Northwestern, along with 16 other American universities, signed an amicus curiae brief filed Monday supporting a lawsuit filed by New York attorney general Eric Schneiderman against President Donald Trump’s travel ban.
The order, signed Jan. 27, barred citizens of Iran, Iraq, Sudan, Syria, Libya, Yemen and Somalia from entering the United States for 90 days — a timeline that could be extended with another motion — and blocks refugees from entering the U.S. for 120 days. It prevents Syrian refugees from entering indefinitely.
The lawsuit was filed in the U.S. District Court in the Eastern District of New York following similar lawsuits filed by Massachusetts, Washington and the American Civil Liberties Union. Enforcement of the order is currently suspended following a ruling by a federal judge in Washington state on Feb. 3.
The brief, signed by Northwestern, said the executive order inhibits the 17 institutions’ ability to fulfill their missions of international learning, barring many of their students, scholars and faculty from being on their campuses. The other amici also included Carnegie Mellon University, University of Chicago, Duke University, Emory University, Johns Hopkins University, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Stanford University, Vanderbilt University and all schools in the Ivy League.
The brief argued for the institutions’ need for international students and faculty, many of whom were affected by the executive order. Though all of the signatory institutions are located in the United States, the executive order severely impacts their ability to continue research and attend academic meetings, according to the brief. Citizens of all seven countries named in the order are represented among the universities, according to the brief.
“The Executive Order at issue here threatens amici’s continuing ability to attract these individuals and thus to meet their goals of educating tomorrow’s leaders from around the world,” the brief said.
The brief also said the executive order caused undue harm to many of their students, faculty and scholars, preventing them from returning home and tending to personal obligations.
Phil Harris, the University’s vice president and general counsel, said in a news release that Northwestern joined the brief because the executive order was against the University’s interests of maintaining a diverse student body and a “strong research effort.”
“International students and scholars are critically important to our mission as a global institution,” Harris said in the release.
According to University data, 49 students and 22 scholars at NU during the 2016-17 school year are from the seven countries mentioned in Trump’s executive order. Forty-five of the students and all of the scholars are from Iran.
Third-year computer science Ph.D. student Neda Rohani, treasurer of the Iranian Students Association, said she appreciated increased action from the University supporting students affected by the order. Rohani, an Iranian citizen studying on an F-1 visa, was initially unsatisfied with the response from the University, saying it did not provide adequate resources and information for students affected by the order.
The University has recently been more responsive to inquiries from affected students compared to when the order was first signed, Rohani said, and has provided them legal assistance. Still, she said she is unsure what will happen to the order following the lawsuit.
“Right now I think I’m optimistic because of all of the efforts people have done in different communities,” Rohani said, “But let’s see what happens.”