More than 40 Nobel laureates, more than 7000 academic faculty members, and the CEO of at least one biotech giant have voiced opposition in recent days to President Trump’s executive order restricting immigration from seven majority-Muslim nations.
The Nobel laureates and academics have signed an online petition decrying the executive order as discriminatory, detrimental to U.S. national interests, and imposing undue burdens.
“The EO [executive order] significantly damages American leadership in higher education and research,” according to the petition, titled Academics Against Immigration Executive Order. “The proposed EO limits collaborations with researchers from these nations by restricting entry of these researchers to the U.S. and can potentially lead to departure of many talented individuals who are current and future researchers and entrepreneurs in the U.S.”
The order poses undue burdens, according to the petition, because it “will necessarily tear families apart by restricting entry for family members who live outside of the U.S. and limiting the ability to travel for those who reside and work in the U.S.”
“This measure is fatally disruptive to the lives of these immigrants, their families, and the communities of which they form an integral part. It is inhumane, ineffective, and un-American,” the petition declared.
Trump and aides have defended the executive order, whose stated purposes include “to protect the American people from terrorist attacks by foreign nationals admitted to the United States,” adding: “The United States cannot, and should not, admit those who do not support the Constitution, or those who would place violent ideologies over American law.”
The order suspends issuing of visas for 90 days to nationals entering the U.S. from Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria, and Yemen. During that time, the Department of Homeland Security is to review “information needed from any country to adjudicate any visa, admission, or other benefit under the [Immigration and Nationality Act] (adjudications) in order to determine that the individual seeking the benefit is who the individual claims to be and is not a security or public-safety threat.”
However, the secretaries of State and Homeland Security may make exceptions on a case-by-case basis. And after the executive order was initially enforced through detentions of holders of green cards and dual citizenship, Secretary of Homeland Security John Kelly yesterday stated that he deemed the entry of lawful permanent residents in the national interest “absent the receipt of significant derogatory information indicating a serious threat to public safety and welfare.”
The executive order also indefinitely blocks refugees from entering the U.S. from Syria and suspends admission of refugees for 120 days, during which time the administration has said it plans to develop an improved security screening process, then cap admissions at 50,000 refugees annually.
Nobel laureates in physiology or medicine who signed the petition as of 8 a.m. ET Monday included Richard Axel of Columbia University; Linda B. Buck of the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center; Andrew Fire of Stanford University School of Medicine; Roger Guillemin of the Salk Institute; Edvard Moser of Norwegian University of Science and Technology; and May-Britt Moser, Chair of the Kavli Institute for Systems Neuroscience, Norwegian University of Science and Technology.
Also, Randy Schekman of University of California, Berkeley; Jack Szostak; Thomas C. Südhof of Stanford University School of Medicine; former NIH and National Cancer Institute director Harold Varmus of Weill Cornell Medicine; Eric Wieschaus of Princeton University; and Torsten N. Wiesel, president emeritus of The Rockefeller University.
Separately, Allergan CEO Brent Saunders issued a tweet decrying the executive order: “Oppose any policy that puts limitations on our ability to attract the best & diverse talent.”
Two days before the executive order was signed, the research advocacy group Research!America released results of a survey revealing a split among Americans on whether they believe the U.S. will be viewed as the global leader in science and innovation under President Trump: 41% agreed, 40% disagreed, and 19% were not sure. Respondents who agreed included 70% of Republicans, 34% of independents, and only 19% of Democrats.
The executive order capped a first week for the Trump administration that included restrictions on public communications by researchers at several agencies; the removal of pages supportive of human-caused climate change from the White House website—and plans by researchers opposed to Trump administration policies to organize a Scientists’ March on Washington. No date had been set at deadline, though organizers have established a twitter handle (@ScienceMarchDC) and a Facebook page.
Among organizations showing support for the march is GEN publisher Mary Ann Liebert Inc., which said Saturday it will donate 5000 pairs of green shoelaces to scientists participating in the march or to anyone else who wants to support American science and discovery.
“GoGreen Shoelaces for Science™ will be both a walking testament and daily reminder that we must ensure the advancement of all areas of science and support the widespread dissemination of research,” said Mary Ann Liebert, the company’s president and CEO.