British born and raised musicologist, working as an assistant professor at Mills college with an H1-B visa, kicked out of US. Still no explanation a year later for what makes her study of English romantic composers so dangerous. Someone quoted in the article states, “What is at stake is America’s pre-eminence as a place of scholarship,” and while this may be a bit hyperbolic (there are bigger factors placing that pre-eminence at risk) it's true that the more bureaucratic obstacles we place on entry to the US, the more potential faculty and students and conference organizers will just go to Canada or Europe or Asia. It's a problem that affects a lot more than a single professor in an obscure field at a small college.
"It's a problem that affects a lot more than a single professor in an obscure field at a small college."
Yes, it does. If you're not from one of the "visa-waiver" countries, it is extremely hard to attend a conference in the US. A while back, Suresh covered this topic in his blog. More recently though (3-4 years), there is a trend at US consulates to make re-entry or visa renewal difficult as well. It covers several different categories under one umbrella name: 221(G).
Think of the following not-hypothetical-at-all situation. A student at a major US university gets a paper accepted to a top conference (to be held outside the US, maybe because of the reasons above). Even if your status is legal and your student visa has expired you must first go outside the US and get your visa renewed. The US consulate determines that "Computer Science" is a sensitive area of research and falls within a so-called Technology Alert List. So, you get a 221(G) slip - which means you cannot reenter the country until the government determines that you/your area of research is not a threat. The trouble is that this could take anywhere between two weeks to several months! You cannot go to the conference or get back to your university.
I recently started as a faculty at a major university on H1. Now, I must plan my H1 stamping visit so that even if I get held back, it won't interfere with my teaching. And until that happens, I cannot go for conferences outside the US. And this is not as unusual as it sounds. The international faculty office here warned me that at least two faculty were held back in Canada last year due to 221.
Thanks for the additional explanations. What a mess. For unrelated reasons we find it preferable here at UCI, when possible, to recruit US citizen and permanent resident students, and my two current students are both Americans, but the department still hires plenty of non-American students and we can't run the whole country's research program very well without non-Americans. Too many of the smartest Americans would rather be doctors or lawyers or something else that makes more money...
Suresh wrote on related issues at least six times, it seems: 1 2 3 4 5 6. I guess he has more reason than I to stay on top of these issues. I feel very fortunate that my parents did all the work of dealing with US immigration for me while I was still a kid, so that I haven't had to myself.