File Photo: A gavel, and a balance placed upon on open book.
Just one week after ICE announced they would require international students to attend in-person classes in order to remain in the country, the Trump administration has rescinded the controversial rule. In their earlier announcement, ICE had said that students on F-1 or M-1 visas would be required to leave the United States if they enrolled for courses held entirely online. Students attending universities holding courses entirely online in the fall would be forced to depart the country or transfer to a different school. This despite the fact that the number of new COVID-19 infections continues to rise, and that the CDC considers in-person college classes to significantly heighten the risk of coronavirus spread.
ICE’s announced rule was met with swift backlash from immigration rights activists as well as the nation’s colleges and universities. Within a day of the announcement, Harvard and MIT filed the first of eight lawsuits against ICE challenging the rule; others to sue ICE over the rule include John Hopkins University, the University of California, and 17 states as well as the District of Columbia. Over two hundred students, schools, local governments, and organizations also came together to file 13 amicus briefs in the Harvard and MIT lawsuit — all in support of Harvard’s and MIT’s position.
Recent spikes in the number of new coronavirus cases are threatening America’s reopening efforts, and suggest that some form of quarantine will persist through to the end of the year. In response to this possibility, many of America’s college and universities are announcing that some or all of their fall semester classes will be held remotely; other schools are still in the process of deciding how classes will be offered in the fall.
Either way, public health data are clear about one thing: we are still in the midst of a COVID-19 pandemic that has claimed over 130,000 American lives to date. College classes — wherein students spend an hour or more, indoors, crowded into tight quarters, and breathing recirculated air — can only exacerbate coronavirus spread on college campuses. While many instructors are still figuring out how to adapt their classes for remote learning (to varying degrees of success), one thing is irrefutable: online classes reduce the risk of coronavirus spread compared to in-person classes. Thus, it makes sense for schools to hold many of their fall classes — especially large lecture classes — remotely: this is the only solution that maximizes the safety of students.
And yet, in an announcement that is completely out of step from these discussions, ICE said today that international students on F-1 or M-1 visas will not be permitted to remain in the United States if they are taking all their classes online. Students attending schools holding some in-person classes will be permitted to take some (but not all) of their classes remotely, as long as the school certifies that they are taking the minimum number of classes online as would still allow them to progress to their degree. Students enrolled in schools that are offering all classes online would be required to transfer schools to avoid deportation.
Students who violate this policy will face consequences, including the possibility of deportation. In other words, this fall, ICE will require international students to take at least one in-person class – even at the risk of their own health – in order to remain in the country. Schools weighing how they will adapt coursework offerings for the fall will be incentivized to adopt a hybrid in-person/online model (or a fully in-person model) to protect international students, a decision that will risk not only the health of all students but also instructors and other campus staff.
A Japanese reporter questions President Trump. (Photo credit: Screen capture from NBC News video)
In a press conference marked by erratic and un-presidential behaviour, President Trump made racially charged remarks against a Japanese reporter, telling him to “say hello to Shinzo” — the prime minister of Japan — before complaining that he couldn’t understand the reporter’s accent.
The unnamed reporter, who was clearly fluent in English, asked the president about reports that Trump was considering placing punitive tariffs on Japanese auto imports. That’s when Trump made the quip about Prime Minister Abe and the complaint about the reporter’s accent. Trump then defended the idea of US-imposed tariffs on Japan — one of America’s closest allies in the Pacific rim — by complaining of a trade deficit between the two countries.
On February 19, 1942, the White House issued Executive Order 9066 which led to the forcible detention, removal, and incarceration (see JACL’s Power of Words) of 120,000 Japanese and Japanese American citizens in hastily-erected detention centers and concentration camps. Assumed (without evidence) to be Japanese spies, Japanese American men, women, and children were imprisoned without due process behind barbed wire fences. There, entire families were crammed into single-room shacks and held at gunpoint in some of America’s bleakest and most desolate landscapes for over four years.
Fred Korematsu was one of a handful of Japanese Americans who courageously defied Executive Order 9066. Refusing to obey the order that he join other Japanese Americans in reporting for forcible relocation, Korematsu instead went on the run. When he was eventually arrested and charged with refusing the military’s relocation order, Korematsu challenged the constitutionality of Japanese American incarceration. That case – Korematsu v. United States – was found against Fred Korematsu, and it would go on to become a landmark Supreme Court decision; moreover, it would be one decision that most legal scholars now agree was decided in error.
Indeed, earlier this month, the Supreme Court of the United States issued a rare rebuke of its 1944 decision against Korematsu. In the Trump v. Hawaii majority decision, Chief Justice John Roberts said that “Korematsu was gravely wrong the day it was decided,” and invoked the dissent penned by Justice Robert Jackson wherein he described Japanese American incarceration as having “no place in law under the Constitution.”
In an historic move, the families of Gordon Hirabayashi, Minoru Yasui, and Fred Korematsu — the three men behind three landmark Supreme Court cases that challenged the constitutionality of Japanese American incarceration (JACL’s Power of Words) — filed a joint amicus brief to the Supreme Court yesterday paralleling President Donald Trump’s Muslim ban with the forcible imprisonment of Japanese Americans in camps during World War II.
In 1942, Gordon Hirabayashi and Minoru Yasui filed separate Supreme Court cases challenging the constitutionality of a federally-imposed curfew on Japanese Americans, a precursor to removal orders that led to the World War II incarceration of Japanese American citizens. That same year, Fred Korematsu was arrested after he refused to report for removal and relocation orders, and his appeal of that arrest formed the basis of his Supreme Court challenge of Executive Order 9066. These three cases — along with the Ex Parte Endo decision — form the bulk of the Supreme Court case history on federal targeting of specific racial or ethnic minority groups under the auspices of national security.
One need not try too hard to see the relevance of this case history on today’s fight to stop Trump’s attempt Muslim travel ban.