University of San Francisco Sues to Block Department of Homeland Security from Revoking International Students’ Visas

Action filed today by coalition of 20 colleges and universities seeks to protect students from “reckless and arbitrary action” by federal government

SAN FRANCISCO (July 13, 2020) – The University of San Francisco (USF) is one of 20 colleges and universities in the Western states that sued the federal government today to block the U.S. Department of Homeland Security from revoking visas for international students whose studies will be entirely online in the fall.

In a joint statement, the universities contend that the government’s “thoughtless and arbitrary action not only harms these students, but also robs institutions of higher education of the autonomy and flexibility to adapt models of instruction to meet the urgent needs posed by a global pandemic.”

The lawsuit is seeking a temporary restraining order, preliminary injunction, and permanent injunction to stop the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s July 6 directive from being enforced and its policies from being implemented.

The federal government’s order, released by the ICE’s Student and Exchange Visitor Program (SEVP), would substantially modify existing agency policies allowing online study for international students during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Western states coalition lawsuit represents more than 50,000 international students, including approximately 1,200 graduate and undergraduate international students enrolled at USF.

“Students from around the world who study at USF are an integral part of our community and essential to our core mission, vision, and Jesuit educational values,” said USF President Paul J. Fitzgerald, S.J. “In solidarity with our higher education colleagues from across the Western states, we are pursuing this case because all international students studying in the United States deserve the right to continue their education without risk of deportation.”

Along with USF, the institutions in the coalition are: University of Southern California, University of Oregon, Oregon State University, Arizona State University, California Institute of Technology, Chapman University, Claremont McKenna College, Northern Arizona University, Pitzer College, Pomona College, Santa Clara University, Scripps College, Seattle University, Stanford University, St. Mary’s College of California, University of Arizona, University of the Pacific, University of San Diego, and University of Utah.

In other news related to the federal government’s order:

  • On Thursday, July 9, California Attorney General Xavier Becerra announced that California will challenge the ICE directive, saying “this policy is just unlawful, it’s dangerous and it’s morally reprehensible.”
  • On Friday, July 10, USF signed on to the Presidents’ Alliance on Higher Education and Immigration’s amicus brief filed in support of the Harvard/MIT federal court lawsuit challenging the ICE directive. The brief and list of signatories may be accessed here.

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About the University of San Francisco
The University of San Francisco is a private, Jesuit Catholic university that reflects the diversity, optimism, and opportunities of the city that surrounds it. USF offers more than 230 undergraduate, graduate, professional, and certificate programs in the arts and sciences, business, law, education, and nursing and health professions. At USF, each course is an intimate learning community in which top professors encourage students to turn learning into positive action, so the students graduate equipped to do well in the world — and inspired to change it for the better. For more information, visit