Statement on Trump Administration’s Action against International Students

The American Association of Biological Anthropologists (AABA) unequivocally condemns the July 6, 2020 decision by the United States Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agency and the Trump administration to bar students holding F-1 and M-1 visas from living in the US if their schools need or choose to educate entirely online in the coming academic year. This reckless and unacceptable decision will impact many scientific disciplines, including biological anthropology, in innumerable and severely negative ways, with long-term consequences.

International students are critical members of our associations, universities, colleges, departments, and broader communities. As an inclusive scientific community and association, we choose to support our international students in the strongest possible terms. Our discipline relies on the insights, discoveries, and innovations by students from all backgrounds and across the globe. International students and colleagues are integral members of our academic and local communities, promoting deep and meaningful interactions in ways scholarly, communal, and personal. Limiting the ability to conduct our science and interact with international colleagues will have pervasive negative effects, and these effects will linger for decades. Biological anthropology is a truly international scientific pursuit, and we must continue to take steps to strengthen and deepen our global interactions. This action by the US government runs entirely against our association’s core mission, values, and principles.

At a personal level, we are deeply concerned that these rash and punitive steps by ICE will be highly disruptive to the lives of our students and their families, many of whom face economic constraints, and sometimes, limited community and social ties. There is dire potential for deleterious effects on the careers and life courses of students and their families. The AABA is committed to initiating steps to minimize the consequences of this action.

Much of what we do as a discipline involves research and training in laboratories and field sites, unlikely to be registered as “in-person classes” at most institutions. Deportation of students training online, even while those students are making progress and actively engaged in laboratory and field research, fails to recognize the complexity of our research and training endeavors. It will result in setbacks along numerous dimensions, disadvantaging our students’ scientific and research programs, with negative results for biological anthropology as a whole.

Going forward, the AABA will be establishing ways to further support our international students so as to help minimize the consequences of this irresponsible action. We will also be investigating means by which to join lawsuits that have recently been initiated by leading US universities in objection to this policy. We encourage you to share this statement with your institution’s leadership, as well as with elected officials. Above all, we stand united with our international students, alumni, and colleagues.

Steve Leigh, President-Elect

Anne Grauer, President

JULY 9, 2020