Although American universities did not always welcome the huge influx of refugees after the Nazi seizure of power in 1933, that intellectual migration transformed a provincial and second-rate higher education system into the finest in the world. Manufacturing may have fled our borders, but American higher education remains a powerful and competitive force, a destination for students and scholars everywhere and a vital engine of employment and economic health. An astonishingly large percentage of graduate students and professors in science today are foreigners and immigrants.
I am a Jewish immigrant who came here as part of a family that was stateless, and my deep patriotism is rooted in that experience. I benefited from American humanitarianism, and I have worked my entire life to give back to this country. An America inhospitable to immigrants and foreigners, a place of fear and danger instead of refuge, is unthinkable in the context of the nation’s history and founding principles. If a more practical argument is required, think of the consequences for the quality and future of our colleges and universities, and their highly prized superiority in science and engineering.
Moreover, what will become of the major government agencies of scientific research, the National Institutes of Health and the National Science Foundation? Will their research agendas be manipulated to fit Mr. Trump’s view of reality? Will there be a continuing erosion of support for basic research as opposed to research that contributes to some commercial product? The greatest advances in medicine were a result of research conducted after World War II, motivated exclusively to enable humankind to better understand nature, not to come up with a new drug.