Supreme Court Travel Ban Review Shouldn’t Affect Students, Staff

University still advises consultation with ISSO advisors


The Supreme Court yesterday allowed certain travel restrictions sought by President Trump to take effect, but an exception appears to cover BU affiliates. Photo by sframephoto/iStock.

BU students, faculty, and staff, including students admitted beginning this fall, apparently will not be barred from entering the United States and seeking a new visa by the partial travel ban temporarily allowed by the Supreme Court yesterday. The University nevertheless advises visa and green card holders to consult with the International Students and Scholars Office (ISSO) on travel plans.

The court allowed parts of President Trump’s restrictions on people seeking entrance from six Muslim-majority nations, first issued in January and revised in March, but ruled that those restrictions “may not be enforced against foreign nationals who have a credible claim of a bona fide relationship with a person or entity in the United States.” The high court said it would revisit the travel restrictions this fall to render a final decision.

“It appears that individuals from the six listed countries seeking to study, engage in other scholarly activity, or work at Boston University would have a credible claim of a bona fide relationship with a US entity, allowing them to be granted a new visa,” says Willis Wang, a BU vice president, associate provost for global programs, and deputy general counsel. The six countries are Libya, Syria, Iran, Sudan, Yemen, and Somalia.

Wang says that while anyone with a valid visa or green card status should be eligible to enter the country, “the situation has been quite fluid, so we strongly advise people to seek advice from their International Students and Scholars Office advisor. BU will do what we can to assist our students, faculty, and staff in documenting their relationship with our University so that they may travel here and continue being an important component of our community.

“If a person does not have a valid visa and has applied for one,” he says, “what we have heard is that the process of obtaining a new visa has slowed significantly. Hopefully, when the Supreme Court reconvenes in October to hear the case, it will strike down the executive order in its entirety.”

Trump’s revised March executive order barred most people seeking to enter the United States from the six nations for 90 days, and all refugees for 120 days. The president argues that the restrictions are necessary to keep potential terrorists away while his administration studies current vetting procedures for immigrants. The Supreme Court’s decision also gave a green light to that study.

Critics of the travel ban, noting that no residents of the six affected nations have committed terrorism on US soil since the 9/11 attacks, branded the restrictions unconstitutional religious prejudice. Two federal judges and two federal appeals courts blocked the restrictions either on those grounds or on grounds of violating immigration law.

The Supreme Court decision included a partial dissent from Justices Clarence Thomas, Samuel Alito, and Neil Gorsuch; they wanted the ban to apply to all travelers.

The decision “is not a victory for the Trump administration,” says Sarah Sherman-Stokes, a School of Law clinical instructor in the Immigrants’ Rights and Human Trafficking Program.

“It appears from the language of the decision that this ban will primarily impact refugees who have no bona fide relationship with a person or entity in the United States,” she adds. “Many refugees waiting abroad already have family members here in the United States. While implementation of this watered-down ban will be devastating to many, I think the group it will impact is considerably smaller than it could have been. I’m hopeful that the Supreme Court will permanently strike it down in its entirety this fall.”

Author, Rich Barlow can be reached at