Wikimedia Foundation joins amicus brief supporting challenge to U.S. immigration and travel restrictions

Photo by Josullivan.59, CC BY 3.0
Map of scheduled airline traffic around the world, c. June 2009. Image by Jpatokal, CC BY-SA 3.0.
Map of scheduled airline traffic around the world, c. June 2009. Image by Jpatokal, CC BY-SA 3.0.

Update, 30 March 2018: Following further developments in these cases, on March 30, 2018, the Wikimedia Foundation joined over 110 other organizations and companies in signing onto an amicus brief in Trump v. Hawaii as it goes before the Supreme Court of the United States. Like previous briefs we have signed regarding this issue, it explains how these travel restrictions would affect the Foundation and the other signatories, and highlights the positive impact that international travel and exchange have had on operations. Additionally, it identifies legal issues with the way the restrictions were created and may be implemented.


Update, November 22, 2017: In September 2017, the U.S. administration issued a new executive order that supplanted previous attempts to restrict immigration into the United States. With the new order, ongoing litigation challenging the original executive orders became moot, so new lawsuits were filed: International Refugee Assistance Project v. Trump in the District of Maryland, and State of Hawaii v. Trump in the District of Hawaii. The Wikimedia Foundation joined over 95 organizations and companies in signing onto a new amicus brief filed in both cases.  Similar to our filings opposing the previous executive orders, the new brief’s argument explains how restrictions on travel would impact the international operations of the Foundation and other signatories. Additionally, it describes legal problems with the order and its implementation. The brief was filed on November 17 in the Fourth Circuit case, and on November 22 in the Ninth Circuit.


Today, the Wikimedia Foundation joined more than 90 organizations including Facebook, Levi Strauss & Co., Microsoft, Mozilla, and Paypal in an amicus brief in State of Washington v. Trump. The case challenges the recent executive order establishing restrictions on immigration and international travel based on national origin. The signatories emphasize the importance of international mobility to innovation, and underscore how the executive order does not meet basic constitutional and statutory requirements. The brief details the real and immediate impact these restrictions will have on the Wikimedia Foundation and other signatories’ staff, operations, user communities, and customers.

The Wikimedia Foundation supports Wikipedia, the other Wikimedia projects, and a global movement of volunteers and affiliate organizations committed to free knowledge. Although we are headquartered in the United States, our mission is global. Wikipedia is built by people from every corner of the globe, across a broad spectrum of nationalities, creeds, political beliefs, and identities. The open exchange of ideas, information, community, and culture is an essential part of our vision: a world in which every single person can freely share in the sum of all knowledge.

Wikimedia Foundation staff and contractors support this mission, and our communities and projects, in every part of the world from Boston to Baghdad to Bangalore. International mobility is critical to our work. We operate technology that delivers knowledge to people on every continent in nearly 300 languages. We cross borders to develop and sustain strategic partnerships with organizations and affiliates around the globe. We travel to gatherings and hackathons to support and collaborate with Wikimedians around the world. We represent Wikimedia research and methodologies at conferences with librarians and scientists from across the globe. We meet with community leaders and board members internationally to exercise corporate and community governance and execute strategic oversight.

Restrictions on immigration and international travel such as those implemented by this executive order will limit the ability of Foundation staff and contractors, and Wikimedia community members to participate in these activities, creating a serious impediment to the organization’s operations.

The arbitrary and overly broad restrictions against the citizens of seven countries, and the threat of expanding the restrictions to include any number of additional countries, have created an environment of uncertainty in our ongoing operations. Many people affiliated with the Wikimedia Foundation can no longer travel to the United States, or are now unwilling to leave the United States for fear they will not be able to return. This uncertainty places an unreasonable burden on members of Wikimedia Foundation staff and the Wikimedia communities and makes it difficult for the Foundation to effectively plan for our future programmatic and operational activities.

At the Wikimedia Foundation, we believe firmly that knowledge knows no borders. In support of free knowledge and the international cooperation that makes our work possible, we find it essential to join in this brief today and other cases challenging this executive order as needed. We urge the courts to find this order unlawful and protect the rights of our communities and staff.

Michelle Paulson, Interim General Counsel
Wikimedia Foundation

Special thanks to the law firm Mayer Brown for drafting the brief, to the other signatories of the brief for their collaboration and support in this matter, and to the Wikimedia Foundation Communications, Legal, Talent and Culture, and Travel teams for their work since the order was first issued.


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Photo credits

Open The Knowledge Journalism Awards Press Release

The Wikimedia Foundation


Wikimedia Foundation / Efraín Villa