place earlier this year when colleges across the country moved to remote learning.

I want to thank everyone in our community who helped raise awareness about this issue and hope that our international students are able to find some relief from the additional stress this ruling created.


Muhlenberg College today announced it has joined nearly 60 higher education institutions—a broad coalition including private and public colleges and universities as well as every Ivy League institution—in filing an amicus brief supporting Harvard University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s (MIT’s) motion to enjoin the Trump administration’s attempt to bar international students from staying in the United States this fall. 

The amicus brief, which was filed in the U.S. District Court in Boston on Sunday, was a response to the policy issued by the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) last week stripping international college students of their ability to study at American colleges in classes being held online due to the COVID-19 pandemic. 

This action seriously impacts international students in F-1 visa status at Muhlenberg College and nationally. 

The brief argues that the Trump administration is “using the vulnerability of international students as leverage to force a broad reopening for reasons wholly disconnected from the underlying statute and regulation, and without regard to students’ ability ‘to continue to make normal progress in a full course of study.’”

In addition, Muhlenberg became a member of The President’s Alliance on Higher Education and Immigration, which is working to address the ICE ruling. The College also signed on to a letter drafted by the American Council on Education (ACE) urging Congress to request the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to withdraw the ICE directive or to pass legislation that protects the status of international students at our institutions.

The new ICE Temporary Final Rule for the fall states that students attending schools in the U.S. who have adopted a hybrid model—as Muhlenberg has chosen—may take more than one course online but that the college must certify that its program is not entirely online, that the student is not taking an entirely online course load and that the student is taking the minimum number of online courses to obtain their degree. 

The more troubling part of the rule is that students enrolled in a fully online program in the U.S. will not be able to maintain their visa status and will have to leave the country or transfer to a school that is offering in-person classes. International students may enroll in fully online classes from their home country. This past spring, in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, the visa status rules were more relaxed to allow for international students to remain in the U.S. while doing fully online coursework.

On July 7, President Kathleen Harring sent a message to the campus community affirming the College’s commitment to the support and education of Muhlenberg’s international students.

In the letter, Harring said, “We firmly stand with Muhlenberg students from across the globe who enrich our community every day. We are committed to doing all we can to support them and ensure they have full access to their Muhlenberg education.”

On campus, the Office of International Student Support (OISS) has worked closely with the provost and student affairs offices to communicate the current structures the College has in place to support international students as well as the targeted efforts provided for the fall semester given the new restrictions. Weekly OISS office hours and individual student appointments have been occurring throughout the summer to ensure students understand the projected new guidelines for the fall, both institutional and government. In conjunction with the International Student Advisory Committee, as well as with academic and student life offices, resources regarding the fall semester are being developed for both Muhlenberg international students and faculty.

About Muhlenberg College
Founded in 1848, Muhlenberg is a highly selective, private, four-year residential, liberal arts college offering baccalaureate and graduate programs. With an enrollment of approximately 2,200 students, Muhlenberg College is dedicated to shaping creative, compassionate, collaborative leaders through rigorous academic programs in the arts, humanities, natural sciences and social sciences; selected preprofessional programs, including accounting, business, education and public health; and progressive workforce-focused post-baccalaureate certificates and master’s degrees. Located in Allentown, Pennsylvania, approximately 90 miles west of New York City, Muhlenberg is a member of the Centennial Conference, competing in 22 varsity sports. Muhlenberg is affiliated with the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America.