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Harvard Files New Amicus Brief Against Immigration Order

Demonstrators hold signs opposing President Donald Trump's immigration ban during a rally in Harvard Square in January.
Demonstrators hold signs opposing President Donald Trump's immigration ban during a rally in Harvard Square in January. By Timothy R. O'Meara
By Claire E. Parker, Crimson Staff Writer

Harvard argued that President Donald Trump’s latest immigration order imperils its educational missions in an amicus briefing filed on Friday with 30 other colleges and universities supporting a nationwide injunction on the order.

A federal judge in Maryland issued the injunction March 16, reinforcing an earlier decision by a judge in Hawaii to prevent the order from taking effect. The Justice Department is now challenging that ruling in the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals.

In their brief, the universities argue that if the Trump administration prevails—meaning the travel ban gets reinstated—their institutions will become less diverse and lose international prominence.

“The Executive Order has serious and chilling implications for amici’s students, faculty, and scholars,” the brief reads. Other signatories include Brown University, Stanford University, and Yale University.

The the latest iteration of Trump’s efforts to restrict immigration from the Muslim majority countries, the executive order bars citizens of six predominantly Muslim countries—Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria, and Yemen—from obtaining new visas to enter the United States. This is the second time the courts have challenged Trump’s immigration efforts; a Seattle federal judge struck down the previous order, which included Iraq in the list and restricted travel for current visa holders as well.

Forty-five students and 63 scholars from the six listed countries attend or work at Harvard, and the University admitted 23 students from those countries for the fall of 2017, according to the brief.

“As the court considers the legal challenge to the executive order, we thought it important to have our voice heard about the significant impact the executive order has had – and will have – on colleges and universities,” Harvard General Counsel Robert W. Iuliano wrote in a statement.

Harvard challenged that first order in two amicus briefs, in addition to those filed by the Harvard Immigration and Refugee Clinic at the Law School.

In Friday’s brief, the universities argue that the second order “risks the same damage” as the first, as it similarly hinders their abilities to bring international students and scholars to their campuses.

“The Executive Order at issue here, like its predecessor, threatens amici’s ability to continue to attract these individuals and thus to meet their goals of educating tomorrow’s leaders,” the order reads.

The brief follows a similar line of argument as those presented against the first ban, emphasizing the positive contributions international students and scholars make to their institutions and the United States more broadly.

“Even though the Executive Order is currently limited to six countries, American universities are already feeling its damaging effects,” the brief reads. “The Order threatens amici’s ability to attract the best students, faculty, staff, and scholars from around the world, and thus directly affects amici’s ability to pursue their missions.”

Beyond directly impacting the ability of students and scholars admitted to Harvard from the six listed countries, the order has created a “chilling” effect on the international populations at American universities more broadly, the brief argues.

In the brief, the universities argue that the order has created fear and uncertainty, causing international affiliates to be wary of traveling, admitted foreign students to choose to study elsewhere, and international faculty to boycott conferences in the United States. Participants are withdrawing from a conference hosted by the Harvard Center for Middle Eastern Studies, citing concerns about U.S. immigration policy.

Oral arguments in the appeals case will begin May 8 in Virginia.

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