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.

Why Wharton stands against Donald Trump

Originally published in The Huffington Post on Aug 1, 2016. Author’s note: Many thanks to the co-authors of the Open Letter to Donald Trump: Christine Goldrick, Wilson Tong, and Amira Valliani.

The Open Letter to Donald Trump has been signed by almost 4,000 verified students, alumni, faculty, and family members of the Wharton community—including verified members of every Wharton class from 1964 to 2021. Many readers have asked us to comment on why our signatories decided to add their names to the open letter. In response, we decided to analyze the comments of Mr. Trump alongside those of our signatories. Here’s what we found.

“I went to the Wharton School of Business. I’m, like, a really smart person.” – Donald Trump (July 11, 2015)

While Donald Trump has repeatedly brandished his Wharton undergraduate degree as proof of his intelligence, the Wharton community has never celebrated intelligence for its own sake. We readily recognize that intelligence can never be an end in itself—intelligence only has meaningful social value if it is applied toward a meaningful social end. To that end, we seek to harness the power of data and evidence to improve our businesses and our communities.

In contrast, Mr. Trump has long remained fixated on intelligence as an intrinsic measure. In a fit of braggadocio, he once tweeted, “Sorry losers and haters, but my I.Q. is one of the highest—and you all know it! Please don’t feel so stupid or insecure, it’s not your fault.” Mr. Trump’s theatrics obscure the fact that any ostensible indicator of intelligence—educational credentials or otherwise—is a red herring. What is the relevance of Mr. Trump’s intelligence if 76% of his fact-checked statements are patently false?

“It is the duty of anyone hoping to live in a fact-based world—regardless of political affiliation—to oppose Trump’s candidacy.” — Madhan Gounder, W’03 alumnus

“Trumpism is a celebration of ignorance,” wrote Madhan Gounder, one of the signatories of the open letter and a 2003 alumnus of the Wharton undergraduate program (“W’03”). “It is the duty of anyone hoping to live in a fact-based world—regardless of political affiliation—to oppose Trump’s candidacy.” A 1991 alumnus of the college (“C’91”) agreed that Mr. Trump was “illogical, ignorant, uninformed, temperamentally unfit for political office,” and “a danger to the country and the world.”

Perhaps in response to being publicly repudiated by almost 4,000 members of the Wharton community, Mr. Trump tried a new approach at the Republican National Convention (RNC). After months of trumpeting his undergraduate Wharton credentials, the campaign attempted to downplay the value of an MBA education. “We didn’t learn from MBAs,” his son, Donald Trump, Jr., scoffed. “We learned from people who had doctorates in common sense.”

Unfortunately, both Mr. Trumps miss the point. The Wharton community wholeheartedly agrees that having an educational degree is no substitute for experience or common sense—or a desire to create meaningful change.

“I alone can fix it.” – Donald Trump (July 21, 2016)

At Wharton, students are constantly reminded that true leaders recognize their own limitations. In fact, our MBA admissions interview includes a team-based exercise that requires competing applicants to work together to solve a given problem. Once we arrive on campus, we are exhorted to explore “stretch experiences,” seek out 360-degree feedback, and learn from the diverse leadership perspectives of our peers.

But how does Mr. Trump define leadership? According to a 1999 interview with Larry King, he had absolutely no idea. “How do you define leadership?” he mused. “I mean, leadership is a very strange word because, you know, some people have it, some people don’t and nobody knows why.”

Unfortunately, Mr. Trump has recently stumbled upon a strange and dangerous new definition of leadership. “Nobody knows the system better than me, which is why I alone can fix it,” he announced in his RNC acceptance speech. “Our plan will put America First,” he said, echoing the sentiments of a nativist, white supremacist, anti-Semitic, and isolationist organization from the World War II era.

“This is not the kind of leadership that we learned at Wharton.” — WG’88 alumnus

Mr. Trump’s “I-alone” and “America-alone” brand of leadership finds little support within the Wharton community. Signatories of the open letter called him “a weak leader,” citing his “utter lack of any apparent moral and ethical center,” the “height of his hubris,” his lack of “humility and compassion,” his fondness for “strongmanship [sic] and bigotry,” and his policy of “dividing the country instead of bringing people together.” “This is not the kind of leadership that we learned at Wharton,” wrote a 1988 alumnus of the Wharton MBA program (WG’88), who pronounced Mr. Trump not only “unqualified to represent the Wharton alumni body” but also “unqualified to be President of the United States.”

“Make America Great Again” – Donald Trump

The Wharton community is proud to represent a remarkably diverse group of people. We proactively invest in student initiatives like the Return on Equality coalition that seek to create business leaders and citizens who can help make America (and the world) a more inclusive place. We welcome opportunities like the #HumansofWharton storytelling platform to empathize with the diverse lived experiences of our peers.

Mr. Trump has long claimed that he wants to Make America Great Again. But who does America represent, in the eyes of Mr. Trump?

Not Latinx immigrants, whom he seeks to expel on a scale greater than any other forced migration in global history, and whom he has vilified as rapists—despite being a defendant himself to multiple charges of rape. Not African Americans, against whom he has incited violence and discriminated so blatantly that the U.S. Department of Justice sued him—not once, but twice—for housing discrimination. Not Muslims, whom he wants to register in a national database and ban from our country (while flatly denying the existence of an extensive vetting mechanism for refugees). Not American veterans, like Humayun Khan, a fallen Muslim American soldier whose mother he cruelly attacked for being too grief-stricken to speak at the DNC, or U.S. Senator John McCain, whom he has callously ridiculed for being captured while serving our country in war. Not Jews, whom he has demeaned in a dog-whistling, anti-Semitic (and plagiarized) attempt to discredit Hillary Clinton. Not Asian Americans, whom he has lazily stereotyped as perpetual foreigners, no matter how many generations they may have lived here. Not Indigenous Americans, like the Mashantucket Pequot Nation, whom he has baselessly accused not only of organized crime but also of not “look[ing] Indian” enough to operate gaming establishments. Not Americans living with disabilities, like New York Times reporter Serge Kovaleski, whom he has openly mocked in retaliation for questioning the factual basis of Mr. Trump’s Islamophobic claims. Not lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, or queer Americans, whom he believes do not deserve the fundamental and inalienable human right to marry. Not women, against whom he has unleashed a torrent of misogynistic statements for breastfeeding, menstruating, asserting their sexual autonomy, exercising their reproductive rights, or failing to meet his arbitrary standards of female beauty—in other words, for daring to exist as whole human beings beyond his personal, perverse consumption. The list goes on.

In response to this litany of hate, the Wharton community has come together to denounce Mr. Trump.

“My father fought for his country and its ideals both in war and with peacetime activism. He would be appalled.” — son of W’42 alumnus and war veteran

For many signatories, joining the letter was an act of love and solidarity. An inner-city schoolteacher and incoming WG’18 student described the “psychological damage” that Trump had inflicted on her Latinx students as “heartbreaking and unacceptable.” A rabbi, nonprofit administrator, and WG’84 alumnus explained that “inclusion is good for business, and thus the overall society,” lamenting that “Mr. Trump must have missed that essential lesson.” Several supporters signed the open letter in honor of their fathers, who were veterans and Wharton alumni. They were adamant that “Trump would never have represented his views,” with one categorically stating, “My father fought for his country and its ideals both in war and with peacetime activism. He would be appalled.”

“A true member of the Wharton community and a true leader stands up against hate, racism, prejudice, and xenophobia.” — Melody Chen, WG’17 student

For those of us who belong to communities that Mr. Trump has repeatedly attacked, the personal was inseparable from the political. “I am an American citizen, a minority, a child of immigrants, a Christian, and a woman,” wrote Melody Chen, a WG’17 student. “A true member of the Wharton community and a true leader stands up against hate, racism, prejudice, and xenophobia.” Another WG’17 student, a Black international woman from Zimbabwe, agreed: “Trump’s hateful comments don’t represent me or the student body that I love.”

“I am a board member of College Republicans at Penn. I am horrified by Donald Trump’s statements and actions over this past year.” — W’19 student

It was unsurprising that the open letter resonated across the political spectrum, extending “beyond party politics” as one WG’05 alumnus observed, into the realm of “basic human decency.” Republican signatories included a WG’62 alumnus and self-described “center-right Republican,” as well as a W’19 student and College Republicans board member who declared that he was “horrified” by Mr. Trump’s campaign. “Not only does he fail to represent Wharton,” the W’19 student wrote, Mr. Trump “fails to stand for both conservative and, more importantly, American values.”

“Look, Mussolini was Mussolini. It’s OK to — it’s a very good quote, it’s a very interesting quote, and I know it.” – Donald Trump (Feb. 28, 2016)

The Wharton community is proud of our history of protecting freedom and democracy from encroaching threats of fascism and totalitarianism. Today, the Wharton curriculum continues to teach respect for democratic governance, civic duty, and stewardship through social impact.

While some readers may bristle at election-cycle invocations of Godwin’s law, Mr. Trump’s campaign has disturbingly embraced many textbook attributes of fascism and totalitarianism, including, but not limited to, an anaphylactic aversion to the truth, open support for torture and violence, a hypermasculinist disdain for losing, fanatical fearmongering, mandatory registration of a scapegoated minority group, and white supremacist propaganda couched in nationalist rhetoric.

Borrowing from a well-known anti-Nazi poem (“First they came…”), Ohio governor John Kasich has conceded that Republican voters “might not care” if Mr. Trump threatens Muslims, Latinx immigrants, Black protesters, or journalists. “But think about this,” he warned. “If he keeps going, and he actually becomes president, he might just get around to you. And you better hope there’s someone left to help you.”

“I long for a return to the glory days when our worst alumni were just your garden-variety white collar criminals and inside traders—not a maybe-fascist demagogue who pretends to sell steaks.” — W’13 alumnus

Many Wharton signatories shared Mr. Kasich’s concerns. One C’85 alumnus called Mr. Trump “an aspiring fascist despot,” while William Klun, a WG’88 alumnus, declared him to be a “fascist who has no place in public office.” Finding solace in satire, a W’13 alumnus confessed that he “long[ed] for a return to the glory days when our worst alumni were just your garden-variety white collar criminals and inside traders—not a maybe-fascist demagogue who pretends to sell steaks.” According to a C’91 alumnus, Mr. Trump is “dangerously narcissistic” and “a serial liar.” Deeply troubled, she wrote, “He represents the worst about us; he is what happens when the untrammeled id is given a megaphone. He sullies democracy with his demagoguery.”

“Donald Trump is the antithesis of everything I believe Wharton stands for.” — W’09 alumnus

Several signatories, including a prominent faculty member, denounced Mr. Trump as the “antithesis” of everything Wharton stands for. Some of us might venture one step further—

Donald Trump is the antithesis of everything America stands for.

. . .

Disclaimer: This op ed reflects the personal views of its author and quoted 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.