Everyone Can Advocate for Science: Tips for Immigrants Supporting Science

by March for Science

This piece is by Gary McDowell the executive director of Future of Research, and gives advice for how immigrants can advocate for science. 

Many scientists are looking to become more politically engaged or to advocate—whether it be through marching for science, or contacting elected representatives and attending town halls. As someone here on a Green Card, who likes to actively engage and wants to advocate, I wondered what I can and cannot do in the US. 

Among international scientists, there’s some concern about safety in advocating, and this could be a significant barrier to effective advocacy in the States as a large proportion of all U.S.-based scientists are foreign-born. Fifty-two percent of the biomedical workforce is foreign-born, according to 2014 U.S. Census data. There are many “DREAMers” (undocumented immigrants in the U.S. under the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, DACA, Executive Order) who are in STEM. Surveys and other data suggest that 28% of DREAMers are pursuing a STEM degree.

U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS)

U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS)

It’s not just scientists—we all can advocate for science. There are many ways we can be involved in standing for science, scientists, and their communities. After discussing this issue with a range of people I want to present some resources, not as legal advice, but as places where you can find further information, and to show how you can be involved in advocacy.


The March for Science takes place tomorrow, on April 22nd, at around 500 locations worldwide. The events are not only centered around marching, but many are also holding events like science fairs, teach-ins and other public events so even if you don’t feel like being in the march itself, you can still be involved with public outreach events.

Marching itself is a form of political action through public demonstration, and one of the first things to check with your local march, if you feel it necessary, is whether there are measures in place to protect immigrants. This is important to consider because anyone who is not a U.S. citizen can potentially be deported if arrested. Some states have been passing resolutions that specifically target protests, and so you should check to see whether there are such legal barriers in place where your march is happening.

The second thing to find out is whether there will be an attorney-on-call at the march. If so, consider bringing along USCIS form G-28, Notice of Entry of Appearance as Attorney or Accredited Representative, which you can have the attorney sign prior to the march. If arrested, you have the right to remain silent but must share your name; and the G-28 ensures your right to an attorney, namely the one mentioned in the form. You may not always be afforded attorneys in immigration proceedings, so this can probably go a long way to help.

You can find more resources on this at:

While you have a right to record law enforcement, you should take care if you are on federal property, as it’s possible this could be a high-level conviction that could give grounds for deportation proceedings. This seems particularly important in Washington, D.C., but you should check into this further if you are considering recording law enforcement.

If you are a local march organizer, I encourage you to partner with local attorneys, if you haven’t already. The March for Science is also producing a pamphlet to let immigrants know what their rights are.

For all marchers, a resource for you to know your rights is available from the Climate Legal Defense Fund: the accompanying blog post goes into more detail here.

Contact Your Representatives & Town Halls

I only recently realized I was wrong to assume that because I have no vote, I have no voice. Representatives and senators represent everyone residing within their districts, and so you are able to write, call or speak to your representative in person, should you wish to do so. You can find more information on how to contact them here and some more informal strategies here.

The American Society for Cell Biology (ASCB) has an advocacy toolbox and information on their website; the Union of Concerned Scientists has an action page here; the American Association for the Advancement of Science has a page here and there are countless other ways to get involved. As an immigrant on a visa, you can still have a voice.

Ask Others to Stand Up for You

As a white male British and Irish citizen, I feel safe attending town halls and speaking to representatives personally. However I recognize my position of privilege here, and you shouldn’t do anything that you don’t feel safe and comfortable doing. The point of this post is not to dissuade, but to try to put at your disposal resources and information to help you make an informed decision about actions you take, without suggesting in any way what you should do. It’s important to remember that you can engage in advocacy even as an immigrant.

If you don’t feel safe taking actions like these, reach out to your lab, your department, those around you who you feel are able to speak up. Explain to them the reasons you don’t feel safe doing so, and ask them for their help. Science is a team effort, and a team should look out for those who need help. I hope that you are able to find help and support in your lab, your peers, and through your societies.

I’d like to address the U.S. citizens in the audience, and ask international researchers to pass this message on to the citizens in your lab, your department, your institution: We are relying on you. I am asking for your help. You are in the safest position when it comes to speaking out and speaking up, particularly so if you are white and male. International scientists are also just one of the communities asking for your help, and I thank those of you already working in this space.

For all of you: feel free to try to engage through your scientific societies. I’m part of an effort that is gearing up to try to highlight which societies are able to facilitate your advocacy needs, Scientists Speaking Up (@ScisSpeakUp), and you can look to your scientific societies to see how they can channel your enthusiasm for engagement.

Other articles and resources:


Many thanks to Erika Shugart and Kevin Wilson from ASCB; Adrián Isaias Reyna from United We Dream; Maryam Zaringhalam; Virginia Folgado Marco and Linda Molla from INet NYC; and Yaihara Fortis-Santiago from the New York Academy of Sciences.

About the Author

Gary McDowell is the Executive Director of Future of Research, a nonprofit that advocates for and with junior scientists and aims to increase transparency and accountability within scientific training. He has studied chemistry, developmental and cell biology, and biochemistry, and spent over 8 years working with the model organism Xenopus laevis, the African claw-toed frog.

Diversity and Inclusion Green card, international scientists, VISA, legality, safety