Guilford College commencement 2019 stage

Guilford College President Jane Fernandes speaks at commencement on May 4, 2019. The college awarded 292 degrees, including its first five master's degrees in 45 years.

Guilford College, its International Club and three other U.S. colleges sued the feds in October over a pretty big change in immigration policy that affected international students and their visas.

How’s that going? Here’s Inside Higher Ed on Monday:

A federal judge on Friday issued a nationwide order temporarily blocking the Trump administration from enforcing a 2018 U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services policy memo that makes it easier for international students to accrue “unlawful presence” in the U.S., a determination that can subject them to future three- or 10-year bars on re-entering the country.

The case so far is going well for Guilford, in other words.

Long story short, Guilford and the other schools who filed suit (and backed by more 60 others who signed a brief supporting them) think that the new visa rules might accidentally trip up international students.

Under the old policy, international students, scholars and researchers who hold F, J and M visas weren’t considered to be unlawfully present in the United States until after a formal ruling from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security. ("Unlawful presence" is overstaying a visa.) The new policy started counting days as soon as a person leaves school or whenever the feds in hindsight declare that someone has broken an immigration rule as relatively minor as failing to report a change of address.

Penalties for staying too long on an expired visa are stiff: Do it for a year, and you can’t come back to the United States for a decade.

U.S. District Court Judge Loretta C. Biggs in Greensboro sided with the colleges — “expedited summary judgment” is the key phrase from her ruling — and issued a nationwide injunction against enforcing the new policy. Biggs wrote in her decision that the feds didn’t follow their own rules for making such a substantial policy change and that this new policy conflicts with federal law. Click here to read Biggs’ decision, and click here to read her order. Here's a good summary of all the legal back and forth from NAFSA: Association of International Educators.

The case hasn't attracted much U.S. media attention. It has in India, at least in the English-language press (here and here). Which makes sense: In 2018, the U.S. issued 45,000 F-1 student visas to residents of India, who are the second-largest contingent of international students in the U.S. behind only the Chinese.

Friday's court ruling was the start of a good weekend for Guilford. On Saturday, the college awarded 292 degrees at commencement on campus. Click here to read the college's own report on that big day.

P.S. Speaking of the amicus brief above, supporters include a bunch of schools (several Ivys, MIT, Penn State, University of Michigan) that you’ve probably heard of. The only N.C. signer was Duke University.

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