St. John’s Joins Universities Nationwide in Litigation Against ICE Regulations

SJU has filed amicus brief supporting Harvard and MIT lawsuit



According to a July 11 press release from the University, St. John’s has joined 180 other universities in supporting Harvard University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT)’s legal complaint against the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to allow international students to attend schools that are operating online this fall. 

St. John’s has filed an amicus brief in partnership with the Presidents’ Alliance on Higher Education and Immigration in support of the Harvard and MIT lawsuit. This brief is meant to offer the perspective of each of these universities and their international students but does not include the University as a plaintiff in the lawsuit. 

This action follows the July 6 announcement from the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) regarding the Student and Exchange Visitor Programs directive that says international students exclusively enrolled in online courses this fall must leave the country. The complaint filed by MIT and Harvard seeks new guidance from ICE regarding the status of international students this fall.

These temporary exemptions for international students state, “Nonimmigrant F-1 and M-1 students attending schools operating entirely online may not take a full online course load and remain in the United States. The U.S. Department of State will not issue visas to students enrolled in schools and/or programs that are fully online for the fall semester nor will U.S. Customs and Border Protection permit these students to enter the United States.”

The evening of July 11, an internal communication from President Conrado “Bobby” Gempesaw went out to the student body, addressing both the amicus brief and the July 6 ordinance from ICE.


“The new ICE guidance poses a major problem if New York State public health guidelines require that St. John’s offer only online instruction in the fall,” Gempesaw said. “On behalf of the University, I join a growing number of leaders from public and private colleges and universities in opposing these recent ICE regulations.”

According to the University press release, each exemption created by ICE “effectively implements a ban on international students enrolled exclusively in online courses as a result of COVID-19.” 

“St. John’s University, a school with a founding and enduring mission to educate immigrants and their children, is a better place because we attract students from more than 100 countries around the globe seeking educational opportunities through the St. John’s experience,” Gempesaw said in the press release. 

“Our institution, our city and our country are made better by the contributions of immigrants and international students. Our University remains committed to our international students and their success,” Gempesaw continued. 

SJU student organizations have taken to social media to express their frustration and concern for the University’s international community as a result of ICE’s announcement. 

“Our international students are having their right to education eroded due to new ICE regulations,” Student Government Incorporated said in an Instagram post (@sjusgi). “We are calling on St. John’s University to protect our international students now and every day.”

The full amicus brief from the Presidents’ Alliance on Higher Education and Immigration, as well as the full list of the 180 universities that have filed the litigation, can be found here

This is a developing story. Please check back for updates.


Editor’s note: this article has been updated July 14 to include the Internal Communication from President Conrado “Bobby” Gempesaw that was released after publish on the evening of July 11. 


If you enjoyed reading and would like to continue reading more articles like this, please consider donating to the Torch
here to support student journalism and #KeepTheTorchLit.