The multistate effort, filed in the US District Court in Massachusetts on Monday against the Department of Homeland Security and Immigration and Customs Enforcement, also seeks to stop the policy from going into effect while the case is being decided.
Monday’s lawsuit, a largely Democrat-led effort, is headed up by Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey.
“The Trump Administration didn’t even attempt to explain the basis for this senseless rule, which forces schools to choose between keeping their international students enrolled and protecting the health and safety of their campuses,” Healey said in a statement.
The attorneys general also said that the guidance, “fails to consider the harm to international students and their families whose lives will be upended” and that it “will also cause irreparable harm to the public health and the economy” of their states.
Other states that joined in Monday’s lawsuit include: Connecticut, Maryland, Illinois, Pennsylvania, Virginia, Nevada, Minnesota, New Jersey, Colorado, Delaware, Oregon, New Mexico, Rhode Island, Wisconsin, Vermont, and Michigan.
Visa requirements for students have always been strict and coming to the US to take online-only courses has been prohibited. ICE maintained that prohibition in its guidance, while providing some flexibility for hybrid models, meaning a mix of online and in-person classes.
The agency suggested that students currently enrolled in the US consider other measures, like transferring to schools with in-person instruction.
CNN’s Priscilla Alvarez contributed to this report.