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17 U.S. Universities file legal brief to challenge Trump’s #MuslimBan

Columbia University students gather to protest President Donald Trump's immigration order Monday, Jan. 30, 2017, in New York. Image via AP Photo/Frank Franklin II.

On Monday, nearly 20 U.S. universities filed an amicus curiae (friend-of-the-court) brief to support a legal challenge to to the Trump administration’s executive order on immigration, arguing that the order threatens the universities’ academic mission.

The legal challenge is through a civil action initiated by the the attorney general of New York and others in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of New York and seeks for, among others, a permanent injunction against the enforcement of the executive order.

The executive order that was signed on January 27, suspends most immigration from seven Muslim-majority countries – Syria, Iran, Iraq, Sudan, Libya, Somalia and Yemen – for 90 days. The order, popularly dubbed as the “Muslim Ban”, also suspends refugee admission to the U.S. for 120 days and the admission of Syrian refugees indefinitely.

The order had initially resulted in a week of panic and chaos, but as of now, a federal court has stayed the executive order from being implemented, pending the resolution of another case challenging it.

Eight Ivy League institutions signed onto the brief, together with nine other universities: Brown University, 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, Stanford University, Vanderbilt University, and Yale University.

Citing their global missions, the universities stated in the legal brief that their institutions depend on and derive “immeasurable benefit” from their international cohort of students, scholars, staff, and faculty from around the world.

“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 brief added.

Columbia University students state their opinion against President Trump’s immigration ban. Image via AP Photo/Frank Franklin II.

“The Executive Order at issue in this case threatens that ability, and creates significant hardship for amici’s valued international students, faculty, and scholars.”
Pointing out that the executive order had caused “damaging effects” on their universities’ global missions, the universities added that these effects were unwarranted, as their international community were lawfully present on U.S. soil.
“And they are being experienced absent any evidence that amici’s lawfully-present students, faculty, and scholars — all of whom have already undergone significant vetting by the government — pose any threat to the safety or security of the United States or amici’s campuses.
“The universities conclude the brief by asserting their strict commitment on the “safety and security of their campuses and of 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,” said the brief.
However, they “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 and people across borders and the welcoming of immigrants to our universities”.

Princeton’s student leaders laud universities’ legal move

Diego Negrón-Reichard, the outreach chair of Princeton Advocates for Justice, approved the move by Princeton and the other 16 universities, calling it “particularly powerful to see universities work together so to see Penn’s president and Eisgruber write that letter together, to see higher learning institutions condemning the action because it hurts our faculty and students”, as quoted by The Daily Princetonian.
“It makes students feel more supported,” he added.
University of Pennsylvania’s President Amy Gutmann and Princeton University’s President Christopher Eisgruber had jointly initiated a letter cited in the amicus brief, which “they and 46 other college and university presidents and chancellors sent to President Trump last week asking him to rectify or rescind the executive order,” according to Princeton’s press release.

Co-president of Princeton’s Latinos y Amigos Samuel Santiago also felt that that the legal move reflected positively on Princeton.

“I definitely feel like this is a good step,” he said. “It shows that the university is committed to its students who come to Princeton, who make it a more vibrant and diverse community.”

Ramzie Fathy, the president for Princeton’s Muslim Advocates for Social Justice and Individual Dignity, said that he thinks the amicus brief is powerful, not just because of the number of institutions.

“[Eisgruber is] a constitutional lawyer, so I think it’s good that he’s spearheading this,” Fathy said.

All three student leaders agree that while this is a good step taken, more can be done both inside and outside their university, such as offering financial aid to undocumented students as well as the possibility of declaring the university a sanctuary campus.

Urging students to be more involved, including for the upcoming Immigration Day of Action on February 17, Fathy said: “The biggest emphasis is that this doesn’t mean that we’re in the clear, this is just another avenue and students should still get involved. It’s not over yet.”

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