An amicus brief filed in federal court on Monday by Stanford University and 16 other universities argues that President Donald Trump's recent executive order on immigration "threatens" their very missions and has "serious and chilling implications" for their international students and faculty.
"In light of the importance of international students, faculty, and scholars to [the filing universities and their educational missions, [the universities have a strong interest in ensuring that individuals from around the globe can continue to enter the United States and become members of [the universities' academic communities who share their unique skills and perspectives with [the universities' other students, faculty, and scholars," the brief states. The universities "similarly have a strong interest in the ability of their students, faculty, and scholars to travel abroad to enhance their research and studies."
Stanford joined Brown University, Carnegie Mellon University, the University of Chicago, Columbia University, Cornell University, Dartmouth University, Duke University, Emory University, Harvard University, Johns Hopkins University, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Northwestern University, the University of Pennsylvania, Princeton University, Vanderbilt University and Yale University in filing the brief. It was filed in federal court for the Eastern District of New York, where one of several cases challenging the Jan. 27 executive order is currently being litigated.
Trump's executive order banned people from seven countries — Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen — from entering the United States for 90 days. Federal courts have temporarily suspended implementation of the executive order, including the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco.
Debra Zumwalt, Stanford vice president and general counsel, said Stanford decided to join the brief "because the perspective of universities is an important one to be heard in the immigration debate," a Stanford News story states.
The brief details the "invaluable contributions" of international students, faculty and scholars to their fields of study and to campus cultures. The brief points to the example of Maryam Mirzakhani, a Stanford professor who grew up in Iran and in 2014 became the first woman to win the Fields Medal, known as the "Nobel Prize of Mathematics." Many programs and centers at the 17 campuses depend on "cross-cultural collaboration" and the ability of students and faculty to travel freely abroad.
"Whether a Libyan undergraduate seeks to study international relations or public health on one of [the universities' campuses, a Somalian graduate student wishes to pursue field research abroad, or a Yemeni faculty member seeks to return home to celebrate a relative’s wedding, each depends on the ability to travel to and from the United States," the brief reads. "Without that ability, a significant number of [the universities' current and prospective students, faculty, and scholars would be unable to benefit from these opportunities."
While universities "can and do take meaningful steps to ensure that the students, faculty, and scholars from around the world continue to choose to study in the United States [they are necessarily constrained by, and dependent on, American immigration and visa policies," the brief states.
The "damaging effects" of the travel ban have already been felt widely at universities across the country, the brief states, with students and faculty "stranded abroad" and others unable to leave the United States to travel for both professional and personal reasons.
As of October, Stanford enrolled 4,164 international students, or 24 percent of the student population, according to the brief. This includes 37 undergraduates and 198 graduate students from the Middle East and North Africa.
Stanford expects to join additional amicus briefs in the coming days, Zumwalt said, including one focusing on the impact at hospitals and medical centers.
The university is continuing to offer informational resources and support, including legal assistance, increased mental-health counseling and emergency financial support, to students and faculty who are affected by the ban, according to Stanford.