On Monday, President Trump issued a new executive order designed to suspend immigration to the U.S. from six countries considered either state-sponsors of terrorism or homes to terrorist activities, for 90 days beginning March 16, 2017. Like the President’s previous order, the new order halts visa issuance to nationals of Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria, and Yemen (Iraq is not included in the revised order), and it exempts nationals from those countries who already have approved visas or who have permanent residence status in the U.S.
CRA issued a statement opposing the President’s first order on January 27, 2017, arguing that the order would create uncertainty and hardship for many students and researchers already studying and working at U.S. institutions. We also argued that the ban would likely discourage foreign-born researchers from bringing their talents to the U.S. in the future, significantly hurting our national competitiveness.
While we retain these concerns about the new order, certain exceptions could alleviate the immediate impacts on current researchers and students. In addition to exempting travelers who already have visas permanent residency status, the order adds exceptions to be considered under a case-by-case waiver system. There are nine such exceptions, but the first four seem most relevant to the computing research community:
(i) the foreign national has previously been admitted to the United States for a continuous period of work, study, or other long-term activity, is outside the United States on the effective date of this order, seeks to reenter the United States to resume that activity, and the denial of reentry during the suspension period would impair that activity;
(ii) the foreign national has previously established significant contacts with the United States but is outside the United States on the effective date of this order for work, study, or other lawful activity;
(iii) the foreign national seeks to enter the United States for significant business or professional obligations and the denial of entry during the suspension period would impair those obligations;
(iv) the foreign national seeks to enter the United States to visit or reside with a close family member (e.g., a spouse, child, or parent) who is a United States citizen, lawful permanent resident, or alien lawfully admitted on a valid nonimmigrant visa, and the denial of entry during the suspension period would cause undue hardship;
In particular, exception (iii) appears to apply to new incoming students, visiting faculty or participants in academic or professional conferences, although only on a case-by-case basis. If so, these exceptions would help mitigate negative effects on our community, although clarification is clearly needed. We hope the administration will provide that clarification soon.
Even with these possible exceptions, the ban sends a message that will discourage talented researchers and students from around the world from traveling to the U.S. As noted in our original statement, the U.S. enjoys its leadership role in science and technology in part because the world’s best and brightest bring their talents here to be a part of U.S. scholarship and innovation. Policies that discourage the world’s best science and engineering talent from coming to the U.S. threaten our leadership in science and engineering. We urge the Administration to clarify how the exceptions policy will be implemented and to ensure that the order is truly temporary.