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Amicus brief opposes Jan. 27 executive order

By Abigail Gardener

Section: News, Top Stories

February 10, 2017

Brandeis is one of seven other private universities in Massachusetts that signed an amici curiae (friend of the court) brief on Feb. 3 in opposition to President Donald Trump’s Jan. 27 executive order.

The other signatories include Boston College, Boston University, Harvard University, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Northeastern University, Tufts University and Worcester Polytechnic Institute. The brief was filed by the Massachusetts District Court.

The main concerns of the universities (“amici”) who submitted the brief revolve around the idea that the universities will not be able to continue to function properly, nor will they be as successful, with the executive order in place.

“Amici submit this brief to express their concern that the January 27, 2017 Executive Order (‘EO’), entitled ‘Protecting the Nation from Foreign Terrorist Entry into the United States,’ undermines the values and contributions of open academic exchange and collaboration,” the universities stated in the brief.

The universities acknowledged that the need for security in America is valid but also expressed concern that the extent to which the order tries to use security as an excuse to prevent people from coming into the country will adversely affect learning. “It is essential that our commitments to national security not unduly stifle the free flow of ideas and people that are critical to progress in a democratic society,” the brief stated.

Brandeis “counts 12 students and 10 scholars” who have non-immigrant visas from the countries specified (Iraq, Syria, Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan and Yemen) in the executive order. The schools state in the brief that because of the suspension of both immigrants and nonimmigrants from the listed seven countries from entering the U.S. for at least 90 days, the “open academic exchange that is so vital to modern higher education and our national interests” has been jeopardized.

The brief also noted that both students and faculty members at the institutions have already been affected by the executive order. “Amici institutions have seen their students stranded abroad and their faculty members prevented from traveling to and from foreign countries,” the brief said.

This is especially concerning because the brief pointed out that just at Northeastern, “more than 11,000 international students and scholars from 140 different countries connect … and its faculty members collaborate with colleagues all over the world to combat global challenges in health, security and sustainability.”

Without students and faculty from other countries, the institutions of higher education are concerned about America’s ability to progress and continue to contribute to the advancement of the country and the world.

“That effort depends on maintaining a consistent pipeline of the most talented students and scholars from around the world,” the brief said. “And after receiving first-class educations in the United States, the benefits flow in the opposite direction, as those students and scholars take back to their countries the lessons and values they learned here.”

The schools also cited the fact that the executive order has not only already affected students and faculty negatively but will continue to affect the country negatively as well. Once the executive order was signed, over 3,000 international scholars signed a petition boycotting international conferences held in the United States, the brief said.

Other academic institutions across the country have also joined in expressing discontent with the executive order. “Amici are not alone in expressing these concerns—universities and academic organizations across the United States have voiced similar views,” the brief said.

It is not just academic organizations that have similar views either; employees at many technology organizations, like Google, have openly opposed and protested the executive order.

Almost 130 tech companies—among them Google, Apple, Facebook and Microsoft—submitted an amici curiae brief on Sunday, Feb. 5 according to a New York Times article. The brief was filed in the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit and “said Mr. Trump’s order ‘violates the immigration laws and the Constitution,’” The New York Times article said.

In addition to the amici curiae brief, Brandeis President Ron Liebowitz, along with 47 other college and university presidents, signed an open letter to Trump on Feb. 2 expressing discontent with the executive order.

“If left in place, the order threatens both American higher education and the defining principles of our country,” the letter said. “This executive order is dimming the lamp of liberty and staining the country’s reputation. We respectfully urge you to rectify the damage done by this order.”  

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