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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  • In a rare reversal of an immigration policy, the Trump administration has rescinded a directive that would have prohibited international students from remaining in the U.S. if they are taking only online classes this fall amid the coronavirus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The Trump administration rescinded a policy Tuesday that would have denied visas to international students who planned to take entirely online courses at universities this fall.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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Survey and Census Data Shows Record Number of Americans are Struggling Financially

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Americans are choosing not to pursue medical treatment more and more frequently as they encounter money troubles.


A recent federal survey shows that a record number of Americans were worse off financially in 2022 than a year prior.

Coupled with recent census data showing pervasive poverty across much of the country, Americans are forced to make difficult decisions, like foregoing expensive healthcare. 

According to a recent Federal Reserve Bureau survey, 35% of adults say they were worse off in 2022 than 2021, which is the highest share ever recorded since the question was raised in 2014. 

Additionally, half of adults reported their budget was majorly affected by rising prices across the country, and that number is even higher among minority communities and parents living with their children.

According to recent census data, more than 10% of the counties in the U.S. are experiencing persistent poverty, meaning the area has had a poverty rate of 20% or higher between 1989 and 2019. 

16 states report at least 10% of their population living in persistent poverty. But most of the suffering counties were found in the South — which accounts for over half the people living in persistent poverty, despite making up less than 40% of the population. 

These financial realities have placed many Americans in the unfortunate situation of choosing between medical treatment and survival. The Federal Reserve study found that the share of Americans who skipped medical treatment because of the cost has drastically increased since 2020. 

The reflection of this can be found in the overall health of households in different income brackets. 75% of households with an income of $25,000 or less report being in good health – compared to the 91% of households with $100,000 or more income. 

See what others are saying: (Axios) (The Hill) (Federal Reserve)

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Montana Governor Signs TikTok Ban

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The ban will likely face legal challenges before it is officially enacted next year. 


First Statewide Ban of TikTok

Montana became the first state to ban TikTok on Wednesday after Gov. Greg Gianforte (R) signed legislation aimed at protecting “Montanans’ personal and private data from the Chinese Communist Party.”

The ban will go into effect on Jan. 1, 2024, though the law will likely face a handful of legal challenges before that date. 

Under the law, citizens of the state will not be held liable for using the app, but companies that offer the app on their platforms, like Apple and Google, will face a $10,000 fine per day of violations. TikTok would also be subject to the hefty daily fine. 

Questions remain about how tech companies will practically enforce this law. During a hearing earlier this year, a representative from TechNet said that these platforms don’t have the ability to “geofence” apps by state.

Roger Entner, an analyst at Recon Analytics, told the Associated Press that app stores could have the capability to enforce the restriction, but it would be difficult to carry out and there would be a variety of loopholes by tools like VPNs.

Montana’s law comes as U.S. politicians have taken aim at TikTok over its alleged ties to the CCP. Earlier this year, the White House directed federal agencies to remove TikTok from government devices. Conservatives, in particular, have been increasingly working to restrict the app.

“The Chinese Communist Party using TikTok to spy on Americans, violate their privacy, and collect their personal, private, and sensitive information is well-documented,” Gov. Gianforte said in a Wednesday statement. 

Criticism of Montana Law

TikTok, however, has repeatedly denied that it gives user data to the government. The company released a statement claiming Montana’s law “infringes on the First Amendment rights of the people” in the state. 

“We want to reassure Montanans that they can continue using TikTok to express themselves, earn a living, and find community as we continue working to defend the rights of our users inside and outside of Montana,” the company said. 

The American Civil Liberties Union condemned Montana’s law for similar reasons. 

“This law tramples on our free speech rights under the guise of national security and lays the groundwork for excessive government control over the internet,” the ACLU tweeted. “Elected officials do not have the right to selectively censor entire social media apps based on their country of origin.”

Per the AP, there are 200,000 TikTok users in Montana, and another 6,000 businesses use the platform as well. Lawsuits are expected to be filed against the law in the near future.

See what others are saying: (Associated Press) (Fast Company) (CBS News)

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How a Disney-Loving Former Youth Pastor Landed on The FBI’s “Most Wanted” List

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 “Do what is best, not for yourself, for once. Think about everyone else,” Chris Burns’ 19-year-old son pleaded to his father via The Daily Beast. 


Multi-Million Dollar Scheme 

Former youth pastor turned financial advisor Chris Burns remains at large since going on the run in September of 2020 to avoid a Securities Exchange Commission investigation into his businesses.

Despite his fugitive status, the Justice Department recently indicted Burns with several more charges on top of the $12 million default judgment he received from the SEC. 

Burns allegedly sold false promissory notes to investors across Georgia, North Carolina, and Florida. The SEC claims he told the investors they were participating in a “peer to peer” lending program where businesses that needed capital would borrow money and then repay it with interest as high as 20%. Burns allegedly also reassured investors that the businesses had collateral so the investment was low-risk. 

The SEC says that Burns instead took that money for personal use. 

Burns’ History 

Burns began his adult life as a youth pastor back in 2007 before transitioning into financial planning a few years later.  By 2017, he launched his own radio show, The Chris Burns Show, which was funded by one of his companies, Dynamic Money – where every week Burns would “unpack how this week’s headlines practically impact your life, wallet, and future,” according to the description. He also frequently appeared on television and online, talking about finances and politics. 

The SEC alleges that he used his public appearances to elevate his status as a financial advisor and maximize his reach to investors.

His family told The Daily Beast that he became obsessed with success and he reportedly bought hand-made clothes, a million-dollar lakehouse, a boat, several cars, and took his family on several trips to Disney World. His eldest son and wife said that Burns was paying thousands of dollars a day for VIP tours and once paid for the neighbors to come along. 

Then in September 2020, he reportedly told his wife that he was being investigated by the Securities Exchange Commission but he told her not to worry. 

The day that he was supposed to turn over his business documents to the SEC, he disappeared, telling his wife he was just going to take a trip to North Carolina to tell his parents about the investigation. Then, the car was found abandoned in a parking lot with several cashier’s checks totaling $78,000

FBI’s Most Wanted

The default judgment in the SEC complaint orders Burns, if he’s ever found, to pay $12 million to his victims, as well as over $650,000 in a civil penalty. Additionally, a federal criminal complaint charged him with mail fraud. Burns is currently on the FBI’s Most Wanted list. 

Last week, the Justice Department indicted him on several other charges including 10 counts of wire fraud and two counts of mail fraud. 

“Burns is charged for allegedly stealing millions of dollars from clients in an illegal investment fraud scheme,” Keri Farley, Special Agent in Charge of FBI Atlanta, said in a statement to The Daily Beast. “Financial crimes of this nature can cause significant disruptions to the lives of those who are victimized, and the FBI is dedicated to holding these criminals accountable.”

His family maintains that they knew nothing of Burns’ schemes. His wife reportedly returned over $300,000 that he had given to her. 

She and their eldest son, who is now 19, told The Daily Beast they just want Burns to turn himself in, take responsibility for his actions, and try to help the people he hurt. 

“Do what is best, not for yourself, for once. Think about everyone else,” Burns’ son said in a message to his father via The Daily Beast. 

See what others are saying: (The Daily Beast) (Fox 5) (Wealth Management)

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