Six hundred college and university presidents sent a letter Friday to Secretary of Homeland Security John F. Kelly, expressing concern about President Trump’s executive order imposing a 90-day travel ban on individuals from seven majority Muslim countries and freezing refugee admissions into the United States, including an indefinite halt on Syrian refugees.
The presidents are worried about how the order might affect international students, faculty, researchers and staff. Their letter emphasizes the importance of maintaining the United States as the destination of choice for the “world’s best and brightest students, faculty and scholars.”
“International exchange is a core value and strength of American higher education,” they wrote. “Moreover, our nation’s welcoming stance to scholars and scientists has benefited the U.S. through goodwill and a long history of scientific and technological advances that have been essential to the economic growth our country has experienced for decades. When they return home they are ambassadors for American values, democracy and the free market. Our nation can only maintain its global scientific and economic leadership position if it encourages those talented people to come here to study and work. America is the greatest magnet for talented people from around the world and it must remain so.”
The letter joins a wide range of critiques of the travel ban, including one from ACE and 50 other higher education groups sent on Jan. 31.
On Friday night, a federal judge in Seattle ordered a nationwide stay on Trump’s Jan. 27 executive order banning travelers. Unlike the judicial orders already in place, the order from Judge James Robart requires that the travel restrictions be stayed immediately. Federal officers are now barred from enforcing the parts of the ban that target immigrants and refugees from those seven countries and that grant exemptions to refugees on the basis of their religion.
Robart’s order comes in response to a suit filed Jan. 30 by the state of Washington and joined by Minnesota, the first lawsuit to request that the entire executive order be halted until a federal judge can determine its constitutionality. (See The Chronicle of Higher Education on the role Washington public higher education institutions played in the suit.)
As Inside Higher Ed reported this morning, the ruling includes explicit references to the damage to public universities caused by the order. "The executive order adversely affects the states' residents in areas of employment, education, business, family relations and freedom to travel …. In addition, the states themselves are harmed by virtue of the damage that implementation of the executive order has inflicted upon the operations and missions of their public universities and other institutions of higher learning, as well as injury to the states' operations, tax bases and public funds."
The Trump administration immediately appealed the ruling, but the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit on Saturday denied the government's request for an immediate stay of the restraining order pending full consideration of its emergency motion.