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Letter to Secretary Pompeo and Acting Secretary McAleenan

The Honorable Michael Pompeo

Secretary of State

United States Department of State

2201 C Street, NW

Washington, DC  20520

The Honorable Kevin McAleenan

Acting Secretary of Homeland Security

United States Department of Homeland Security

300 7th Street, SW

Washington, DC  20024

Dear Secretary Pompeo and Acting Secretary McAleenan:

With our mutual interest in sustaining America's premier higher
education sector in mind, I write to share my deep concern over
growing uncertainty and anxiety around issues involving international
students and scholars.

The success of the American academic system, particularly at research
universities, is based on a vibrant, free, and open community that
develops talent, produces leaders, and creates new knowledge. Together
these university outputs drive innovation that has shaped the economy,
fostered new industries, and improved health and well-being both in
the United States and around the world. I recognize and support the
fundamental role of your agencies in ensuring that those who come to
the United States do so with appropriate and honest intentions that
meet the goals and requirements of our laws. However, the increasing
uncertainty around the systems in place to accomplish this task are
driving anxiety and fear on our campuses and undermining the impact of
our critical work.

Harvard, like many leading research universities, attracts students,
faculty, and researchers from across the globe. They are not just
participants in the life of the university; they are essential to it.
Their diverse talents, experiences, and insights drive discovery and
fuel our work. Increasingly, visa delays are making these scholars'
attendance and engagement in the university unpredictable and
anxiety-ridden. Students report difficulties getting initial
visas—from delays to denials. Scholars have experienced postponements
and disruptions for what have previously been routine immigra­tion
processes such as family visas, renewals of status, or clearance for
international travel. This year graduates across Harvard have seen
significant delays in receiving Optional Practical Training approvals.
This has hindered or endangered their post-graduate work and, in some
cases, their medical residencies.

Science and security concerns that focus on a few specific countries
also contribute to student and faculty anxieties. I appreciate that
there is a broader policy priority with regard to these security
concerns—one that includes grant requirements, protection of
intellectual property, and reporting on institutional gifts and
support. However, visa policies mandating increased scrutiny of
foreign students and scholars (and sometimes naturalized US citizens)
from certain countries contribute substantially to mounting concern.
Academic science is open and collaborative. While we support
appropriate measures to safeguard valuable intellectual property,
national defense, and sensitive, emerging technologies, singling out
one country and its citizens is incompatible with the culture and
mission of higher education and our national ideals.

Perhaps no group is more vulnerable and exposed to the current
environment of uncertainty than Dreamers. These young people have deep
roots in our neighborhoods, towns, and communities. After being
brought here through no fault of their own, they have grown and
thrived, and now are looking for a path to work, serve, and contribute
back to their communities and the nation they have known as home. I
have had the opportunity to meet many of Harvard's Dreamers, and I
have been deeply impressed by them and by their determination, talent,
and commitment to excel. Similarly, many of those with Temporary
Protected Status find themselves at risk after having built their
lives  in our communities, working hard and making meaningful

I understand that the responsibility for the uncertainties in today's
immigration policy rest more broadly than just with your two agencies.
That said, the visa and immigration process is in­creasingly
unpredictable and uncertain. This poses risks not just to the
individuals caught up in it, but also to the entirety of our academic

I hope you will consider these issues as your agencies examine and
assess the most effective ways to address our nation's security
concerns, while also continuing to foster the vibrant educa­tional
community and institutions that have contributed to our nation's
academic and economic excellence. Please feel free to reach out if I
or Harvard can be of assistance.


Lawrence S. Bacow



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