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March 2017

Unis fight the ban

Travel Ban pic1 pic courtesy Ted Eytan


At the end of January the US state of Washington was the first to file a lawsuit against President Donald Trump in a bid to stop his executive order barring entry to the United States from seven countries. About a week later, over seventeen states had filed an amicus brief to support the lawsuit.

Some of them mentioned their need to protect their international education industry. International students or academics returning to the US after a trip abroad have been detained at airports due to the travel ban.

This could potentially jeopardise the future of a very lucrative sector; international education contributed $32.8 billion to the economy and supported 400,812 jobs in 2016, according to Nafsa. It could also damage the quality of academic research. For these reasons, a group of universities joined the lawsuit as amici – among them, the Ivy League universities. These institutions stated that international students ‘contribute to the United States and the world more generally by making scientific discoveries, starting businesses and creating works of literature and art that redound to the benefit of others far beyond their campuses’. Out of the seven countries affected by the travel ban, Iran is by far the most represented in the US international education sector (see graph below). According to the Open Doors 2016 report, there were 11,338 Iranian students in the US and 1,522 scholars – which makes Iran the eleventh-highest sending country for students and the fifteenth for scholars. In their amicus brief, the universities report that more than 3,000 Iranian students have obtained a PhD in the US in the past year. The potential departure of so many talented students and researchers, they warned, does not serve the US national interest.

Chart for America

Pic courtesy: Ted Eytan

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