Could the Trump administration's Jan. 27 executive order on immigration have a chilling effect on scientific exchange and technological development?
The American Chemical Society and 150 other scientific societies, associations and universities have told the Trump administration they think it could.
In a Jan. 31 letter, the groups said they were “deeply concerned” that the order would hurt the ability of scientists and engineers in both industry and academia from coming into and out of the United States, and hurt the ability of the U.S. to remain a world leader in science and technology.
“The Executive Order will discourage many of the best and brightest international sudents, scholars, engineers and scientists from studying and working, attending academic and scientific conferences, or seeking to build new businesses in the United States,” it said.
“Implementation of this policy will compromise the United States' ability to attract international scientific talent and maintain scientific and economic leadership,” the groups said. They urged the government to rescind the order.
ACS, which says it's the world largest scientific society with 157,000 members, put out its own statement a day earlier where it called on the government to find what it said were less intrusive means to meet the order's goals of preventing terrorists from entering the U.S.
“While ACS understands the administration has communicated that the intent of the order is to prevent terrorists from entering the country,” ACS said, “it feels that the order itself is overly broad in its reach, unfairly targets individuals from a handful of nations, ignores established mechanisms designed to achieve the ends sought by the order, and sets potential precedent for future executive orders.”
ACS, based in Washington, noted media reports of confusion in airports and people with visas for approved trips being turned away.
The order temporarily bans travel from seven majority-Muslim countries, temporarily suspends admissions of all refugees and bars Syrian refugees indefinitely. The Trump administration said the restrictions are needed to prevent terrorists from entering the United States.
This story from Chemical and Engineering News said the biggest impact would likely be for scientists and students from Iran, which sent more than 12,000 students to the U.S. in 2016.
The magazine said it couldn't find examples of chemists caught up in the immediate turmoil at U.S. airports, but it did talk with to chemists with ties to both the United States and the countries in the ban, and how their lives are impacted.
The magazine also noted that most Middle Eastern nations with large chemical industries were excluded from the order, with the exception of Iran.
This is a fast-moving situation, with a U.S. District Court judge in Seattle putting a temporary restraining order on the government's order on Feb. 3. For now the legal activity seems focused on 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco, which, because of the high level of interest, is maintaining this website of filings to the appellate court, if you're curious to read more.
Some owners of plastics companies are starting to weigh in. This New York Times interview with Shahid Khan, the owner of auto components plastics supplier Flex-N-Gate Corp., quoted Khan as saying he voted for Trump but opposed the President's immigration order.
Khan, who also owns the Jacksonville Jaguars in the National Football League, is a Muslim and an immigrant from Pakistan, and said that while he generally supported Trump's economic plans, he hoped that the President would have moderated his views on immigrants and Islam after taking office.
He spoke in Houston on the sideline of events leading up to the Super Bowl. Flex-N-Gate has 14 injection molding plants and more than $300 million in related sales in North America.