NewsJanuary 31, 2017

Scientists Just Sharply Denounced Trump’s Travel Ban

Brian Kahn

By Brian Kahn

Follow @blkahn

The scientific community continues to raise its voice over what it views as President Trump’s dangerous policies.

On Tuesday, 151 scientific societies and universities sent a joint letter denouncing the Trump administration’s immigration ban targeting seven predominantly Muslim countries as well as refugees. The International Council for Science, a group representing scientific bodies in 142 countries, also denounced the ban in a separate statement.

The ban, which bars residents from seven countries for 90 days and suspends the refugee resettlement program, has already had wide-ranging impacts. Authorities struggled with enforcing it over the weekend even as the administration signals some restrictions could become permanent. Families have been split and green card holders have been put in limbo. The scientific community hasn’t been immune either.

Multisociety Letter on Immigration, 1-31-2017 by ClimateCentral on Scribd

As of 2013, 18 percent of all scientists in the U.S. were immigrants. In the wake of Trump’s election, scientists were already worried about the impact a potential immigration ban could have on their families and by extension, their work.

RELATEDWomen Scientists Advocating for Equality Surge to 14,000
Young Climate Researchers Are Facing a Trump Reality
Scientists Are Planning the Next Big Washington March

When the ban became reality on Friday, stories began to emerge about the real world impacts on scientists. A rising star doctor from Iran studying heart disease was barred from entering the U.S., according to the New York Times. Another Iranian climate science PhD student at the University of Calgary was planning to visit Greenland in April via the U.S. and her plans are likely on hold, according to Mashable.

There are countless other stories of scientists being forced to cope with a new environment that inhibits collaboration. That’s a big reason that the 151 scientific institutions sent their letter to Trump and Congressional leaders of both parties.

“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,” the letter stated.

The writers urged the president to rescind the Executive Order and offered help in crafting a new immigration policy that’s both secure and fair. The letter signatories include some of the biggest scientific societies, including the American Association for the Advancement of Science, the American Geophysical Union and American Meteorological Society, as well as a cross section of major universities.

The International Council for Science statement echoed similar concerns.

“It is also concerned about the negative effects the Order will have on the freedom of scientific exchange among scientists and students of science worldwide, resulting in negative impacts on the progress of science, and impeding societies around the globe from benefitting from this progress,” the council said in a statement.

While legal victories by the American Civil Liberties Union have put a pause on the ban (though there are signs court orders are being ignored), the damage is already reverberating throughout the world. The chill the ban could put on the scientific community has major ramifications. It could stall scientific progress in a number of key research fields from climate change to human health.

“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,” the letter said.