Trump’s Immigration Ban Is Already Harming American Science

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In light of the unconstitutional executive order banning banning citizens of seven predominantly Muslim countries—Iraq, Iran, Syria, Somalia, Sudan, Libya, and Yemen—from entering America under any visa, for at least 120 days, I have been keeping a close watch on how this new order is impacting higher education students. The results so far are devastating, and I cannot overstate the impact of having to cancel academic job interviews, weeks of classes, closing on apartments, or being separated from loved ones. The logistics of this ban are forcing students both in the U.S. and those abroad for winter break, returning to, or beginning a new program, to put everything on hold.

For so many people, a funded PhD, or a Masters degree, or even completing an undergraduate degree, is a once in a lifetime opportunity. I do not know yet how universities are going to response, or if departments will have the bureaucratic power to save funding, or spots, for students to return in the future. Unwarranted fear of others will only hurt U.S. education, as well all thrive when we can learn from each other. This article from the Atlantic illustrates the impact on the sciences. I have pulled quotes from this below, but you can read the whole article here:

The new policies could also isolate American institutions from major sources of foreign talent. “The upshot is that, until further notice, science departments at American universities can no longer recruit PhD students from Iran—a country that… has long been the source of some of our best talent,” wrote Scott Aronson (Mehraban’s supervisor), on his personal blog. “This will directly affect this year’s recruiting season, which is just now getting underway.”

Every scientist whom I contacted for this story had tales of colleagues who left and are being denied re-entry, friends who were applying for jobs in the U.S. and now reconsidering, departments that have lost prospective hires, international collaborators who were planning to travel to the U.S. for research but have been denied entry, and foreign academics who are planning to boycott American conferences. “It’s going to destabilize a lot of labs, faculty recruitments, contributions from conferences,” says Houra Merrikh from the University of Washington. “This will have a big impact at all levels in science.”

Azi Fattahi, an Iranian astrophysicist who studies the evolution of galaxies, and is working on a PhD at the University of Victoria listed talks and interviews she now cannot attend.

“There is excellent research being done in the U.S. but I won’t have the opportunity to even think about there now,” she says. “I have to go to Europe.”

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