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Trump Administration Drops New Visa Rules for International Students

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  • In a rare reversal of an immigration policy, the Trump administration has rescinded a directive that would have prohibited international students from remaining in the U.S. if they are taking only online classes this fall amid the coronavirus pandemic.
  • The announcement came at the top of a federal court hearing Tuesday for a lawsuit against the move filed by Harvard and MIT.
  • It also comes after what some called unprecedented bipartisan pushback from lawmakers, over a dozen tech companies, states, and hundreds of universities across the country.
  • However, many believe the fight isn’t over because the administration can still try to issue other changes that impose restrictions on international students. 

Background

The Trump administration rescinded a policy Tuesday that would have denied visas to international students who planned to take entirely online courses at universities this fall.  

U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) announced the policy on July 6 and was met with immediate backlash. Many felt it was an attempt by the Trump administration to pressure colleges into reopening this fall, despite concerns over the coronavirus pandemic. The consequences of such a policy could have been huge both for the U.S. economy and hundreds of thousands of foreign students. 

Before the pandemic, ICE had a longstanding policy that prohibited international students from taking only online courses to maintain a valid visa. However, ICE temporarily waved online course limits in March when schools were forced to suspended in-person classes. 

At the time, ICE said the limits would be waved “for the duration of the emergency,” so this bombshell change left students and universities scrambling. In response, just two days after the plan was announced, Harvard University and the Massachusetts Insitute of Technology filed a lawsuit against the administration over the decision. 

That was just the beginning of the backlash that has snowballed since the announcement. According to the Associated Press, more than 200 universities backed the legal challenge, and at least seven other federal suits were filed by universities and states. 

The directive has also been condemned by both Republican and Democratic lawmakers. Nearly 99 Democratic Congress members demanded a withdrawal of the policy last week, and on Tuesday, 15 Republican members signed a letter urging the administration to restore its previous policy.  

On top of that, over a dozen technology companies came out in support of Harvard and MIT, including major tech giants like Google, Facebook, Twitter, and others who said the policy would harm their businesses as well.

Policy Reversed 

All of those efforts seem to have been acknowledged Tuesday when the decision to drop the policy was announced at the start of a hearing for the Harvard and MIT case in Boston, Massachusetts. There, U.S. District Judge Allison Burroughs said the schools had reached an agreement with ICE and the Department of Homeland Security to “return to the status quo.” That means ICE will revert to its directive from March that waves online course limits during the pandemic.  

The announcement is a huge victory for the groups challenging the government and has brought relief to thousands of foreign students who were at risk of deportation and whose lives were suddenly turned upside down with the fall semester quickly approaching. 

Harvard’s president, Lawrence S. Bacow, said in a statement, “This is a significant victory.” 

“These students — our students — can now rest easier and focus on their education, which is all they ever wanted to do.”

MIT’s president L. Rafael Reif said the quick opposition was evidence of “the important role international students play in our education, research and innovation enterprises here in the United States. These students make us stronger, and we hurt ourselves when we alienate them.”

Still, others were frustrated that it took so much pushback for the administration to back down. California Attorney General Xavier Becerra, who had filed a separate lawsuit challenging the policy, said in a statement Tuesday, “The Trump Administration appears to have seen the harm of its July 6 directive, but it shouldn’t take lawsuits and widespread outcry for them to do their job.”

“In the midst of an economic and public health crisis, we don’t need the federal government alarming Americans or wasting everyone’s time and resources with dangerous policy decisions.”

Admin Could Still Pass Other Narrow Restrictions 

This news is huge because it’s one of the rare instances in which the Trump administration has retreated on a major immigration policy. Typically, the administration defends its controversial immigration directives, refusing to alter them unless forced to by a court.

The American Council on Education, which represents university presidents, applauded the move, tell the AP that the policy was “wrongheaded” and drew unprecedented opposition. 

Terry Hartle, the group’s senior vice president said, “There has never been a case where so many institutions sued the federal government.”

“In this case, the government didn’t even try to defend its policymaking,” he continued. 

Even with this reversal, many are still hesitant to call this case closed. That’s because the government can still try to issue a new policy that imposes other limits on international students. 

According to the Wall Street Journal’s sources, one option that the administration could still pursue would apply the more restrictive rules only to newly enrolling students.

Even so, the judge in Harvard and MIT’s case has announced that she intends to keep the case open, which means the Trump administration would likely have to defend any such changes before her court, according to Vox. 

As of now, the Trump administration has not commented on the reversal or whether or not new restrictions are in the works. In the meantime, schools like MIT have said they stand prepared “to protect our students from any further arbitrary policies.”

See what others are saying: (The New York Times) (NPR) (Associated Press

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Conservatives are Mad at “Woke” Xbox for Minor Climate-Related Updates

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The fury comes after Xbox announced it was slightly altering existing consoles to better utilize and save energy.


Same War, New Battlefield

Mere days after M&M canceled their “spokescandies” due to backlash from the right, led largely by Fox News’ Tucker Carlson, conservatives have found a new front for their ongoing culture war: Xbox.

Carlson spent months complaining that small character redesigns were “woke” because they made the animated anthropomorphized M&M’s — in his own words — “less sexy.” His campaign finally proved successful on Monday when the company announced it would be doing away with the spokescandies and replacing them with actress Maya Rudolph.

Conservatives, now facing a sudden dearth of non-issues to complain about, quickly found a new issue to rage against. Xbox announced in a blog post earlier this month that it is making minor updates to lower its environmental impact as part of an effort to reach Microsoft’s goal of being carbon-negative by 2030.

Now, instead of having an Xbox wake up to update games, apps, and software during random times of the night, it will do that at a time of night when a user’s local energy grid is generating the most power it can from renewable sources. 

Xbox also said it would automatically update some older consoles to a power-saving mode that aims to reduce electricity consumption when it is turned off — a feature that is already the default on newer consoles.

According to The Verge, the only difference for users is that an Xbox in power-saving mode takes around 15 seconds to boot up instead of doing so immediately as the console does in “sleep” mode. The change is a small price to pay for what the outlet described as “significant” energy savings.

Xbox Under Fire

To many leading conservative voices, the minimal shifts were just another example of “woke” culture. 

While discussing M&M’s spokescandies Tuesday morning, “Fox and Friends” co-host Ainsley Earhardt brought up Xbox’s new changes with Fox radio host Jimmy Failla.

“So Xbox has also announced that they’re going woke too, you know, because of climate change,” Earhardt said.

“I mean, it’s crazy what they’re doing, but we understand what this is. It’s not that it’s actually going to offset emissions, okay — the level of reduction is infinitesimal,”  Failla claimed, without evidence. “But they’re trying to recruit your kids into climate politics at an earlier age; make them climate conscious now.”

“Yeah, I didn’t think of that — you’re right, they’re going after the children,” Earhardt agreed, despite the fact that internal data from Microsoft shows just around 10% of Xbox owners are under the age of 18.

Other prominent conservatives also did their part to bait Americans into anger on social media, including America’s Foundation, which posted a tweet stating that “the woke brigade is after video games.”

The post linked an article from the right-wing website TheBlaze, which asserted that “Xbox will force gamers to power down to fight climate change.”  That, however, is false — Xbox has said users can switch back and change the settings any time they want

Still, top lawmakers continued to share the article and spread its false claims, including Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Tx.).

“First gas stoves, then your coffee, now they’re gunning for your Xbox,” he wrote in the post, which was flagged by Twitter and given an “added context” warning.

The same warning, however, was not placed in a very similar post by Rep. Troy Nehls (R-Tx.), who also shared the article.

“They want to take your guns. They want to take your gas stoves. And now they want to take your Xbox. What’s next?” he wrote.

See what others are saying: (The Washington Post) (The Daily Beast) (VICE)

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Washington State Launches Investigation Into Abuse at Private Special Ed. Schools

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Allegations include staff kicking a fourth-grader and dragging a child with autism around by his leg.


Abuse Allegations

Washington State’s Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction (OSPI) has launched an investigation into a system of private schools for kids with disabilities after ProPublica and the Seattle Times reported on allegations of abuse.

The series of articles focused on Northwest School of Innovative Learning (NWSOIL). NWSOIL is a set of private schools that serve 500 Washington public school students with serious disabilities. ProPublica and the Seattle Times found years of complaints from parents and school districts against NWSOIL alleging abuse, overuse of isolation rooms, and unqualified aides teaching instead of certified professionals.

One district claimed NWSOIL staff kicked a fourth-grader. Another alleged that a child with autism was dragged around by his thigh.

Many former NWSOIL employees also claim that they were pressured by their parent company to to enroll more students and skimp on basic resources, like staffing.

Investigation Launched

In a seven-page letter, OSPI reminded NWSOIL of its authority to revoke or suspend a school’s approval, meaning that it could shut NWSOIL down. 

“Given the serious nature of the allegations made in the articles, OSPI is examining what, if any, actions need to be taken with respect to Northwest SOIL’s approval to contract with Washington school districts,” Tania May, assistant superintendent for special education at OSPI, wrote in the letter.

OSPI has demanded any records of mistreatment, maltreatment, abuse, or neglect as well as documents pertaining to restraint or isolation of students and calls to the police. They are also seeking information about the student-to-teacher ratio and staff qualifications. 

In the letter, OSPI claims that all of this was previously unknown to them as well as to police, Child Protective Services, and local school districts. They are asking NWSOIL for an explanation as to why the allegations were not reported. 

NWSOIL defended itself in a public statement.

“Use of restraints and seclusion are always used as a last response when a student is at imminent risk of hurting themselves or others, it said. “We strongly deny any allegation that we understaff and/or pressure staff to increase admissions in order to maximize profits.” 

Washington state representatives are considering a reform bill that will give them more oversight on the publicly funded system of private special education schools. 

In this legislation, OSPI and at least one district that sends students to this program would be required to visit before approving the contract. It would also standardize district agreements with programs like NWSOIL, including financial safeguards to make sure funds are being used appropriately.

See the full series: (ProPublica) (The Seattle Times)

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Mass Shootings in Half Moon Bay, Oakland Rock California

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Just since Saturday, at least 19 people have been killed and 17 have been injured in mass shootings in California.


California Sees Third Attack in Under a Week

Two California localities experienced separate mass shootings Monday, just days after an attacker killed 11 and injured nine others in a suburb of Los Angeles.

The first of the most recent shootings took place in Half Moon Bay, a small coastal town about 30 miles outside of San Francisco, where a gunman killed seven and critically injured an eighth at two different locations.

According to authorities, police were dispatched to the first location around 2:20 pm and found four people shot to death and a fifth victim also suffering gunshot wounds. Shortly after, three more people were found dead at another site nearby.

About two hours later, police discovered the suspect in his car in the parking lot of a San Mateo County Sheriff’s Office substation with a semiautomatic handgun in the vehicle that officials later confirmed he had purchased legally.

Sheriff Christina Corpus said the man was taken into custody “without incident” and is “fully cooperating.” He has been identified as a 66-year-old Half Moon Bay resident of Asian descent.

Currently, the gunman’s motive is unknown, but the Sheriff told reporters Monday that both of the locations he targeted were nurseries, and it has since been reported that they were mushroom farms.

“All evidence we have points to this being an instance of workplace violence. The Mountain Mushroom Farm, the first location, is where the subject was employed,” Corpus said in a press conference Tuesday, though she added that, so far, the “only known connection between the victims and the suspect is that they may have been coworkers.”

As of writing, it remains unclear why he targeted the second location. A mushroom farm called Concord Farms has told reporters that it was the site of the second shooting — which a law enforcement official confirmed to The Washington Post.

In a statement to the media, a spokesperson said the farm had “no past knowledge” of the alleged gunman or his possible motives. Little has been released about the victims, though Corpus said Tuesday they were all adults and a “mixture of Asian and Hispanic descent,” some of whom were migrants. 

Authorities had previously stated that, because people both live and work on the farms, children were among those who witnessed the shooting. However, on Tuesday, one official walked that back and said while children were indeed in the vicinity, police do not have information about specific witnesses.

Just hours after the violence in Half Moon Bay, seven people were injured, and one other was killed during a shooting at a gas station in Oakland. Very little has been reported about the incident, but police have said that the shooting was “between several individuals.”

Renewed Calls for Gun Control

Californians continue to reel from the rapid succession of mass shootings in a state known for its strict gun control laws.

According to Everytown for Gun Safety, a nonprofit that advocates against gun violence, the state ranks No. 1 in the country for gun law strength. An analysis led by the organization found that California has the sixth-lowest rate of gun ownership and the eighth-lowest gun death rate.

Many of California’s top lawmakers have argued that the state’s relatively low gun violence statistics emphasize the need for more federal regulations.

“The Second Amendment’s becoming a suicide pact,” Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) told CBS News in an interview.

“We’ll continue to find whatever loopholes we can and continue to lead the national conversation on gun safety reform. And the data bares out. It works. It saves lives,” he continued. “California’s 37% lower than the death rate of the rest of the nation, and yet, with all that evidence, no one on the other side seems to give a damn. I can’t get anything done in Congress.”

Following the Monterey Park shooting, U.S. Sen. Diane Feinstein (D-Ca.), alongside other Democratic colleagues, introduced two gun control bills in the upper chamber. The first would ban assault weapons, while the second aims to raise the minimum age to purchase assault weapons from 18 to 21.

President Joe Biden quickly threw his support behind the measures, urging Congress to pass them.

“The majority of the American people agree with this commonsense action,” he said in a statement Monday. “There can be no greater responsibility than to do all we can to ensure the safety of our children, our communities and our nation.”

Editor’s Note: At Rogue Rocket, we make it a point to not include the names and pictures of mass murders, suspected mass murderers, or those accused of committing violent crimes who may have been seeking attention or infamy. Therefore, we will not be linking to other sources, as they may contain these details.

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