How does this executive order affect science and policy according to you? Personal Stories.

SURVEY RESPONDENT: A student, a visa-holder

I first came to US 10 years ago as a young passionate student, who wanted to become a scientist. I had a single entry visa, which meant that if I left US, my re-entry and the continuation of my studies was uncertain. So, I stayed the entire 5 years of my PhD studies in US without being able to see my family. During this time I lost a family member, and I always regret not being able to see her for the last days of her life, and not even being able to attend her funeral. At that time, this affected me so deeply, and even caused me severe depression. I can understand first handedly how such an erratic decision could change the lives and affect the mental health of so many students and professionals working in US universities. I am sure they all have a deep passion that motivates them to endure the difficulties of being away from family, and seek education and growth. And they certainly do not deserve such a cruelty.

AN OPEN LETTER

Dear everyone,

Today I write to you with the hope that you understand why I think this ban will affect our scientific community.

       I have legally entered the United States, Europe, and other countries in the past. I was accepted in the postdoctoral program at the University of Pennsylvania. I study in the Biomedical Sciences field. I have always been in the top 1% of my classes in several competitions through out my scientific career. I am not a drain on any countries economy. In fact, I am an asset to them as a scientist. I pay taxes every year in the United States and consider myself a good Samaritan. I am not a threat to United States. I came here because I also wanted to pursue the “American Dream”. I am a person of good moral character. I have not committed any crimes. I have not been involved in the US criminal justice system in any capacity. I am disappointed. I already went through an extreme vetting process prior to entering the United States and all process was 100% legal. I do my science and hang out with American friends. I go for movies and live the American dream.

       Please permit the Irani doctor who has cancer patients relying on them into the United States. Please consider the six-year old child who went back to Iran from his chemotherapy regimen. Please let them in. Please let me stay and complete my training. Please consider permitting scientists to continue their research without being banned from meeting their loved ones in their original country. I do love America.

Respectfully,

Immigrant*

*The original message was modified by Editor-in-Chief to keep the contributor anonymous.

 SURVEY RESPONDENT: A passionate writer with a lot to say

President Trump’s executive order has nothing to do with science, nor does it have any systemic, adverse effect on scientific progression. In all seriousness, I’m fairly confident medical and technological research will continue to do just fine during this momentary travel ban. I will try to offer counter arguments to the mainstream objections in a way that will hopefully make the order seem more reasonable. In my opinion, the sole purpose of this action is to prevent potential terrorists from entering the US until a more effective screening process is implemented. Now, one of the objections to the order is that President Trump handpicked these countries in some fit of xenophobic rage. As surprisingly effective it would have been had that been the case, the countries listed were already hostile to our way of life and were pre-designated by the Obama administration to be dangerous. Let me be clear. Cultural norms such as honor killings, female genital mutilation, and Sharia law that are integral to these countries are despicable and should not be tolerated. Notice how many of this evil cultural components target women and when reading the order, it is these cruel practices that are explicitly stated in the order’s design to safeguard our country from. As a final point in this regard, it strikes me as very hypocritical for people espousing women rights to completely reject the ban in this sense. Relating back to science, the goal of trying to protect freedom of thought and ideas, something science relies heavily on, I feel perfectly aligns with scientific advancement. Maybe you disagree with the method or on the other side of the spectrum feel that the ban didn’t go far enough, if we can just accept this desire to defend our society, and then hopefully we can observe reduced confusion. Secondly, and perhaps the most virulent strain of objection, is the notion that President Trump is specifically banning Muslims, basically creating a religious test for immigrant entry. While it is true that the proportion of Muslims in these countries is vastly greater than any other religious identity, to be absolutely clear, nowhere in the order does it mention Muslims or Islam. Of course, everyone has the right to read deeper into the situation and infer that this order, at its core, is designed to discriminate against Muslims. Unfortunately, mind reading is not a sound basis for disagreement. The words in the executive order are the only thing that can and should be judged, and undeniably makes no claim to a religious test or ban. Additionally, had this in fact been a ban on Muslims, it would seem shocking that the countries with the highest Muslim population, Indonesia and India, were not placed on the list. Therefore, the travel ban must be rooted in nationality, specifically of countries that actively denounce American values, as its criteria. Relating back to science, it’s reasonable to me to want to ensure our scientific insights aren’t maliciously employed in the hands of terrorists. Bioterrorism should be a serious concern, given the current genetic technology, and from that angle, I personally am okay with poorly vetted people not gaining access to laboratories in the US. When families are separated or refugees forced to struggle, it paints a very harsh and unfair picture. And people have every right to express their opinions that this ban creates unnecessary stress, heartache, and an “immoral” America. Well, while I would be distraught too if my family or friends were denied a better life, I would also recognize that this is the reality of a world with a major terrorism issue…who am I to risk the lives of another citizen just because the immigrants in question are related to me? Only I know that they are innocent, peace-loving people and it would be disrespectful of me to denounce a country’s role or policy for vigorously protecting its citizens. It’s not about reducing our liberty for the sake of expanded governmental oversight; it’s about safeguarding our liberty from corrupt, inhuman ways of life. My family, as well as myself, would have to acknowledge this paramount duty of government and accept that while it may take longer, this is the best way to ensure everyone’s safety. There are more arguments against emotion that I could talk about, such as America’s role in foreign countries, issues with assimilation, resource availability as a function of population distribution, economic impacts, rights of non-citizens, and so on. All of these I think have relevance to the migrant crisis as a whole as well. Relating back to science, one can certainly make anecdotal cases about the effects on immigrant students or contributions of scientists from those countries. But I would remind everyone that it’s only a temporary ban, and again students and scientists should not be assumed to be innocent. Everyone from those countries has to be fair game within reason, unless of course we can start realistically profiling. Bottom line, the real enemy here is not Trump or the US government, but the opaqueness of intentions towards US citizens that surround those countries. From my own thoughts, until people seeking entry into our country can be properly screened, why is it so terrible to pause immigration from those nations as a preventive measure? It’s not a xenophobic or anything arbitrarily phobic crime to protect the freedom of our citizens from those that wish to do us harm. How is it against what we stand for to want to safeguard our people to the best of our abilities? In fact, that is the number one thing we stand for. America is a land that will more ferociously defend an individual’s right, whoever that person may be and whatever threat may arise, than any other place on Earth. Scientists should understand more than most this sovereign, constitutional right to defend us. In conclusion, everyone needs to realize that it’s not our responsibility to take care of everyone and acknowledge the disproportionately ill-willed people residing in those nations. A disturbing number of people suffer in those countries, absolutely, but it’s just not practical to expect to take in all the innocent ones and leave all the malicious. This is a horrible situation but something that seriously needs to be accepted. We need to take care of our country’s citizens and protect our values, such as free speech, first. This order in my opinion helps ensure we have a safe place to even do science and in no obvious way is detrimental to our continued efforts to unlock nature’s mysteries.

SURVEY RESPONDENT: See both sides.

I believe it hinders our ability to work collaboratively with brilliant minds from around the world. Science transcends nationality or religion, and it is the inherent differences in each person that allows for new views to be obtained on a subject. It also adds stress to those working in our field that are directly affected by the travel ban or have family members affected; knowing that it may be several months before you may see your wife and children again because they live in one of the “banned” areas adds tremendous stress and hinders productivity in our workplace. I also have previous colleagues that worked on the forensic cases pertaining to identifying remains of those lost in the 9/11 attacks. Some of these people were permanently impacted by those events, which lead them to strongly support this ban. These passionate feelings, which I can understand the foundations of both arguments, have lead to a strongly divided workplace during times.

 

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