EERI Statement on Earthquakes, Hurricanes and Immigration

September 13, 2017

The EERI Board of Directors met on September 8th, amid the beginning recovery of Hurricane Harvey, the current and imminent impacts of Hurricanes Irma and Jose, and the unfolding damage accounts from the September 7th M8.1 earthquake off the southern coast of Mexico. Mother Nature appears to be rather active and intense.

On the Mexico earthquake, the Learning From Earthquakes Executive Committee is already collecting data, contacting our colleagues in Mexico and Guatemala, and determining the appropriate level of response. Stay tuned.

The Board did celebrate a recent milestone accomplishment in the introduction of legislation this last week to reauthorize the National Earthquake Hazards Reduction Program. With bi-partisan co-sponsorship, led by Senators Feinstein and Murkowski, the introduction of this appropriations bill would not have occurred without the extraordinary efforts by EERI’s Public Policy and Advocacy Committee. But there is an uncertain road to navigate before NEHRP is reauthorized and funded.

We are living in turbulent times beyond the recent rash of natural disasters we are experiencing. National support for science is being challenged. Immigration restrictions and the withdrawal of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals pose potential harmful impact to EERI’s national and international membership.

The Board recalled an extraordinary moment at this last spring’s annual business meeting. As we do annually, we bestowed lifetime achievement awards to Prof. Anil Chopra (M. EERI, 1973), Ashraf Habibullah (M. EERI, 1999), and Dr. Farzad Naeim (M. EERI, 1983). In accepting his award, Farzad noted that all three of these honorees were first-generation immigrants to the United States, and all had made significant contributions to the cultural, scientific and economic fabric of this country. And he noted that none of them, under proposed policy changes, would today be likely allowed to immigrate. Farzad’s remarks were greeted with a spontaneous and resounding standing ovation. Never have we been so stirred and proud of our membership.

The Board further expressed concerns regarding the threats to our earthquake engineering and social science Dreamers. These young members of our Institute represent our future contributors and leadership, and securing their future should be all of our concern.

We do not speak out to politicize but we do have the responsibility to remain true to the EERI mission. That mission is to reduce earthquake risk by advancing the science and practice of earthquake engineering; by improving understanding of the impact of earthquakes on the physical, social, economic, political, and cultural environment; and by advocating comprehensive and realistic measures for reducing the harmful effects of earthquakes. And when policies directly or indirectly affect the pursuit of this mission, we must speak up.

We are a membership that is about inclusion and not of exclusion or restriction. We know no borders. The only fault divisions we identify are those of tectonic origin. We are women and men of all races, nationalities and faiths, and bonded and made stronger by that diversity.

On behalf of the EERI Board of Directors and staff, this message is written with immense respect and appreciation for our diverse membership. We remain dedicated to collaborative actions to reduce earthquake risk.

David A. Friedman, President, EERI