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Case Name Commonwealth of Massachusetts et al v. United States Department of Homeland Security IM-MA-0021
Docket / Court 1:20-cv-11311 ( D. Mass. )
State/Territory Massachusetts
Case Type(s) Immigration and/or the Border
Special Collection COVID-19 (novel coronavirus)
Case Summary
COVID-19 Summary: This is a lawsuit brought by seventeen different states and Washington D.C. regarding the July 2020 release of ICE regulations which, in effect, meant that students on F-1 visas would risk deportation if their school shifted to online learning. On July 15, in a different lawsuit ... read more >
COVID-19 Summary: This is a lawsuit brought by seventeen different states and Washington D.C. regarding the July 2020 release of ICE regulations which, in effect, meant that students on F-1 visas would risk deportation if their school shifted to online learning. On July 15, in a different lawsuit filed against the administration over the same July directive, plaintiffs met with counsel for the government and worked to get the regulations rescinded. In order to effectuate the rescission, ICE removed the guidance from its website and replaced it with the previous guidance which exempted students from the limitation on online learning credits in light of the COVID-19 pandemic. The plaintiffs filed a notice of voluntary dismissal on October 7, 2020.


Background
Generally speaking, F-1 visas (colloquially "student visas") can be granted to international students who attend American universities. However, regulations on the granting of these visas limit the amount of online or distance learning the student can engage in. According to these regulations, an international student can engage in only one such class or three credits of that class per semester. 8 C.F.R. § 214.2(f)(6)(i)(G).

The COVID-19 outbreak in early 2020 made this regulation untenable, as schools and universities had to shift to online learning systems. In response, defendant ICE issued an exemption on March 13, 2020, affirming that international students would be permitted to continue distance learning in the United States under their F-1 visas. The exemption would apply until the end of the emergency. However, on July 6, 2020, ICE issued a new directive stating that it would rescind that exemption. This directive would then mean that international students at schools that would still be fully online would have to either transfer to other schools that were at least partially in-person, go back to their countries voluntarily, or risk deportation. The directive also ordered schools that had gone fully online or had simply decided not to have classes to submit an "operational change plan" within nine days, and ordered schools that would have a hybrid system to certify each F-1 student to make sure that they were not taking entirely online courses.

The Lawsuit
This lawsuit was filed on July 13, 2020 in the U.S. District Court for the District of Massachusetts by seventeen states and Washington D.C.. Plaintiffs sued the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). The complaint alleged two violations of the Administrative Procedure Act, 5 U.S.C. §§ 701. First, it claimed that the directive constituted arbitrary and capricious agency action, because defendants 1) failed to give a reasoned basis for the shift in policy; 2) failed to consider important aspects of the problem like reliance interests of schools and students, the need to protect health and safety, and the burden on institutions as a result of the directive; 3) failed to consider that the COVID-19 outbreak had not subsided; and 4) because the directive required compliance with a timetable that would have been nearly impossible for plaintiffs to adhere to. Second, plaintiffs argued that the directive was unlawful because defendants failed to use notice-and-comment rulemaking in issuing the new order. They sought declaratory relief that would render the order unlawful, a preliminary and permanent injunction prohibiting defendants from enforcing the order, and an order vacating and setting aside the directive. They also sought attorney's fees and costs. The case was assigned to Judge Allison D. Burroughs.

Meanwhile, in a different lawsuit filed against the administration over the same directive, President and Fellows of Harvard College, the parties conferred and the government agreed to rescind their implementation of the directive and to return to the March policy.

On October 7, 2020, the plaintiffs filed a notice of voluntary dismissal.

Jack Hibbard - 07/15/2020
Chandler Hart-McGonigle - 11/29/2020


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Issues and Causes of Action
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Issues
Defendant-type
Jurisdiction-wide
Law-enforcement
General
School/University Facilities
School/University policies
Immigration/Border
Admission - criteria
Admission - procedure
Deportation - criteria
Deportation - procedure
Visas - criteria
Visas - procedures
Plaintiff Type
State Plaintiff
Causes of Action Administrative Procedure Act, 5 U.S.C. §§ 551 et seq.
Declaratory Judgment Act, 28 U.S.C. § 2201
Defendant(s) United States Department of Homeland Security
United States Immigration and Customs Enforcement
Plaintiff Description Commonwealth of Massachusetts, Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, Commonwealth of Virginia, District of Columbia, State of Colorado, State of Connecticut, State of Delaware, State of Illinois, State of Maryland, State of Michigan, State of Minnesota, State of Nevada, State of New Jersey, State of New Mexico, State of Oregon, State of Rhode Island, State of Vermont, State of Wisconsin
Class action status sought No
Class action status granted No
Filed Pro Se No
Prevailing Party Defendant
Public Int. Lawyer No
Nature of Relief None
Source of Relief None
Filed 07/13/2020
Case Closing Year 2020
Case Ongoing No
Case Listing IM-CA-0165 : The Regents of the University of California v. U.S. Department of Homeland Security (N.D. Cal.)
IM-CA-0166 : Z.W. v. U.S. Department of Homeland Security (C.D. Cal.)
IM-CA-0167 : State of California v. U.S. Department of Homeland Security (N.D. Cal.)
IM-DC-0081 : Johns Hopkins University v. U.S. Department of Homeland Security (D.D.C.)
IM-WA-0045 : State of Washington v. United States Department of Homeland Security (W.D. Wash.)
IM-MA-0020 : President and Fellows of Harvard College v. U.S. Department of Homeland Security (D. Mass.)
IM-OR-0011 : University of Oregon v. United States Department of Homeland Security (D. Or.)
Additional Resources
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  See this case at CourtListener.com (May provide additional documents and, for active cases, real-time alerts)
Court Docket(s)
D. Mass.
10/07/2020
1:20-cv-11311
IM-MA-0021-9000.pdf | Detail
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
General Documents
D. Mass.
07/13/2020
Complaint for Declaratory and Injunctive Relief [ECF# 1]
IM-MA-0021-0001.pdf | Detail
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
D. Mass.
07/13/2020
Plaintiff States' Motion for Temporary Restraining Order and Preliminary Injunction [ECF# 2]
IM-MA-0021-0002.pdf | Detail
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
D. Mass.
07/13/2020
Plaintiff States' Memorandum of Law in Support of their Motion for a Temporary Restraining Order and Preliminary Injunction [ECF# 4]
IM-MA-0021-0003.pdf | Detail
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
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Judges Burroughs, Allison Dale (D. Mass.) show/hide docs
IM-MA-0021-9000
Plaintiff's Lawyers Bainbridge, Katherine (Maryland) show/hide docs
IM-MA-0021-0001 | IM-MA-0021-0002 | IM-MA-0021-0003
Balderas, Hector (New Mexico) show/hide docs
IM-MA-0021-0001 | IM-MA-0021-0002 | IM-MA-0021-0003
Battles, Benjamin D. (Vermont) show/hide docs
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Bensky, Anne M (Wisconsin) show/hide docs
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Brooks, Angela R. (Massachusetts) show/hide docs
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Dewar, Elizabeth N. (Massachusetts) show/hide docs
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Dirks, Kathleen B (Massachusetts) show/hide docs
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Donovan, Thomas J. Jr. (Vermont) show/hide docs
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Downes, Brendan (District of Columbia) show/hide docs
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Dunlap, Jeffery Paul (Maryland) show/hide docs
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Ellison, Keith (Minnesota) show/hide docs
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Eshghi, Abrisham (Massachusetts) show/hide docs
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Fischer, Michael J. (Pennsylvania) show/hide docs
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Ford, Aaron D. (Nevada) show/hide docs
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Fredericks, Jacquelynn Nicole Rich (Colorado) show/hide docs
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Frosh, Brian E. (Maryland) show/hide docs
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Green, Julie (Massachusetts) show/hide docs
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Grewal, Gurbir S. (New Jersey) show/hide docs
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Haibon, Shannon (Rhode Island) show/hide docs
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Haile, Andrew J. (Massachusetts) show/hide docs
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Hammoud, Fadwa Alawieh (Michigan) show/hide docs
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Hans, Elspeth L.H. (New Jersey) show/hide docs
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Harris, Toni L. (Michigan) show/hide docs
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Healey, Maura (Massachusetts) show/hide docs
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Herring, Mark R. (Virginia) show/hide docs
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Hill, Nicole (District of Columbia) show/hide docs
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Jennings, Kathleen (Delaware) show/hide docs
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Kassab, Vanessa L (Delaware) show/hide docs
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Kaul, Josh (Wisconsin) show/hide docs
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Konopka, Kathleen (District of Columbia) show/hide docs
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Madison, Tom (Minnesota) show/hide docs
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Maestas, Tania (New Mexico) show/hide docs
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Morris, Elizabeth (Illinois) show/hide docs
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Muse, Kathryn Hunt (Illinois) show/hide docs
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Neronha, Peter F. (Rhode Island) show/hide docs
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Nessel, Dana M. (Michigan) show/hide docs
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Olson, Eric (Colorado) show/hide docs
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Perry, Joshua (Connecticut) show/hide docs
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Racine, Karl A. (District of Columbia) show/hide docs
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Raoul, Kwame (Illinois) show/hide docs
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Rosenblum, Ellen F. (Oregon) show/hide docs
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Samuels, Jessica Merry (Virginia) show/hide docs
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Sanders, Joseph (Illinois) show/hide docs
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Shapiro, Joshua D. (Pennsylvania) show/hide docs
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Stern, Heidi Parry (Nevada) show/hide docs
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Sullivan, Steven M. (Maryland) show/hide docs
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Taylor, Abigail B. (Massachusetts) show/hide docs
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Thompson, Julio A. (Vermont) show/hide docs
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Tong, William (Connecticut) show/hide docs
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Van Meter, Heather J. (Oregon) show/hide docs
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Weiser, Philip J. (Colorado) show/hide docs
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Wright, Christian Douglas (Delaware) show/hide docs
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