Tech firms argue the directive violates a federal law meant to protect businesses from arbitrary decisions that could adversely affect operations

Facebook, the US Chamber of Commerce and more than a dozen other tech firms and business advocacy groups aligned to support Harvard University and Massachusetts Institute of Technology in their bid to fight a US government directive that threatens to deport thousands of international students.

Google, Twitter, and Spotify are also signatories to the amicus brief filed on Monday with the US District Court of Massachusetts, arguing that the

issued by the US Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and its Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) division last week violates a decades-old federal law meant to protect businesses from arbitrary decisions that could adversely affect business operations.

“The Administrative Procedure Act [APA] required defendants … to consider the serious consequences for the US business community and the entire economy that would result from a directive requiring more than half of all international students to leave the country, and also to take account of the substantial reliance interests of US companies that would be disrupted by such a decision,” said the brief filed by Facebook.

Scores of US states, municipalities and the government of the capital, Washington, filed separate amicus briefs, as opposition to ICE’s move mounts.

Schools offering a mix of online and in-person instruction to reduce the number of people on campus must issue certifications by August 4 for each international student remaining in the US for such a curriculum that they are taking a minimum number of online classes. These certifications could number “in the thousands per university”, according to Harvard and MIT’s complaint.

“For many students, returning to their home countries to participate in online instruction is impossible, impracticable, prohibitively expensive and/or dangerous”, according to their complaint, which called the move “a cudgel to compel universities to alter their plans for the fall”.

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