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UNLV campus seen on Monday, Feb. 24, 2020. (Jeff Scheid/The Nevada Independent)

The University of Nevada, Las Vegas, system Chancellor Thom Reilly and the presidents of the eight institutions in the Nevada System of Higher Education are among 180 universities to sign onto an amicus brief Friday supporting a lawsuit seeking to stop the Trump Administration from forcing foreign students to leave the country should their classes move online-only amid the pandemic. 

The lawsuit, spearheaded by Harvard and MIT, accuses ICE of acting without the consideration for the health and safety of students and staff at universities nationwide. Friday’s amicus brief was filed by the President’s Alliance on Higher Education and Immigration, on behalf of the 180 institution signatories. 

With weeks to go before the fall semester, the lawsuit also charges that the move leaves little time for either students or institutions to change months of planning related to the resumption of classes.

“By all appearances, ICE’s decision reflects an effort by the federal government to force universities to reopen in-person classes, which would require housing students in densely packed residential halls, notwithstanding the universities’ judgment that it is neither safe nor educationally advisable to do so, and to force such a reopening when neither the students nor the universities have sufficient time to react to or address the additional risks to 5 the health and safety of their communities,” the lawsuit read. “The effect—and perhaps even the goal—is to create as much chaos for universities and international students as possible.”

Many critics of the move also have decried alleged political motives, especially as both President Donald Trump and Education Secretary Betsy Devos called this week for a full return of in-person instruction and the re-opening of American schools. 

“ICE’s abrupt policy change guts the enormous reliance interests of higher education institutions and their students—all of whom planned for the fall 2020 semester based on ICE’s earlier confirmation that its March 2020 position would remain so long as the 'emergency' continued,” the amicus brief read. 

UNLV was the only one of Nevada’s seven degree-bearing institutions to sign onto the amicus brief, though UNR announced in an email earlier this week that it did not anticipate any issues from the change, as it remains on course for a hybrid re-opening that includes at least some in-person instruction.   

Updated, 7/14/20 at 3:30 p.m. - This story was updated to reflect the inclusion of NSHE among the signatories on the amicus brief

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