IAU 'Profoundly Concerned' About Trump's Immigration Ban

Donald Trump Signs Immigration Ban: Getty Image
U.S. President Donald Trump signs executive orders in the Hall of Heroes at the Department of Defense on Jan. 27, 2017 in Arlington, Virginia. Trump signed two orders calling for the “great rebuilding” of the nation's military and the “extreme vetting” of visa seekers from terror-plagued countries. (Image credit: Olivier Douliery-Pool/Getty Images)

The International Astronomical Union (IAU) has joined the chorus of voices objecting to President Donald Trump's executive order that temporarily bans immigration from seven Muslim-majority nations.

The IAU "is profoundly concerned by the impact the recent U.S. executive order, and possible reactions to it from other countries, could have on international collaboration in astronomy and the mobility of scientists," representatives of the organization wrote in a statement today (Jan. 30).

The order, which President Trump announced Friday (Jan. 27), halts the admission of all refugees into the United States for the next 120 days, and all refugees from Syria indefinitely. It also bars entry by travelers from Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Syria, Sudan and Yemen for the next 90 days, if these people are not permanent legal residents of the U.S. [Related: SpaceX's Elon Musk Speaks Out on Immigration Order]

The ban has inspired protests around the world and has drawn rebukes from a range of influential lawmakers, such as Republican Sens. John McCain and Lindsey Graham, who represent Arizona and South Carolina, respectively.

IAU representatives said the organization's objection is based on principle and concerns about the damage the ban could inflict on astronomy.

"The IAU firmly opposes any discrimination based on factors such as ethnic origin, religion, citizenship, language, and political or other opinion and therefore expects U.S. officials to not discriminate on the basis of religion," IAU representatives wrote in the statement. "The IAU hopes that such actions from a country do not trigger a chain reaction in other countries around the globe, which would severely damage the science of astronomy, and encourages everyone to value cooperation, tolerance and peace."

The IAU is an association of professional astronomers from around the world. The group is responsible for, among other things, giving official names to celestial bodies and their surface features.

At the moment, 2,841 IAU members hail from the United States — more than from any other nation, IAU representatives said. The group has hundreds of members from Muslim-majority countries, including 47 from the seven nations affected by Trump's executive order, they added. 

Scientists have raised concerns about other decisions Trump's administration has made since assuming power on Jan. 20 as well. For example, the American Geophysical Union (AGU), which has nearly 60,000 members from 139 different countries, recently objected to directives instructing federal agencies to stop or curtail the dissemination of information to the public. [6 Things to Know About President Trump and NASA]

"We are concerned that such directives flout principles of sound scientific integrity, which includes transparency, and may even violate your agency's scientific integrity policy," AGU CEO and Executive Director Christine McEntee wrote Thursday (Jan. 26) in a letter to Catherine McCabe, acting administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency.

"Perhaps more importantly, science plays a critical role in advancing national security, a strong economy, public health, and food security, and as such, scientists must be allowed to share their work directly and openly with the public," McEntee added.

Follow Mike Wall on Twitter @michaeldwall and Google+. Follow us @Spacedotcom, Facebook or Google+. Originally published on Space.com.

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Mike Wall
Senior Space Writer

Michael Wall is a Senior Space Writer with Space.com (opens in new tab) and joined the team in 2010. He primarily covers exoplanets, spaceflight and military space, but has been known to dabble in the space art beat. His book about the search for alien life, "Out There," was published on Nov. 13, 2018. Before becoming a science writer, Michael worked as a herpetologist and wildlife biologist. He has a Ph.D. in evolutionary biology from the University of Sydney, Australia, a bachelor's degree from the University of Arizona, and a graduate certificate in science writing from the University of California, Santa Cruz. To find out what his latest project is, you can follow Michael on Twitter.