Nearly 15,000 academics, including several Nobel laureates, have signed a petition denouncing an executive order signed by President Donald Trump that bars people from seven Muslim-majority nations from entering the US.

Under the order, signed Friday, nationals of Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria, and Yemen are prohibited from entering the US for at least 90 days, regardless of whether they have green cards or visas.

“We help ourselves by bringing people to our country and training them to be scientists and making America a haven for open thinking,” petition signatory and former National Institutes of Health Director Harold Varmus told STAT. “This is protection against a world that’s divided.”


The order is discriminatory, declares the petition, whose signatories include Nobel laureates Linda Buck of the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center, and Andrew Fire of Stanford University, and well-known Harvard psychology professor Steven Pinker. Furthermore, it threatens to seriously damage the US’s status as a world leader in scientific research, which is built in large part on the labors of immigrants, the petitioners wrote.

“This measure is fatally disruptive to the lives of these immigrants, their families, and the communities of which they form an integral part,” the petition states. “It is inhumane, ineffective, and un-American.”

Meanwhile, the executive order has already had a chilling effect in academia. On Friday evening, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s international scholars department advised students from the seven affected nations to postpone any international travel for fear they might not be able to return to the US.

“While we do not know if official action will be taken and, if so, what that action will entail, we feel it is important to consider all appropriate precautions,” the email stated.

Hakim Djaballah, a biotech executive in New York, said he couldn’t understand how Trump could think it would be beneficial to cut off the exchange of ideas and leave researchers and scientists afraid to come and go for their work. Djaballah, who is originally from Algeria, collaborates often with the Pasteur Institute of Iran, but said he worries the order will sever those ties and impede scientific progress.

“If he’s truly a businessman and an executive, you think he’d understand the diversity of the scientific community, which ends up feeding into the rest of the economy in the US,” Djaballah said. “Diversity is a key element to that. I really don’t know what he’s thinking.”

For Samira Asgari, a postdoctoral fellow at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Lausanne, those fears became real on Saturday. Asgari was slated to fly to Boston to join Dr. Soumya Raychaudhuri’s lab at the Broad Institute. But she was denied boarding at the airport due to her Iranian nationality, Asgari said on Twitter.

Iranian scientist Seyed Soheil Saeedi Saravi is in a similar situation, as his visa was suspended days before he was to fly to the US for a research fellowship at Harvard, the New York Times reported.

Iran is a particularly fertile ground for promising academics, and more than 3,000 students from the country have received PhDs at American universities over the past three years, according to the petitioners.

Meghana Keshavan contributed to this report.

This story has been updated to reflect the number of people who have signed the petition.

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  • And yet not a word when Jimmy Carter did the same as did Obama, now we know why Obama did all his executive orders hidden away from the public’s eye. This is Partisan Politics supported by Soros, drive that dollar down so he can make his billion back. It is only a 90 day order to better secure our Nation from terrorist hot beds, which is the job of the President and this one takes it seriously.

  • It is “The United States” … NOT “The United Nations”. The USA is a sovereign country. It is a privileged … NOT a right. We do not want to turn the USA into a grossly overpopulated welfare state. We do not want the 3rd World dregs … period. Stay in your own GD countries and make them better. Stop mooching off us.

    • Mooching? These are highly skilled scientists who have come to help important research. You lack both a brain and a heart.

    • Adam I retired 35 years from such a Research Center, Phd’s and Doctorates from all over the world, it took a good friend from Russia 2 1/2 years to come to the United States… I far from lack heart, nor brain.

    • Supporting gifted people benefits everyone. If they invent something, create new medical advances etc. How are they mutching off of us? Please open your mind

  • Trump is turning back 8 years of letting thousands of Extremist Muslims in–not our Turkish friends and others alike. I have Muslim friends, but not the ones who want to kill us. Not the anti-American Muslims. It doesn’t take a college degree to do the research.

    • Nah, our greatness came from the founding families who had had enough of a tyrannical British monarch. Massive immigration is a recent phenomenon. Only 11-million extremely vetted immigrants made it through Ellis Island. Today, we get that many immigrants every five years. Unsustainable! We do not have the resources or the space.

  • Barring the entry of people from violent nations is what a responsible government that is not submissive to political correct does. Who cares if scientists are affected? They’re like the new clergy these days to fools.

    • If natives would have thought the same way, you won’t be barking here right now. What about middle-eastern countries that are an actual threat, like Saudi, who were responsible for 9/11? Iran has only contributed to the US providing great scientists and mathematicians. So sad people do not understand that 🙁

  • Now that we will be screening people more close because of the past 2 attacks in France& Germany I say it is about time. The universities & hospitals need to screen people coming & going for all kinds of reasons. The system has gotten very sloppy. We have research project ts that are very confidential because $ is involved. Racing to find cures that someone could sell to anyone in the world. Let me remind people of the Chinese getting a hold of our corn patent. They got found out & arrested.Tampering with our food supply is very dangerous.
    We have no idea who is taking out & bringing into this country. Doing this ban on immigration will give them a chance to increase the measures to protect everyone. This is a Public Health issue

  • I am Iranian- American dual citizen who finished medical school in Iran and immigrated to the U.S. in 2002 for the american dream. I was still adapting myself to the american social life and yet unfamiliar with my civil rights when faced with discrimination, political harassment, and educational sabotage when my medical residency program at Henry Ford Hospital in Detroit, Michigan, decided to quote,” … we will damage his educational profile so bad that he cannot continue his residency at any institution in the United States, then has to go back to his country…”; or singling me out in between hospital personnel and saying, quote , “…these are the same people who did hostage american diplomats in Iran…”. At that time I was a medical Intern and had been accepted into neurology residency program at Henry Ford Hospital. I suffered for a long time from grave trauma of losing my medical residency and educational opportunity, and lose of reputation among family and friends; my family were deeply saddened and depressed; after a while due to my economic insecurity my shared life came to an end; then it was the time for economic recession of 2009 when I was unemployed for long time, and lost my 4-years mortgaged house to the Bank.
    Meanwhile my sister’s family won the U.S. Green Card lottery; at the time of electronic registration for the lottery my nephew was less than 21 years old, but at time of result announcement he was about 2 weeks older than 21 years, but still a college student dependent child. Along with my sister’s family my nephew was also called for receiving GC; then together with his parents he visited american embassy and completed all vaccinations and paid for immigration fees, even he was asked to swear the oat, and he did so; in the last moment he was called out and was denied from receiving Green Card, just because the immigration officer decided to ignore the “Child Age Status Protection Act”, where the law defines the child age status should be frozen at the time of electronic registry for the GC, when he was still less than 21 years old. Now my sister has her husband in america, and her dependent college student son in Iran, and she has to fly back and forth to the U.S. and Iran. President Trump needs to answer this question whether my sister should abandon her husband in the U.S. or abandon her son in Iran? or abandon her old parents in Iran? Noteworthy that Government of Iran, in retaliation to President Trump’s executive order, has decided to ban visiting of american citizens of Iran from visiting their motherland. Then I as a dual citizen of the U.S. and Iran am cut in between to stubborn political systems; I cannot bring my family to the U.S. , and cannot visit them in Iran. Is this a type of living in concentration camp or living in a free world? Is this the american dream all about? to bring foreign nationals as a second-degree civilians and use them as the labor force?

    • Don’t give up hope yet to practice med. In Missouri they are looking for img and amg who pass steps1-2 to license as Assistant physician. Good luck.

    • Why don’t you use Skype to visit with your family. It may be a poor substitute for you but it is better than not seeing them at all. Does Iran ban Skype too? This ban is only for 90 days. Surely you can wait that long as can your family. Do you think your nephew or sister will be radicalised by this action and become a terrorist? Just askin’.

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