Seventeen elite universities including Harvard, Yale and Stanford have joined forces to fight President Donald Trump’s ban on travel to the US by refugees and citizens of seven mostly Muslim countries. The schools say in court papers the ban threatens their ability to recruit students, faculty and scholars from abroad and to “meet their goals of educating tomorrow’s leaders from around the world.”
“These international students, faculty and scholars make significant contributions to their fields of study and to campus life,” they say. The schools filed papers Monday in Brooklyn federal court seeking a judge’s permission to join a lawsuit fighting the ban. The American Civil Liberties Union and immigrant rights groups’ lawsuit has already led to a national order barring the government from relying on the ban to deport those who arrived on US soil.
The other schools joining in the request are Brown, Carnegie Mellon, University of Chicago, Columbia, Cornell, Dartmouth, Duke, Emory, Johns Hopkins, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Northwestern, University of Pennsylvania, Princeton and Vanderbilt.
The travel ban barred Syrian refugees indefinitely, and blocked for 120 days all others fleeing their homelands claiming persecution or fear of violence. No citizens of Syria, Iran, Iraq, Yemen, Somalia, Libya or Sudan initially could enter the US for 90 days. The government amended the directive to allow those citizens to enter if they held a US permanent resident permit, commonly known as a Green Card.
In a separate lawsuit pending in Seattle, a federal court has blocked the government from enforcing key parts of the ban, which critics claim illegally singles out Muslims.
In Brooklyn, the schools say it’s their mission to attract the world’s best scholars, faculty and students as they strive to foster a rich educational environment and draw from all over the world. During the 2015-2016 academic year, more than 1 million international students studied at US universities, according to the schools.
Yale, for example, has more than 4,000 international students and scholars or about 11% of its undergraduates and 20% of its total student population, the schools said. About 16% of Columbia’s students were international, while the University of Chicago says about 24% of its faculty and 65% of its postdoctoral researchers are from outside the US.
“The United States and the world reap benefits in a wide range of fields, including advances in medicine and science, equal treatment for women and religious minorities, and respect for democracy and the rule of law,” the schools said. The ban has already negatively affected students, scholars and faculty, stranding some abroad while preventing others to travel to their homelands for field research, academic meetings, family or personal obligations, according to the schools.
Many are studying in the US under special academic visas, had already been subjected to extensive vetting to enter the country and been deemed not to pose a threat to the US, the schools said. The US State Department also “provisionally revoked” the visas of most scholars from the seven affected countries, without any evidence to support the administration’s actions, according to the universities and colleges.
And the potential for harm continues even though the travel ban was halted by a federal appeals court in California on 9 February, the schools say. Academics from around the world have called for a boycott of conferences in the US. The opposition includes more than 42,000 scholars, including 62 Nobel Laureates, 813 Members of the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Arts and others.The schools’ friend-of-the court brief comes in support of a lawsuit filed on 28 January in Brooklyn, hours after Trump signed the ban. The government on 10 February said the case should be dismissed because no one was in custody.
New York City wrote to the judge in the Brooklyn case on Monday asking to join with other municipalities to overturn the travel ban. “Cities have a unique perspective” on how Trump’s order affects the public interest, including damaging efforts to integrate immigrants into communities, weakening economies and social institutions and undercutting public safety and law enforcement, a city lawyer said.
Earlier this month, eight Boston-area schools sought to join a lawsuit in Massachusetts opposing the ban. A judge later dismissed that case, saying the president has power to block travel from countries with dangerous jihadist movements. Those schools were Harvard, Northeastern, MIT, Boston College, Boston University, Brandeis, Tufts and Worcester Polytechnic Institute.
* The case is Darweesh v. Trump, 17-cv-00480, US District Court, Eastern District of New York (Brooklyn).