Date February 13, 2017

Brown joins in legal challenge to executive order on immigration

Brown and 16 other universities argue in an amicus brief filed on Feb. 13 that the Jan. 27 executive order on immigration prevents universities from fulfilling their educational missions.

PROVIDENCE, R.I. [Brown University] — On Feb. 13, Brown University joined 16 other prominent research universities in filing a brief urging a federal court to grant injunctive relief from the enforcement of aspects of its Jan. 27 executive order on immigration.

The amicus brief argues in support of a legal challenge that would prevent the government from detaining individuals based on the executive order, the relief being sought by the plaintiffs in Darweesh v. Trump, a case underway in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of New York.

The brief cites the executive order’s significant burden on students, faculty and scholars as well as the impediments the order posts to the universities’ ability to fulfill their educational missions, which rely on contributions from individuals from across the globe who add unique perspectives and talents to the schools’ campus communities.

“Not only do international students and scholars contribute to the vitality of the Brown campus, they have a strong and positive impact on the broader global community in enduring ways through research, discovery and innovation,” said Brown University President Christina Paxson. “This executive order negatively affects both these individuals and the ultimate impact of American higher education.”

Each of the universities that joined in filing the brief has a global mission and “derives immeasurable benefit from the contributions of diverse students, faculty and scholars from around the world,” the brief states. “Because amici seek to educate future leaders from nearly every continent, attract the world’s best scholars, faculty and students, and work across international borders, they rely on the ability to welcome international students, faculty and scholars into their communities. The executive order at issue in this case threatens that ability and creates significant hardship for amici’s valued international students, faculty and scholars.”

Among other implications, the Jan. 27 executive order prevented individuals from seven countries — Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen — from entering the U.S., even for those with lawful visa status. On Jan. 28, a temporary injunction blocked the removal from the U.S. of individuals who had arrived at airports but were prevented from entry; earlier this month, on Feb. 2, a federal judge extended the emergency stay until Feb. 21.

“While the executive order is currently limited to seven countries, its damaging effects have already been widely felt by American universities,” the brief states, noting its effect across college campuses.

The brief acknowledged the need for national safety and security, but argued that safety and security can be addressed “in a manner that is consistent with the values America has always stood for, including the free flow of ideas and people across borders and the welcoming of immigrants to our universities.”

Brown’s participation in filing the amicus brief follows a number of recent University actions in response to the executive order. To support students and scholars from the seven countries included in the order, Brown has offered access to immigration and legal advising; expanded opportunities to remain on campus throughout their time at Brown; and housing assistance and other resources during break periods. For those who are prevented from traveling to campus, the University is exploring the use of virtual teaching and learning platforms to ensure uninterrupted participation in the Brown educational experience. 

In addition, Paxson signed letters expressing concern about the effects of the executive order from the Association of American Universities, the American Association for the Advancement of Science and a group of peer university presidents.

In a Feb. 3 letter describing the University’s actions to the campus community, Paxson said that Brown has made its position on the executive order crystal clear: “It runs counter to our commitment to free inquiry and the advancement of knowledge; it is antithetical in letter and spirit to our insistence that individual students and scholars should be free to pursue their scholarship and learning without fear of intimidation or discrimination of any kind; and it contradicts our unconditional rejection of every form of bigotry, discrimination, xenophobia and harassment.”

Brown filed today’s brief jointly with Carnegie Mellon University, University of Chicago, Columbia University, Cornell University, Dartmouth College, Duke University, Emory University, Harvard University, Johns Hopkins University, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Northwestern University, University of Pennsylvania, Princeton University, Stanford University, Vanderbilt University and Yale University.

The Feb. 13 brief is available here.