People attend the Cal Day event at the University of California, Berkeley Campus in Berkeley, California, the United States, on April 21, 2018. (Xinhua/Wu Xiaoling)

UC has increased online instruction and decreased in-person classes in order to protect students' health amid the COVID-19 pandemic. "It is imperative for UC to file this lawsuit in order to protect our students."

LOS ANGELES, July 9 (Xinhua) -- The University of California (UC) has announced plans to file suit against the U.S. federal government over an order barring international students from staying in the country if they attend U.S. universities that offer only online courses during the COVID-19 crisis.

In a press release issued by the university on Wednesday, UC President Janet Napolitano called the order "mean-spirited, arbitrary and damaging to America."

The lawsuit will seek a temporary restraining order and preliminary and permanent injunctive relief to bar the Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) from enforcing the order, said the statement.

A student wears a mask in the University of California, Santa Barbara, the United States, Dec. 11, 2017. (Xinhua/Li Ying)

"This capricious and illegal order from the federal government" plunged international students into deeper anxiety and uncertainty, said Napolitano. "It is illegal, unnecessary and callous."

UC Board of Regents Chair John A. Perez was quoted by the statement as saying that UC has increased online instruction and decreased in-person classes in order to protect students' health amid the COVID-19 pandemic. "It is imperative for UC to file this lawsuit in order to protect our students."

"To UC's international students, I say: 'We support you and regret the additional chaos ICE's action has caused.' To the courts, I say, 'We are the University of California. UC knows science, UC knows law, and we approach both in good faith. Our opponents have shown you time and again that they do not,'" Perez said in the statement.

Students congregate at the University of California's Los Angeles campus in Los Angeles, the United States, on June 1, 2016. (Xinhua/Yang Lei)

The UC's 2019 fall enrollment data showed that 27,205 of the university's 226,125 undergraduate students are non-resident international while 13,995 of the university's 58,941 graduate students are non-resident international.

China has been the largest source of international students to the United States for 10 consecutive years, according to the Institute of International Education, and California has been a top destination. 

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