Supreme Court upholds third iteration of travel ban

President Reif: ‘MIT will continue to offer support and guidance’ for those affected

Following the Supreme Court decision June 26, the current iteration of the travel ban, which places restrictions on nationals from seven countries seeking to enter the U.S., will remain the status quo.

President L. Rafael Reif wrote in a statement emailed to The Tech July 13 that he continues to be troubled by the ban, which is “so much at odds with MIT’s fundamental values of fairness, equality and openness, while imposing limits not narrowly tailored to address any threat.”

“As we have since the travel ban was first imposed, MIT will continue to offer support and guidance for our students and scholars affected. And we will continue to build — and welcome with open arms — a community of magnificent learners, explorers and problem-solvers from across the country and around the world,” Reif wrote.

A statement by the International Students Office, International Scholars Office, Admissions Office, and the Office of General Counsel emailed to The Tech outlined how MIT will assist its international community going forward.

The MIT D.C. office will actively monitor the situation; office websites will publish updates on developments in law and policy; individual counseling and advising is available upon request; and town hall information sessions may be organized as needed, according to the statement.

As for whether the ban would affect future admissions policies, the statement said, “MIT will continue to admit the most talented students from around the world. It is too early to tell if the restrictions will impact international students applying to MIT.”

MIT previously joined 30 other colleges and universities in filing an amicus brief explaining the negative impact of the ban, referencing in appendix that more than 40 percent of MIT’s faculty, 40 percent of graduate students, and 10 percent of undergraduates are international.

Justice Stephen Breyer’s dissent cited the brief as one of many that identified categories of scholars who appeared to satisfy the waiver provisions of the ban, which allow U.S. consular officers to admit individuals who meet three criteria: their entry is in the national interest, they pose no security risk, and denying entry would cause them undue hardship.

Given the existence of these qualified applicants, Breyer’s dissent argued that data showing the low number of visas that have been issued under these parameters, coupled with anecdotal evidence questioning the sincerity of the program, suggest that the exemption and waiver policies are not being implemented in practice.

Justice Sonia Sotomayor’s dissent, which sharply criticized the majority for “ignoring the facts, misconstruing our legal precedent, and turning a blind eye to the pain and suffering the Proclamation inflicts,” also cited the amicus brief as indication of the ban’s “deleterious effects on our higher education system.”

There were 40 total undergraduate and graduate students at MIT from Iran in the 2017-18 academic year, seven from Syria, and five from Venezuela, according to the International Students Office’s annual statistics. (Iran, Syria, and Venezuela are three of the seven countries affected by the ban; MIT had no students last year from the other four.)

This iteration of the travel ban allows students and scholars currently in the U.S. “to maintain their nonimmigrant status as long as they are continuing their academic activity, stay in status, and have valid immigration documents,” according to the statement. Entry visas (“visa stamps”) that have already been issued will also not be revoked.

However, there have been longer processing times for visas and visa benefits due to “enhanced security and vetting,” the statement continued. Procedures recently added by the U.S. Department of State “to review in more detail those in certain technology fields, regardless of nationality” may lead to additional delays.

Furthermore, MIT is unable to process permanent residence (green cards) for tenure-track and tenured faculty currently outside of the U.S. “whose country of citizenship is one of the travel ban countries for which ‘immigrant’ visas are prohibited,” the statement said.

More detailed, country-specific regulations can be found on the “Major Immigration Updates” web page. Students and scholars with lingering questions and concerns are also encouraged to reach out to the International Students and Scholars Offices, respectively, before making travel plans, the statement added.