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Rockefeller president Richard P. Lifton releases statement on U.S. immigration policy

In response to an executive order on immigration issued by President Donald J. Trump Friday, Rockefeller University President Richard P. Lifton today released the following statement:

We at Rockefeller University, a world-renowned center for research in the biomedical sciences, oppose both the spirit and the letter of the ill-conceived executive order issued January 27 by U.S. president Donald J. Trump to restrict immigration from seven Muslim-majority nations. We call on our elected officials to do everything within their power to oppose its implementation and vigorously defend the American values that it undermines.

Our society has benefited and continues to benefit enormously from science and technology arising from the world’s best and brightest coming to the U.S. for training in our universities and staying to develop technologies that have advanced our economy and transformed the world. The President’s executive order sends a chilling message to all current and prospective trainees and scientists abroad, and has an immediate impact on the trainees and faculty who are currently in the U.S. from the proscribed countries. As a nation, we are dishonoring the contract we made with these individuals when we welcomed them to the U.S.

The order affects a number of faculty and trainees at Rockefeller University. Trainees, and green card holders—many of whom are extraordinary contributors to our society—are prevented or inhibited by the uncertainty of the situation from visiting their families abroad or attending international scientific conferences in their fields. This adverse effect on freedom of travel and on the free flow of scientific information—the lifeblood of progress in science and technology—will be used to the detriment of the U.S. by our competitors and adversaries. We are particularly concerned that the requirements for discontinuing the 90-day suspension of visas for nationals from the seven named countries are impracticable, so that the suspensions may effectively become permanent bans on legal entry into our country. This policy undermines key attributes of American society that have long made our country a beacon of hope and possibility, attracting the world’s most innovative minds in science and technology.

At Rockefeller University, we know that science is and always has been a cooperative, collaborative international endeavor. Since its founding in 1901, the university has embraced members of the international scientific community into its midst in the pursuit of our mission of conducting science for the benefit of humanity. We currently have citizens of 56 countries in our research laboratories.

Rockefeller scientists have made some of the world’s most revolutionary contributions to biology and medicine. We note with great pride that 10 of our 24 Nobel Prize Laureates were immigrants, as were 10 of our 22 Lasker Award recipients and 7 of our 20 National Medal of Science recipients. These outcomes reflect what’s possible when great talent from all over the world comes together to work in a free and open society.

Importantly, America’s international economic competitiveness depends on attracting the most creative, capable minds from around the world. This executive order directly prevents us from bringing such talented people to our shores from proscribed countries and moreover sends a destructive message to the rest of world, questioning our continued role as a welcoming haven for the best and brightest from around the globe.

We at Rockefeller University oppose this executive order, which undermines America’s highest ideals and threatens the U.S.’s role as the global leader in science, technology, and innovation.

Updated February 1, 2017.