The cost to American science and healthcare of the administration’s attack on legal immigration is hard to quantify. Maybe it will prevent a terrorist attack, though that’s hard to say. What is certain is that American faculty are suddenly no longer able to hire the best researchers from the seven countries currently affected by the ban. Numerous top scientists suddenly cannot travel here to share their work with American colleagues; or if already working here, cannot now travel abroad to learn from experts elsewhere… not to mention visiting their families. Those caught outside the country cannot return, hurting the American laboratories where they are employed.
You might ask what the big deal is; it’s only seven countries, and the ban is temporary. Well (even ignoring the outsized role of Iran, whose many immigrant engineers and scientists are here because they dislike the ayatollahs and their alternative facts), the impact extends far beyond these seven.
The administration’s tactics are chilling. Scientists from certain countries now fear that one morning they will discover their country has joined the seven, so that they too cannot hope to enter or exit the United States. They will decide now to turn down invitations to work in or collaborate with American laboratories; it’s too risky. At the University of Pennsylvania, I had a Pakistani postdoc, who made important contributions to our research effort. At the University of Washington we hired a terrific Pakistani mathematical physicist. Today, how could I advise someone like that to accept a US position?
Even those not worried about being targeted may decide the US is not the open and welcoming country it used to be. Many US institutions are currently hiring people for the fall semester. A lot of bright young scientists — not just Muslims from Muslim-majority nations — will choose instead to go instead to Canada, to the UK, and elsewhere, leaving our scientific enterprise understaffed.
Well, but this is just about science, yes? Mostly elite academics presumably — it won’t affect the average person. Right?
Wrong. It will affect many of us, because it affects healthcare, and in particular, hospitals around the country. I draw your attention to an article written by an expert in that subject:
and I’d like to quote from the article (highlights mine):
“Our training hospitals posted job listings for 27,860 new medical graduates last year alone, but American medical schools only put out 18,668 graduates. International physicians percolate throughout the entire medical system. To highlight just one particularly intense specialty, fully 30% of American transplant surgeons started their careers in foreign medical schools. Even with our current influx of international physicians as well as steadily growing domestic medical school spots, the Association of American Medical Colleges estimates that we’ll be short by up to 94,700 doctors by 2025.