Stanford joins amicus brief opposing travel ban

A group of 17 American universities, including Stanford, has filed a court brief outlining the harm to the academic community from the Jan. 27 executive order.  

Stanford has joined 16 other universities in filing an amicus brief challenging the federal administration’s Jan. 27 executive order on immigration, arguing that the travel ban it imposed on people from seven countries threatens the universities’ academic mission.

The filing was made Monday in federal court for the Eastern District of New York, where one of several cases challenging the executive order is currently being litigated. The brief can be read in its entirety here.

Brown University, Carnegie Mellon University, the University of Chicago, Columbia University, Cornell University, Dartmouth College, Duke University, Emory University, Harvard University, Johns Hopkins University, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Northwestern University, the University of Pennsylvania, Princeton University, Stanford, Vanderbilt University and Yale University joined in filing the brief.

“Because [the universities] seek to educate future leaders from nearly every continent, attract the world’s best scholars, faculty and students, and work across international borders, they rely on the ability to welcome international students, faculty and scholars into their communities,” the brief reads. “The Executive Order at issue in this case threatens that ability, and creates significant hardship for [our] valued international students, faculty and scholars.”

Debra Zumwalt, Stanford vice president and general counsel, said Stanford joined the brief because the perspective of universities is an important one to be heard in the immigration debate. She said Stanford expects to join additional amicus briefs in the coming days, including one focusing on the impact at hospitals and medical centers.

Among other things, the Jan. 27 executive order imposed restrictions for 90 days on entry or re-entry to the United States of people from seven countries – Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen. Action by federal courts has temporarily suspended implementation of the executive order, and legal proceedings around it are continuing.

Stanford leaders have joined others in the academic community in criticizing the executive order and have articulated key principles for Stanford’s response.

Stanford also is offering a range of support services for those in the Stanford community with needs and questions about immigration issues. The Bechtel International Center is connecting members of the campus community with legal assistance, drawing on expanded staffing in the Immigrants’ Rights Clinic of Stanford Law School. Informational sessions, expanded counseling, international travel guidance and emergency financial support also are being provided.

In the amicus brief filed Monday, the 17 universities acknowledge the importance of ensuring the safety and security of the United States. However, they say, there is no evidence that their international students and scholars, all of whom are legally residing in the United States and were extensively vetted before entering, pose a security threat to the country.

Moreover, the universities argue, the executive order hurts the ability of American universities to attract the best students, faculty and scholars from around the world and threatens international academic collaboration.

“The Executive Order has serious and chilling implications for [the universities’] students, faculty and scholars,” the brief reads. “By prohibiting persons from freely traveling to and from this country, the Executive Order divides students and their families, impairs the ability of American universities to draw the finest international talent, and inhibits the free exchange of ideas.”

International students and scholars make significant contributions to their academic fields and to the American campuses where they study, the brief argues. They also make significant economic, scientific, artistic and social contributions to the United States and the world, it says.

But the executive order separates students and scholars from their family members in other countries and effectively forces many individuals to remain in the United States, the brief says. The order will discourage others from coming to the United States for conferences, symposia and other academic exchanges, the brief says, and more broadly will deter students and scholars from seeking to come to American universities, given the risks and uncertainties.

“Moreover, if a valid visa may be revoked at any moment based simply on a person’s country of origin, the Executive Order alters the perceived cost-benefit analysis of studying or teaching here, even for persons from countries unaffected by this particular Executive Order,” the brief says. “Studying and working in this country has historically been a key asset to attract international talent to American universities; by casting uncertainty on that process, the Executive Order turns that asset into a risk factor that may deter rather than attract talent.”