Dr. Flynn's Message to Members
Regarding Trump Administration Travel Ban

July 17, 2018


Dear AAI Members,

On February 1, 2017, then-AAI President Arlene Sharpe wrote to you to affirm the values of AAI as a professional scientific society. Those values include our opposition to “discrimination and any actions that would adversely impact the advancement of science or the fair and respectful treatment of scientists.” She also described our society’s “great pride in our diversity and in our international members, with whom we collaborate and from whom we learn.” I could not agree more.

Dr. Sharpe wrote to you shortly after President Donald Trump implemented a new policy, subsequently successfully challenged in the courts, that would have prohibited individuals from certain countries from entering the United States. A few weeks ago, the U.S. Supreme Court, which reviewed the Administration’s third version of the policy, ruled that the President has the authority to adopt such a policy and allowed it to remain in effect.

As a result, foreign nationals from seven countries (Iran, Libya, North Korea, Somalia, Syria, Venezuela, and Yemen) continue to be prohibited from entering the United States, whether for business, leisure, or another purpose, including the advancement of science.* While case-by-case waivers to this policy are technically available (as described by the Court, “when a foreign national demonstrates undue hardship, and that his entry is in the national interest and would not pose a threat to public safety”), our preliminary sense is that waivers will be both difficult to obtain and cumbersome to seek.

Although AAI appreciates that a president’s main duty is to protect our national security, we find this policy – essentially a travel ban – to be antithetical to our values as an organization and damaging to the global advancement of science. AAI believes that all scientists of good will who are working to advance the field and benefit humankind should be permitted to travel freely, share ideas, and collaborate. And while we acknowledge that science can be used for malevolent as well as beneficial purposes, there are better and fairer ways of identifying individuals who may wish to cause us harm. But the location of one’s birth or residence, or the nature of one’s religion or ethnicity, should not disadvantage any person who wishes to pursue a scientific career. In addition to being contrary to our Constitutional values, such a policy fails to recognize that, in science, we never know from where – or whom – the next groundbreaking discovery will come.

AAI will strive to assist members, or other immunologists, who are adversely affected by this ban and who wish to attend our meeting or courses. While we are still learning about the ban’s impact, and about ways we may be able to help, I wanted to let you know that we will continue to do all we can to foster greater fairness – and to promote freer scientific exchange, cooperation, and collaboration – for the entire immunology community.


JoAnne L. Flynn, Ph.D.
AAI President

* The policy indicates that some student and exchange visitors from Iran are exempt, though they “should be subject to enhanced screening and vetting requirements.”

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