The Honorable John F. Kelly
Secretary of Homeland Security
Washington, DC. 20528

February 3, 2017

Dear Secretary Kelly,

Please accept my congratulations on your confirmation as Secretary of Homeland Security. I know you face enormous and complex challenges in striving to protect our nation.

Among the most complex issues is, of course, immigration, and I wish to join the chorus of college and university presidents who are expressing deep concern about the executive order of January 27, 2017, and who are seeking to have it rescinded.  The leadership of Amherst College has been and remains committed to the security of the country. At the same time, from some thirty years of experience as a leader of three prominent educational institutions, I am completely convinced that the order as constructed and promulgated is harshly unfair to those affected and damaging to the immediate and long-term interests of our country.

The President’s action, I believe, is a sweeping overreaction to immigration issues. As such, it undermines America’s ability to attract exceptionally ambitious students, scientists, engineers, and others: the very people who for generations have contributed so notably and visibly to the country’s innovation and leadership in technology, science, mathematics, medicine, engineering, the arts, and every other field of human accomplishment. Without the talent of immigrants from all over the world, the United States simply would not have become the great nation it is.

Our colleges and universities are a powerful attraction for that talent, in both students and faculty. United States citizens, and indeed people of all nationalities, rightly view American institutions of higher education as the very best in the world.  This helps us attract the very best faculty and students regardless of their country of origin.  The overwhelming majority of our students are United States citizens, and their ability to learn from faculty and alongside students from around the world better prepares them to excel in their chosen fields. Together with our democratic protections of personal liberty, our schools draw extraordinary people to our shores. Many of them stay, directly contributing in innumerable ways to the strength of our economy and society. Others return home with new appreciation for democratic values—and for the value of what we offer the world. I see the executive order as a profound threat to all this—a source of anxiety about the future of this great country and of despair about the nation’s treatment of individuals from other parts of the world.  It does not represent the best of who we are.

This letter is presented in a constructive spirit, as surely were those from other educational leaders. I hope you will see our outreach to you in that light and will do whatever you can to put us on a much better course, for the sake of the country and of the many from other lands who benefit from it, while offering so much to it.


Biddy Martin
President, Amherst College