ASCB calls visa freeze reprehensible

The decision by the Trump Administration to freeze through 2020 important U.S. visa programs that allow future scientists from around the world to come to the United States to learn is reprehensible. It goes against everything the United States stands for and violates the principle that scientific excellence requires collaboration, regardless of nationality. Contrary to Mr. Trump’s belief, these future scientists do not pose “a risk,” or “significant threat” to Americans.

For generations, the United States has been the place people from around the globe have come to live out their dreams and make better lives for themselves and their families. Because of their hard work, immigrants help make this country better than it was when they came here. The U.S. life science research community, including cell biology, is no different. We have always depended on the contributions of scientists from other nations. These contributions range from long-time collaborations with colleagues abroad to trainees from other nations who come here to join our labs to learn from the best in the world. Very often, these trainees stay after they complete their training to join the American science community and their contributions help the United States remain the world’s scientific leader. As citizens, they make great contributions to their communities and as scientists they provide advances to medical research knowledge and some even earn prestigious international awards that our nation takes great pride in receiving. These attacks on American science are particularly harmful now as we need to make progress on finding a solution to the worldwide pandemic. Our citizens and the world are looking to American science for leadership and for a cure.

The series of anti-immigrant decisions by the Trump Administration, from prohibitions on entry to the U.S. by citizens from Muslim countries to these outright bans on new H-1B, H-2B, J, and L visa programs, will do more harm to American science than it will to foreign scientists. These exceptional future researchers will be warmly welcomed in other countries. It is American science and scientists who are the real victims of these policies. Without these talented individuals from around the globe, American biomedical research will not remain the world leader it is. If these policies are allowed to remain in place, the United States will no longer lead but will have to settle for the role of runner up.


About the Author:

Kevin M. Wilson serves as Director of Public Policy and Media Relations for The American Society for Cell Biology. He's worked as the Legislative Director for U.S. Congressman Robert Weygand (D-RI) and as a Legislative Assistant for U.S. Senator Claiborne Pell (D-RI). He has a BA in Politics and American Government from the Catholic University of America. Email: