Administration urged to end exclusion of foreign scholars

Published 20 March 2009

A coalition of academic groups says the federal government’s practice of denying visas to foreign scholars critical of U.S. foreign policy harms the national interest

A broad coalition of academic, free speech, and civil rights organizations sent a letter to Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr., and Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano, urging them to end the federal government’s practice of denying visas to foreign scholars, writers, artists, and activists based on ideology.


The letter argues that the State and DHS harmed the nation’s interest by barring dozens of prominent intellectuals over the past eight years based on their ideas, political views, and associations. “While the government plainly has an interest in excluding foreign nationals who present a threat to national security, no legitimate interest is served by the exclusion of foreign nationals on ideological grounds,” the letter says.


The letter asks the current administration to evaluate applicants for admission to the United States “on the basis of their actions rather than their political beliefs and associations,” and to reconsider the denial of entry to scholars whose actions do not pose a clear threat to national security.


President Obama has yet to indicate whether his administration will alter ideological-exclusion policies authorized in 2001 under the USA Patriot Act.