BU to Supreme Court: Kill Trump Travel Ban

Joins 30 other academic institutions in friends of the court brief

For the third time this year, BU and other universities have gone to court—this time, the highest court in the country—to oppose President Trump’s travel ban on six predominantly Muslim nations.

Yesterday, the University joined 30 other institutions (among them all 8 Ivy League schools and many fellow members of the Association of American Universities) asking the Supreme Court to uphold lower court rulings invalidating the ban. The justices are scheduled to hear the case October 10.

In an amici curiae (friends of the court) brief, the universities say that however the justices rule, the ban already has done damage to US schools.

Trump’s executive order imposing the ban “was issued around the same time amici were sending admissions offers to prospective international students. Against the possibility that they might not obtain visas before the start of the fall semester, many of these admitted students may have chosen to pursue their education in other countries,” the brief reads.

The order “impairs amici’s ability to attract talented individuals from around the globe and so to meet their goals of educating tomorrow’s leaders,” it says.

After lower courts ruled against the ban, the Supreme Court tentatively OK’d some restrictions in advance of next month’s case. In particular, the high court has allowed the government to bar refugees who have made arrangements with resettlement agencies in the United States.

The justices said the ban could not apply to people with a “bona fide relationship” to the United States, such as enrollment at a university. But the brief says the “bona fide” standard muddies whether certain academic collaborations are permissible. One example: the status of international scholars at the signatory schools could be called into question if the standard remains, the brief says.

Trump has argued for the ban as a way to buy time while his administration reviews entry requirements to protect the nation against terrorism. The brief’s signatories say they “take seriously the safety and security of their campuses and the nation: if amici’s campuses were not safe, or the towns and cities in which they are located were not secure, amici could not maintain their world-renowned learning environments.

“Amici, however, believe that safety and security concerns can be addressed in a manner that is consistent with the values America has always stood for, including the free flow of ideas across borders and the welcoming of foreign nationals to our campuses.”

Trump’s travel ban, revised in March from an earlier, stricter version signed in January, puts a 90-day ban on immigration into the country for citizens from Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria, and Yemen. It bans for 120 days refugees from those countries.

Opponents have said entry vetting already is rigorous. They cite Trump’s campaign statements last year to argue that he intends to discriminate, unconstitutionally, against Muslims. Since the 9/11 attacks, no terrorism has been committed on American soil by citizens of the six nations falling under the ban.

“We continue to be deeply concerned about the effect of the executive order on our ability to attract students, faculty, and scholars from the six affected countries and around the world,” says Erika Geetter, BU vice president and general counsel. “It is important for the court to understand the key role played by international students, faculty, and scholars in strengthening the research at US academic institutions, and the way in which these individuals contribute to the diversity, inclusion, and tolerance that is critical to our educational mission.”

Besides Boston University, other signatories of the amici curiae brief from Massachusetts include: Harvard, Brandeis, MIT, Northeastern, Tufts, and Worcester Polytechnic Institute.

Author, Rich Barlow can be reached at barlowr@bu.edu.