Google, Facebook and Microsoft were among more than a dozen technology companies in the United States that on Monday backed a legal challenge to President Donald Trump ’s latest rule that bars international students from staying in the country unless they attend at least one in-person course.

The companies have signed a brief supporting Harvard University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology as they sue US Immigration and Customs Enforcement in a court in Boston.

The tech companies have argued that the ban will “inflict significant harm” on their businesses by reducing their customer base and hampering their ability to recruit top talent from US universities. “America’s future competitiveness depends on attracting and retaining talented international students,” the companies added. “Individuals who come here as international students are also essential to educating the next generation of inventors.”

The legal brief added the departure of foreign students threatens the ability of US educational institutions to sustain critical mass, which they need in order to maintain their standards of excellence. “Finally, they become valuable employees and customers of US businesses whether they remain in the United States or return to their home countries,” it said.

The directive will also make it impossible for a large number of international students to participate in the Curricular Practical Training and the Optional Practical Training programmes, the companies contended. The US will “nonsensically be sending...these graduates away to work for our global competitors and compete against us...instead of capitalising on the investment in their education here in the US”, they added.

The former permits “alternative work/study, internship, cooperative education or other type of required internship offered by sponsoring employers through cooperative agreements with a student’’s school. On the other hand, OPT programme allows up to one year of temporary employment that is directly related to an international student’’s major area of study.

On July 7, the US Immigration and Customs Enforcement had said it would not allow foreign students to remain in the country for the autumn semester if all their university classes are moved online because of the coronavirus crisis. The rule applies to all F-1 and M-1 visa holders. While F-1 visa holders pursue academic courses, M-1 students pursue “vocational coursework”.

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Also read:

  1. ‘How does this help anyone?’: Indian students in US fear deportation following Trump’s new rules
  2. Coronavirus: Ban on foreign students cruel, unconscionable, US lawmakers tell Trump administration

17 US states file lawsuit against policy

Meanwhile, as many as 17 US states and the District of Columbia have filed a lawsuit against the Trump administration in a court in Boston challenging the ban. The suit, which asked the court to block the rule with an immediate injunction, called the new policy “cruel, abrupt, and unlawful action to expel international students amidst the pandemic that has wrought death and disruption across the United States”.

The states that have filed the joint lawsuit are Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Illinois, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Nevada, New Jersey, New Mexico, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont, Virginia and Wisconsin.

Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey, who led a coalition of 18 attorneys general in filing the lawsuit, in a statement alleged that the Trump administration did not 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. “Massachusetts is home to thousands of international students who make invaluable contributions to our educational institutions, communities and economy,” she added. “We are taking this action to make sure they can continue to live and learn in this country.”

The lawsuit also alleged that the new rule imposes a significant economic harm by precluding thousands of international students from coming to and residing in the US and finding employment in fields such as science, technology, biotechnology, healthcare, business and finance, and education.

The lawsuit also includes 40 declarations from a variety of institutions affected by the new rule, including the Northeastern University, the Tufts University, the University of Massachusetts, the Boston University, the Massachusetts Community Colleges, among others.