I received this email from a postdoc in a technical field:
As you might have heard, Trump signed an executive order today issuing a 30-day total suspension of visas and other immigration benefits for the citizens of Iran and six other countries. For my wife and me, this means that our visas are suspended; we cannot reenter the country if we travel outside. Moreover, this ban could become permanent after the 30-day period. This is really distracting and distressing, particularly given that my wife just came here to join me. I really hope the ban does not become permanent; I enjoy my experience here [in the United States] and would really like to finish my post-doc. But, to be prepared for the worst, I started to look for jobs in Canada, just in case the ban becomes permanent.
P.S. There is an open letter which will be published soon. It aims to show the strong opposition of the academic community to the new measure and hopes to prevent it going forward. It would be great if you could read this and if agreeable, send an email to the following email address email@example.com to provide your support by writing your name, title and affiliation.
There’s some discussion in the above-linked news article about the constitutionality of the executive order, based on this passage:
Upon the resumption of USRAP admissions, the secretary of state, in consultation with the secretary of Homeland Security, is further directed to make changes, to the extent permitted by law, to prioritize refugee claims made by individuals on the basis of religious-based persecution, provided that the religion of the individual is a minority religion in the individual’s country of nationality.
This could be viewed as violating the “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof” clause in the First Amendment, because, given the countries named in the orders (all of which are Muslim-majority), Muslims are singled out as the only non-protected religious group here.
But, hey, I’m no constitutional lawyer. Maybe the Supreme Court will not strike down this order because the discrimination is indirect, or because it only applies to foreigners, or because it’s an executive order so “Congress shall make no law” does not apply. Or maybe the whole plan is to enact this and other outrageous laws and executive orders, have the courts strike them down, and use that to stoke further political outrage. I have no idea.
I just wanted to share the above note, not so much to demonstrate the human cost of this policy, since the human cost is obvious, but rather to point out that (a) it’s affecting people who are already here legally, and doing valuable work, and (b) there’s also a direct economic cost, if productive researchers decide to go to Canada, or if potential future contributors to our economy decide not to come here in the first place.
And, by the way, even if the policy is a clever political feint in Steve Bannon’s game of 12-dimensional chess, it can still do its part to hurt our economy by dissuading talented people from coming here.
One could easily provide a long long list of immigrants from dangerous countries who became valuable contributors to the United States economy, culture, and defense. My #1 item on this list: Stanislaw Ulam.
P.S. While I was writing this list, my correspondent sent me an update:
In the final version of the order, they increased the 30-day ban (which was mentioned in the leaked draft) to 90 days.