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ACE, Higher Education Groups Say Trump Travel Ban Threatens Colleges’ Ability to Attract International Students, Scholars

September 19, 2017

Supreme Court to Hear Case Oct. 10

​ACE and 29 other higher education associations submitted an amicus brief yesterday to the U.S. Supreme Court in the case examining President Trump's second attempt to ban refugees and immigrants from several majority-Muslim countries, which has faced months of legal back and forth on its path to the high court.

The travel ban executive order, released in March, bars travel to the United States for 90 days for nationals of Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen. It was revised from an initial executive order issued in January that spurred confusion across the country, including on college and university campuses.

According to the Institute of International Education, in 2015–16, approximately 15,400 students and 2,100 professors or researchers in the United States came from one of these six countries.

The Supreme Court in June agreed to take up the two rulings on the executive order from the 4th and 9th Circuit courts of appeals, Trump v. International Refugee Assistance Project and Trump v. Hawaii. In the interim, the justices allowed aspects of the executive order to take effect, but they did not take a stance on the larger constitutional questions concerning religious discrimination or presidential authority, deferring consideration of those issues to the fall.

While recognizing the importance of a strong visa process to the nation’s security, the associations’ brief focuses on the importance to U.S. higher education and the country as a whole of maintaining a welcoming perception to international students and scholars, and the risks of deterring them from studying, teaching and researching in the United States.

Roughly one million international students that attend U.S. colleges and universities add to this country’s intellectual and cultural vibrancy, and they also yield an estimated economic impact of $32.8 billion and support 400,000 U.S. jobs, according to a recent report from NAFSA: Association of International Educators. The travel ban, the associations claim in their brief, puts those benefits at risk and sends a message to millions around the globe that the doors are no longer open to foreign students, scholars, lecturers, and researchers.

“Right now, there is a “global bidding war” for talented international students, particularly in the STEM fields,” the groups wrote. “Foreign countries give substantial cash bonuses and other benefits to international scholars to entice them to leave the United States. When the United States immigration policy manifests a message of exclusion—not to mention an actually exclusionary effect, as here—fewer students and scholars choose to attend our universities. They instead go to other countries where they are welcomed with open arms.”

If not reversed, the executive order promises to have detrimental effects on critical academic exchange by inhibiting the free cross-border exchange of ideas; dividing students and scholars from their families; and impairing the ability of American educational institutions to draw the finest international talent and reap the associated benefits, according to the brief.

Oral argument in the case is scheduled for Oct. 10.

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