Understanding the immigration ban

Dear Wharton,

We are grateful that the President’s executive order on immigration was temporarily blocked by a federal district court in Seattle last Friday and that the Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit refused to reinstate it. As we await a final decision by the Ninth Circuit (and likely subsequent review by the Supreme Court), we write this letter to stand in solidarity against the immigration ban and to provide more information about the ban, which has already affected hundreds of immigrants, green card holders, and refugees—including many of our friends here at Wharton who hold student visas. (See below for FAQs.)

Although the stated purpose of the ban is to protect against terrorism, the Cato Institute notes that foreign nationals from the restricted countries—Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria, and Yemen—have killed zero Americans in terrorist attacks on U.S. soil during 1975-2015. Indeed, the annual chance of an American dying in a terrorist attack committed by a refugee is one in 3.6 billion. Moreover, in the aftermath of 9/11, terrorist attacks by anti-government and white supremacists have killed nearly twice as many people as those by jihadist extremists. (Note: We cite these statistics to show that the immigration ban lacks a legitimate factual basis—not to imply that an immigration ban would be permissible for a country that does have terrorist affiliations.)

This executive order is not based upon fact—it merely amplifies xenophobia and Islamophobia. In attempting to justify the immigration ban, the administration cited the killing of six Muslims mid-prayer by a white terrorist to support its fallacious narrative that the immigration ban will reduce radical jihadist terrorism. We condemn the administration’s use of an Islamophobic attack on Muslims to justify an Islamophobic ban against Muslim-majority countries. We urge each of you to continue actively seeking out the truth and resisting attempts to obscure the truth.

The executive order also does not withstand legal scrutiny. Discrimination on the basis of nationality is prohibited by the Immigration and Nationality Act of 1965. We cannot repeat the United States’s long and shameful history of enacting immigration bans on the basis of nationality. See, e.g., the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882, the Asiatic Barred Zone Act of 1917, the rejection of thousands of Jewish refugees fleeing Nazi Germany, and Executive Order 9066 interning Japanese Americans during World War II.

The administration’s claim that President Obama first identified these seven countries for immigration restrictions is misleading. The Obama administration required greater visa scrutiny (not a ban) of individuals who had traveled to these seven countries, and specifically rejected a nationality-based restriction. The law was enacted to address credible concerns about individuals who had become radicalized after traveling to those seven countries, like the Belgian national who masterminded the Paris attacks after traveling to Syria.

The claim that President Obama had previously issued a similar ban against Iraqi nationals is also inaccurate and misleading. In 2011, the Obama administration slowed the issuance of Special Immigrant Visas (SIVs) to Iraqi applicants after two Iraqi immigrants in Kentucky were arrested on suspicion of ties to an insurgent group. Unlike the Trump order, which imposes a ban on all non-diplomatic visas from seven countries without a legitimate factual basis, the Obama order required enhanced review (not a ban) of a single type of visa from a single country in response to a specific, credible threat. Moreover, unlike the Trump order, which bans all refugees, the Obama order did not impose any ban on refugees. The administration’s attempt to equate the two executive orders is flatly wrong.

As some of our classmates recently noted, the University of Pennsylvania’s motto is “Laws without morals are useless.” We find that the President’s executive order is morally bankrupt and must be rescinded.

With love and in solidarity,
Middle East North Africa Club (MENA)
Muslim Students Network (MSN)
Wharton Africa Student Association (WASA)
Return on Equality (ROE)

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

1. Who is included in the (currently suspended) immigration ban?

Issued on January 27, 2017, the executive order suspended the entry of all refugees to the United States for 120 days, barred Syrian refugees indefinitely, and blocked entry for 90 days for citizens of Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria, and Yemen. The ban included all visa holders from these seven restricted countries—including Wharton international students holding student visas, with the exception of  individuals traveling on diplomatic, NATO, or UN visas.

The immigration ban did not include naturalized U.S. citizens from these seven restricted countries, green card holders (i.e., permanent residents), and dual citizens who present a passport from a non-restricted country.

2. Is the immigration ban illegal?

Very likely. In 1965, Congress passed the Immigration and Naturalization Act (INA), prohibiting discrimination “in the issuance of an immigrant visa because of the person’s race, sex, nationality, place of birth, or place of residence.” 8 U.S.C. § 1152. The President relies on Section 212(f) of the INA, which provides an exception “[w]henever the President finds that the entry of any aliens or of any class of aliens into the United States would be detrimental to the interests of the United States.” 8 U.S.C. § 1182. A Congressional Research Service (CRS) report acknowledges that there are no “firm legal limits” on the president’s authority, citing case law on Section 212(f) and its extensive use by the last five presidents, including 19 instances by President Obama. However, the Cato Institute notes that “no president has ever barred an entire nationality of immigrants without exception.”

Both liberals and conservatives agree that the immigration ban is illegal. Senator Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.) denounced the executive order as “unacceptable,” adding that “[e]nhancing long-term national security requires that we have a clear-eyed view of radical Islamic terrorism without ascribing radical Islamic terrorist views to all Muslims.” Senator John McCain (R-Ariz.) also voiced his concern that the ban would “give ISIS some more propaganda.” Former President Barack Obama criticized the ban, warning that “core values may be at stake.” Meanwhile, Justin Trudeau, Prime Minister of Canada, tweeted, “To those fleeing persecution, terror & war, Canadians will welcome you, regardless of your faith.

The immigration ban also violates a number of international treaties ratified by the U.S. The United Nations Refugee Convention requires the U.S. not to return refugees to a country where they face serious threats to their life or freedom. The International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination requires the U.S. to “guarantee the right of everyone, without distinction as to race, colour, or national or ethnic origin, to equality before the law.” The International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights requires that even in a “time of public emergency which threatens the life of the nation,” the U.S. cannot discriminate “solely on the ground of race, colour, sex, language, religion or social origin.”

3. What legal action is being taken to reverse the immigration ban?

Judicial action: Last Friday, February 3, a federal judge in Seattle blocked the entire executive order nationwide. The Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit denied the DOJ’s request to immediately restore the ban, and the matter remains pending before the Ninth Circuit. Earlier judicial actions include:

  • Federal judges in New York and Virginia blocking deportations of green card holders and all arrivals with valid visas or refugee status;
  • Federal judges in Boston imposing a seven-day restraining order against the executive order in its entirety (which has since expired);
  • Sixteen state attorneys general issuing a joint statement condemning the ban and promising to “fight this unconstitutional order;” and
  • Former Acting Attorney General Sally Yates instructing the Department of Justice (DOJ) not to defend the executive order (the President fired Yates shortly afterwards).

Legislative action: On Monday, January 30, Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) introduced two bills to rescind the executive order and limit executive authority under the Immigration and Nationality Act. The bills have been referred to the Senate Judiciary Committee.

4. The ban may affect me personally. How can I protect myself?

Note: Please contact an immigration lawyer for all legal questions. See this decision chart (English, Arabic, and Farsi) prepared by the CUNY School of Law before the ban was temporarily suspended.

The “model minority” speaks out

This open letter on Anti-Asian discrimination was sent to the Wharton community in October 2016. See accompanying workshop slides.

Dear Wharton,

We were disappointed to hear that Peter Linneman, Emeritus Professor of Real Estate at Wharton, recently made discriminatory remarks about Chinese men at a public real estate conference in New York (see WSJ article). At Wharton, we understand that discrimination against any member of our community is an affront to all members of our community. Professor Linneman’s comments contravene our school’s ongoing commitment to promote diversity and inclusion—they do not reflect the views of the Wharton community.

There is a long history of discrimination and violence against Asians and Asian Americans in the United States. From 1882 to 1943, the Chinese Exclusion Act banned all Chinese immigrants from entering the U.S.—the only ethnic immigration ban in this nation’s history. The U.S. also bears responsibility for Executive Order 9066 (and Korematsu v. United States), which authorized (and later constitutionalized) the incarceration of more than 100,000 Japanese Americans during World War II. Many other examples abound.

Today, anti-Asian discrimination continues to manifest itself through both microaggressions and hate crimes, including murder and mass murder. These acts are fueled by a variety of harmful cultural narratives, including the model minority myth, the perpetual foreigner myth, the hypersexualization of Asian women, and the desexualization of Asian men. Discriminatory statements that rely on these stereotypes also help to perpetuate the bamboo ceiling—the systemic exclusion of Asians and Asian Americans from top leadership positions in business, political, and social organizations.

A growing body of research confirms that business leaders must be competent on issues of diversity and inclusion (D&I) in order to be truly effective leaders.

To that end, we have been inspired to see our fellow classmates recognizing the importance of promoting diversity and inclusion through events, rallies, and open letters. For example, in the wake of recent acts of violence and discrimination against the Black, LGBTQ, and Muslim communities in America, student affinity groups brought Wharton together to learn about these different types of oppression and to express solidarity with the affected communities.

As a part of the ongoing student dialogue on diversity and inclusion, we invite you to attend a panel and open forum (see workshop slides) on Thursday, November 10 to explore the unique challenges faced by the Asian and Asian American communities in the United States. This event, which is sponsored by the Greater China Club (GCC), the Wharton Asian American Association of MBAs (WAAAM), Wharton Asia Club, and Return on Equality (ROE), is part of International Week (November 7-10), an annual initiative organized by the Wharton Graduate Association (WGA) to learn about the unique perspectives of our international classmates.

We also applaud the Wharton administration’s efforts to promote diversity and inclusion among the student body. For example, we commend administration-driven initiatives like the mandatory workshop for first-year students, the Return on Equality Fund for student-led events, and the Diversity and Inclusion Task Force for student programming. At the same time, systemic changes are necessary to enhance the culture and norms of our school—not only among students, but also among faculty and staff members.

In particular, we urge the Wharton administration to implement mandatory training on diversity and inclusion for all faculty and staff members. This training is critical to ensuring that our faculty and staff members continue to be effective educators—for our increasingly diverse student body, and against the backdrop of an increasingly diverse business environment. In taking the lead on this very important issue, Wharton would affirm its place as a leader among our business school peers.

Maintaining an inclusive community requires ongoing and active participation from all of us. We value the efforts that students, faculty, and staff have invested in promoting diversity and inclusion at Wharton, and we look forward to continued collaboration toward our vision of a more fully inclusive One Wharton.

Wharton Greater China Club (GCC)
Wharton Asian American Association of MBAs (WAAAM)
Wharton Asia Club
Return on Equality (ROE)
Wharton Graduate Association (WGA)

Yellow peril supports Black lives

As an Asian American, I am aware that my community does not engage nearly enough on issues of racial justice in America. We tend to embrace our status as the model minority and seek to dissociate ourselves from other communities of color. As immigrants and perpetual foreigners, we are constantly reaching for whiteness in the hopes that securing white privilege will signify that we have finally realized the American Dream.

And sometimes, America lets us in. We are praised for being hardworking and good at math. And we have been largely spared from the systemic violence faced by Black America for the past four centuries through slavery, segregation, redlining, mass incarceration, and police brutality.

But our access to white privilege is both temporary and conditional. The power to confer and revoke that privilege has never belonged to us. They can let us in, and they can shut us out. The U.S. once banned all Chinese immigrants from entering the country for more than 60 years and incarcerated more than 100,000 Japanese Americans during WWII (but not a single German American).

Our access to white privilege is incomplete. We are stereotyped as workers and middle managers, not CEOs (we’re just not natural leaders). Our women are hypersexualized (relax, it’s a compliment), and our men are desexualized (relax, it’s just a joke). Sometimes we even get to be sidekicks on TV shows.

Most critically, our access to white privilege is bounded by a zero-sum game that pits the Asian American community against other communities of color. Today, Asian Americans are a pawn in the campaign against affirmative action, a legal remedy that seeks to reverse the effects of institutional racism against Black and Brown America. We are told that affirmative action benefits underrepresented minorities at our expense. We are not told that affirmative action policies are designed to preserve the white majority (or plurality) at our expense — redistributing a minority of seats between Asian Americans and other people of color. This zero-sum game is critical because it keeps us occupied with hostility toward other communities of color, distracting us from challenging white supremacist institutions.

And so we use our political energies to protest the wrong things. It was shameful that thousands of Asian Americans protested the conviction of NYPD officer Peter Liang for killing Akai Gurley, an unarmed Black man. Instead of being angry at the fact that Liang was (rightfully) convicted of manslaughter, we should have been angry at the fact that almost no other police officers have been indicted — much less convicted — for killing unarmed Black people in this country.

Asian America has an important role to play in #BlackLivesMatter. But first we must decolonize our minds and reject the anti-Blackness we have internalized from our Asian and American cultures. We must learn to see ourselves as people of color (without reductively equating our experiences with those of all people of color). And we must acknowledge the many ways in which we are complicit in upholding the white supremacist structures of this country — in our selective sexual desires, our disdain for melanin, our antipathy toward affirmative action, and our fear of and contempt for low-income Black and Brown communities.

Asian Americans have so much power in our collective voice. We have the power to mobilize and advocate on issues that uniquely affect the Asian American community. And we have the power to stand in solidarity with our Black and Brown sisters and brothers to advocate on issues that matter to all people of color. We can join together to work toward our common goal of an American Dream that opens its doors for everyone.

Open letter to Donald Trump

You do not represent us: an open letter to Donald Trump

Originally published at Medium in July 2016.  Co-authored with Christine Goldrick, Wilson Tong, and Amira Valliani. The open letter was signed by Wharton students and alumni in every class from 1964 to 2021.

Dear Mr. Trump:

At the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania, students are taught to represent the highest levels of respect and integrity. We are taught to embrace humility and diversity. We can understand why, in seeking America’s highest office, you have used your degree from Wharton to promote and lend legitimacy to your candidacy.

As a candidate for President, and now as the presumptive GOP nominee, you have been afforded a transformative opportunity to be a leader on national and international stages and to make the Wharton community even prouder of our school and values.

However, we have been deeply disappointed in your candidacy.

We, proud students, alumni, and faculty of Wharton, are outraged that an affiliation with our school is being used to legitimize prejudice and intolerance. Although we do not aim to make any political endorsements with this letter, we do express our unequivocal stance against the xenophobia, sexism, racism, and other forms of bigotry that you have actively and implicitly endorsed in your campaign.

The Wharton community is a diverse community. We are immigrants and children of immigrants, people of color, Muslims, Jews, women, people living with or caring for those with disabilities, and members of the LGBTQ community. In other words, we represent the groups that you have repeatedly denigrated, as well as their steadfast friends, family, and allies.

We recognize that we are fortunate to be educated at Wharton, and we are committed to using our opportunity to make America and the world a better place — for everyone. We are dedicated to promoting inclusion not only because diversity and tolerance have been repeatedly proven to be valuable assets to any organization’s performance, but also because we believe in mutual respect and human dignity as deeply held values. Your insistence on exclusion and scapegoating would be bad for business and bad for the American economy. An intolerant America is a less productive, less innovative, and less competitive America.

We, the undersigned Wharton students, alumni, and faculty, unequivocally reject the use of your education at Wharton as a platform for promoting prejudice and intolerance. Your discriminatory statements are incompatible with the values that we are taught and we teach at Wharton, and we express our unwavering commitment to an open and inclusive American society.

This letter reflects the personal views of its signatories only and is not affiliated with the Wharton School. The Wharton School takes no political position and does not comment on its students, alumni, or faculty.

Total: 4,028
(last updated Sunday, November 6, 2016)