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Statement by the Steering Committee of the MIT Doctoral Program in History, Anthropology, and Science, Technology, and Society (HASTS) on the 27 January 2017 Executive Order Restricting Immigration to the United States of America


On January 27, 2017, President Donald Trump issued an executive order of extraordinary breadth restricting legally recognized refugees and the nationals of seven majority-Muslim countries (including U.S. legal permanent residents) from entry into the United States. As a university community, MIT depends on the open exchange of ideas across borders and has a large number of students who are foreign nationals. The Steering Committee of the HASTS doctoral program therefore finds our basic research and educational mission imperiled by this executive order. We emphatically affirm our support for the members of our HASTS community, and for all MIT faculty, students, and staff, affected by the executive order.

As of January 29, 2017, at least five federal courts – in New York, Virginia, Washington, California, and Massachusetts – have temporarily enjoined enforcement of key parts of the executive order on the grounds that they likely violate due process and equal protection. These injunctions suggest that the President’s directive is being recognized for what it is: a religious test for admission to the United States for the nationals of the seven majority-Muslim nations affected, with a thinly veiled exception for Christians written into the very language of the order. Such a policy recalls some of the most troubling episodes of nineteenth- and twentieth-century U.S. immigration law, including the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882 and the National Origins Act and Asian Exclusion Act of 1924.

The court orders were preceded and accompanied by major public demonstrations at international airports around the country, most notably at JFK in New York, as well as rallies in major public spaces such as Copley Square in Boston. The outpouring of public support for Muslim immigrants and refugees evokes the best aspects of our nation’s tradition as a haven for those of all races, religions, and backgrounds seeking protection and a new life. It is consistent with the commitment of the HASTS program and MIT to create a diverse community united in its goal to improve our world through research and education.

Stefan Helmreich
Head, Anthropology Program
Elting E. Morison Chair
Professor of Anthropology

Jennifer S. Light
Department Head, Program in STS
Professor of Science, Technology, and Society
Professor of Urban Planning

Jeffrey S. Ravel
Head, History Faculty
Professor of History

Christine J. Walley
Professor of Anthropology
Director of Graduate Studies, HASTS