GW Joins Amicus Brief Opposing Trump’s Travel Ban

Thirty-one universities said order harms their ability to attract international students, faculty and staff.

September 22, 2017

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By Ruth Steinhardt

Note: On Sept. 25, the Supreme Court removed the travel ban cases from its calendar. 

The George Washington University joined 30 other institutions of higher learning in an amicus brief to the U.S. Supreme Court challenging the Trump administration’s executive order on immigration.

Issued in March, the revised executive order blocks citizens of Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen from entering the United States. Two federal district courts enjoined aspects of the Order and were affirmed by two federal courts of appeals.  A Supreme Court decision in June allowed the ban to move forward on a limited basis but upheld the orders blocking the ban as to people with a “bona fide relationship” with a person or institution in the United States.

According to the brief, filed Sept. 18, American universities are harmed by the order because it threatens their ability to attract international students, faculty, staff and scholars, and deprives universities of the benefits these community members contribute.

“The George Washington University, located in the nation’s capital, relies on faculty and students from around the world to promote diverse points of view in the classroom and in research endeavors,” the brief stated. “These international faculty and students account for or contribute significantly to scientific breakthroughs and nurture the intellectual curiosity of their American counterparts. More than 4,000 international students are currently enrolled at GW, constituting approximately 15 percent of the student body.”

An amicus brief is a document filed by non-litigants who have a strong interest in the case at issue, providing arguments or information that the court may wish to consider. GW and the other signatory universities filed a similar brief with the Fourth Circuit in March and with the Ninth Circuit in April. 

 “Though [the filing universities] are located in the United States, their missions and reach are global: they educate, employ, conduct research and collaborate with students, faculty and scholars from all over the world,” the parties wrote in the brief. “These individuals make significant contributions to their fields of study and to campus life by bringing their unique perspectives and talents to classrooms, laboratories, and performance spaces.”

The brief also argued that, by admitting only persons with a “bona fide” relationship to the United States, the ban creates unresolved questions that complicate universities’ ability to recruit international students and scholars.

“May prospective students enter the country to visit a campus before applying for admission?” the parties wrote. “May a prospective faculty member visit the U.S. to give a job talk? May a scholar enter the country to attend but not speak at a conference? To accept an uncompensated academic appointment? Given these sorts of unresolved questions, the Order, even as partially stayed, has a pronounced chilling effect on persons who would apply to, or be recruited or invited by, [universities] in the future.”

The 31 universities signing on to the brief are Boston University, Brandeis University, Brown University, Bucknell University, Carnegie Mellon University, Case Western Reserve University, Columbia University, Cornell University, Dartmouth College, Duke University, Emory University, George Washington University, Georgetown University, Harvard University, Johns Hopkins University, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Middlebury College, Northeastern University, Northwestern University, Princeton University, Rice University, Stanford University, Tufts University, University of Chicago, University of Michigan, University of Pennsylvania, University of Southern California, Vanderbilt University, Washington University in St. Louis, Worcester Polytechnic Institute and Yale University.

Read the full brief here.