For many of our international students, studying in the United States and studying at Harvard is the fulfillment of a lifelong dream. These students enrich the learning environment for everyone. Harvard, like many other institutions, has sought to balance addressing concerns for public health during this global pandemic with preserving our academic mission of teaching and scholarship, and we have undertaken careful planning to address the unique circumstances of our community and to enable students to make educational progress safely. We have done so recognizing that the unprecedented and unpredictable nature of the pandemic poses risks to the health of millions and threatens to overwhelm our capacity to manage it.
On March 13, 2020, the same day that President Trump declared a national emergency, the Student and Exchange Visitor Program, a division of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), issued guidance relaxing a cap on online coursework so that international students could continue their academic pursuits at a time when courses were moving remote as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. On July 6, 2020, even though the government has not ended its declaration of a national state of emergency, ICE rescinded the March 13 guidance, stating that students attending entirely online programs may not remain in or be allowed to enter the country.
On July 8, 2020, Harvard and MIT filed pleadings (see President Bacow's message) in the U.S. District Court in Boston seeking a temporary restraining order prohibiting enforcement of the July 6 SEVP directive.