The American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) and 150 other leading scientific organizations and universities sent a letter to President Trump urging him to rescind his controversial executive order preventing immigration from seven countries. They said it would harm America’s science and technology capabilities by discouraging bright students, scholars, scientists, and innovators from coming to the United States to study, attend conferences, work, and build businesses. Nearly a hundred leading high-tech companies also opposed the order on similar grounds.
In addition, an open letter signed by tens of thousands of academics, including sixty-two Nobel laureates, warned that the order “significantly damages American leadership in education and research” (https://notoimmigrationban.com). In a separate statement, the International Council for Science, a group representing scientific bodies in 142 countries, also denounced the ban.
The Center for Inquiry, which publishes the Skeptical Inquirer with the Committee for Skeptical Inquiry, also condemned the executive order on humanitarian grounds, calling it “an outrageous act of cruelty” and saying it “has no basis in facts, reason, or human decency” (http://www.centerforinquiry.net/newsroom/trumps_muslim_ban/).
The executive order was quickly stopped by a temporary restraining order from U.S. District Judge James Robart in Seattle, a ruling upheld 3-0 February 9 by the 9th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals in San Francisco, and immigrants with U.S. visas from the seven countries have been allowed in. In response to the court objections, on March 6 the White House announced a revised travel ban order to take effect in ten days. The new order removed Iraq from the list of affected countries, deleted language that gave advantages to religious minorities (non-Muslims), and said people with green cards and valid U.S. visas would be exempt from the ban. It also allowed for a waiver-seeking process. Critics charged that the essence of the ban remained, and two federal judges put the scaled-back ban on hold.
The letter crafted by AAAS and sent to the president January 31 emphasized the executive order’s negative impacts on science and technology. Organizations signing it included the American Anthropological Association, American Astronomical Society, American Chemical Society, American Geophysical Union, American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics, American Institute of Physics, and American Psychological Association.
Here is the full text of the letter:
Dear President Trump:
The January 27, 2017, White House Executive Order on visas and immigration has profound implications for diplomatic, humanitarian, and national security interests, in part because of the negative impact on U.S. science and engineering capacity.
The 151 undersigned organizations—representing a broad spectrum of professional scientific, engineering and education societies, national associations, and universities—are deeply concerned that this Executive Order will have a negative impact on the ability of scientists and engineers in industry and academia to enter, or leave from and return to, the United States. This will reduce U.S. science and engineering output to the detriment of America and Americans.
Scientific progress depends on openness, transparency, and the free flow of ideas and people, and these principles have helped the United States attract and richly benefit from international scientific talent. From the Apollo Program and exploring the far reaches of the universe, to advancing biomedical research for curing diseases and harnessing science to build a thriving high-tech sector, the United States is considered a leader in science, education and innovation. In order to remain the world leader in advancing scientific knowledge and innovations, the U.S. science and technology enterprise must continue to capitalize on the international and multi-cultural environment within which it operates.
The Executive Order will discourage many of the best and brightest international students, scholars, engineers and scientists from studying and working, attending academic and scientific conferences, or seeking to build new businesses in the United States. Implementation of this policy will compromise the United States’ ability to attract international scientific talent and maintain scientific and economic leadership.
Today, we urge the Administration to rescind the Executive Order and we stand ready to assist you in crafting an immigration and visa policy that advances U.S. prosperity and ensures strong borders while staying true to foundational American principles as a nation of immigrants.