Oncology Stakeholders Respond to the Presidential Executive Order on Immigration

February 2, 2017
Allie Casey

After the presidential executive order limiting immigration on Friday, several oncology organizations responded with statements expressing concern.

Friday afternoon, President Donald Trump signed an executive order which limited access for designated groups through America’s borders. Since that time, several oncology organizations have released statements expressing concern with this order and its potential ramifications for cancer care.

The order indefinitely bars Syrian refugees from the United States and suspends all refugee admissions for 120 days. Additionally, certain individuals from 7 countries, whether refugee or not, are also barred from entering the United States for 90 days. Those countries, all Muslim-majority, are Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Syria, and Yemen.

In response to this action, citizens have organized mass protests and diplomats, federal judges, Democratic legislators, and even former President Barack Obama have spoken out against it. However, many Republican leaders praised the order.

In statements released on Monday, the American Society of Clinical Oncologists (ASCO) and Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center (MSK) added their voices to the dissent. Just today, a joint statement was released from the American Society of Hematologists (ASH), the American Association for Cancer Research (AACR), the Association of American Cancer Institutes (AACI), the American Society for Radiation Oncology (ASTRO), the American Society of Pediatric Hematology/Oncology (ASPHO), and the advocacy group LUNGevity Foundation released a joint statement on the issue, which read in part:

“Much of the progress that has been achieved against cancer and blood diseases has been fueled by researchers from all corners of the world. For this progress to continue it is going to require an even greater commitment to collaborations among international organizations, governments, public and private institutions, and individuals dedicated to this cause.”

Although the post to MSK’s Facebook page did not directly reference the executive order, it did note that their success is, “because the MSK community brings together the best talent from around the world, citizen and immigrant alike.” The statement generated support from more than 2000 users as of this writing.

ASCO and those organizations signing the joint statement underscored the necessity of collaboration and diversity in scientific discovery and advancement. For example, ASCO stated that this order could impact, “cancer research, patients’ care, and international scientific collaboration.” The joint statement echoed that sentiment, adding that the United States “depends on the contributions of the greatest minds from around the world to maintain the high quality of our biomedical research enterprise and healthcare services.”

The ASCO and the group statements stressed the vital importance of scientific meetings, attended by an international audience, where new technology and techniques are introduced, information is shared, and collaboration can thrive.

“Any loss of researchers and physicians will render the United States less competitive over time, and our traditionally strong research institutions and the patients they serve will be negatively affected,” noted the joint statement.

ASCO commented on how progress in cancer care will suffer if their global community of providers is “divided by policies that bar members of certain nationalities from entering the US.”

Each statement included a call to action: The joint statement requested that administration and national leaders “consider the negative impacts of [this] executive order,” whereas ASCO called on national leaders “to eliminate unjustified barriers to scientific meetings and medical education.”