I chose to stay away for three reasons. First, as a U.S. citizen naturalized soon after I was born in Yemen
to a U.S.-citizen father, I would have
been allowed in under the order,
but I wanted to show my solidarity with those who may no longer
be able to move freely just because
of their nationality or religion.
Second, I wanted to sensitize others in my scientific community to
the issue. By seeing me participate
through videoconferencing, I hoped
that my colleagues who weren’t
directly affected would gain a fuller
understanding of the challenges
that scientists with connections to
the banned countries are facing.
Third, I wanted to retain my view
of the United States as an inclusive,
tolerant, and supportive country.
That had been my experience since I arrived in New York
City from Yemen with my brother when I was 15 years old.
Our father, living elsewhere for work, was only able to check
on us occasionally, so we were pretty much on our own. We
learned English and worked almost full-time to support ourselves while going to school. Our parents, who hadn’t had
the opportunity to go to school, instilled in us the belief
that education is the most powerful tool for success. But at
times, college seemed out of reach. All along the way, though,
I encountered welcoming and generous American teachers,
mentors, friends, and neighbors who appreciated my hard
work and dedication and never gave up on me. Their encouragement and support helped me not give up on my dreams,
including pursuing a career in academic research.
When I left for a faculty position in Switzerland, I took
great memories with me. Years later, I was happy to have
the opportunity to spend a sabbatical year in California, dur-
ing which my children—who were all born in the United
States—reconnected with their American roots. My son, now
an avid NBA fan, aspires to return
to the United States for college.
If I had returned for my recent
planned trip, however, I know
that I would have been flagged
because of my birthplace. Although
I remain committed to working with my colleagues
and partners in the United States to achieve our shared
scientific mission. Although I chose to not attend my
recent meetings in person, I plan to travel there for future
events. I believe that a blanket boycott of U.S.-based meetings would be wrong and damaging to the advancement
of science and the scientific community. Science today is
a global endeavor, and we need to show that nothing can
stop us. As we figure out how to respond to new limits on
immigration and travel, I hope we can find ways to engage
and support those affected by those limits and bring the
scientific community together, not put up more barriers. ■
Hilal A. Lashuel is a professor of life sciences at the Swiss
Federal Institute of Technology in Lausanne. Send your
career story to SciCareerEditor@aaas.org.
“We need to show that
nothing can stop us.”
The America I believe in
This past week, I was supposed to visit Boston and New York City to meet with a pharmaceutical company about a potential partnership, participate in a meeting for an international consortium of which I am an integral part, and attend the annual meeting of a charitable foundation that supports some of my research. Instead, as a Muslim and a U.S. citizen from Yemen now living in Switzerland, I chose to cancel my trip because of President Donald Trump’s executive order ban- ning people of certain nationalities from entering the United States. I still participated in these
events to the extent I could, aided by technology, but I would have had a richer experience if I had been
there in person. Nonetheless, I felt it would not be right for me to make the trip.
By Hilal A. Lashuel