NEW YORK—PEN America and 32 other prominent arts organizations ​have come together to jointly file a friend of the court brief in the case of State of Hawaii v. Trump, urging the Supreme Court to strike down the third iteration of the Trump travel ban issued on September 27, 2017.  

Arts organizations including the Sundance Institute, the Brooklyn Academy of Music, Americans for the Arts, and the Performing Arts Alliance argue that the travel ban violates Americans’ First Amendment right “to receive information by preventing our citizens from hearing and interacting with the ideas and viewpoints of nationals of the targeted countries.” The brief also highlights the numerous contributions that immigrants, refugees, and visitors to the United States have made to its culture and to advancing knowledge, stating “It is no coincidence—but rather an animating principle—that refugees have created many of the works that define what it means to be an American.” 

Executive Order (EO) 13780 bans all immigration from six majority Muslim countries, places additional visa restrictions on nationals of Syria, Iran, Libya, Yemen, and Chad, and includes token restrictions on North Korea and Venezuela. This brief follows an earlier amicus PEN America filed to challenge a previous version of the travel ban last fall, and reflects a continued effort to bring attention to the travel ban’s threat to the free flow and exchange of ideas that are critical to freedom of expression, and are also protected under the First Amendment.   

“By preventing travel to the U.S. by individuals from targeted countries, the ban essentially silences those people’s voices for Americans, and disregards the fundamental role that immigrant voices and the international exchange of ideas have long played in the American cultural landscape,” said Summer Lopez, PEN America’s Senior Director of Free Expression Programs.  “The right to free speech also requires the right to receive information, and, in addition to its many other cruelties, this Executive Order places a unreasonable and unnecessary limit on the perspectives Americans have the ability to hear. Indeed, it is these voices in particular—from countries enduring conflict and those so often held up as the ‘other’ by our own leadership—that we most need as part of our cultural and artistic dialogue in this country today.”  

For artistic, literary, and cultural organizations for whom the arts are a means to celebrate our universality and our common humanity, the ban is an attack on their very missions and reason for existing, and disregards the American tradition of serving as a haven for artists and other creatives who are persecuted elsewhere. It is precisely these people— the Syrian dancer targeted by ISIS, the Yemeni writer or Libyan painter driven from their homes by war— who should be free to find solace and a welcoming artistic community in the United States.  

In addition to lead amicus PEN America, the brief was joined by:

Americans for the Arts
BAM (Brooklyn Academy of Music)
CASH Music
Chamber Music America
Children’s Museum of Manhattan
CIMAM (International Committee for Museums and Collections of Modern Art)
College Art Association
Content Creators Coalition
Fractured Atlas
Future of Music Coalition
Guitar Mash
Institute of Contemporary Art
Index on Censorship
International Association of Art Critics (AICA) International Committee on Censorship
National Alliance of Musical Theater
National Coalition Against Censorship
Network of Ensemble Theaters
New England Foundation for the Arts
OPERA America
Performing Arts Alliance
Sundance Institute
Teachers and Writers Collaborative
Theatre Communications Group
Trudel MacPherson
Vera List Center for Art and Politics
Western Arts Alliance
Yerba Buena Gardens Festival


PEN America stands at the intersection of literature and human rights to protect open expression in the United States and worldwide. We champion the freedom to write, recognizing the power of the word to transform the world. Our mission is to unite writers and their allies to celebrate creative expression and defend the liberties that make it possible.


Michele Riggio, Director of Communications:

Anoosh Gasparian, External Relations Coordinator: