#Human Rights
Attorney General Eric Holder and Secretaries Clinton and Napolitano
United States of America

Since 2001, the United States government has refused to grant visas to scores of foreign writers, scholars, artists, and activists on the basis of their ideas, political views, and associations. Individuals currently excluded from the U.S. include Swiss-born Muslim scholar Tariq Ramadan, who was not allowed to enter the country to assume a tenured teaching position at the University of Notre Dame; Basque historian and PEN member Iñaki Egaña, who was denied entry when he tried to come to the U.S. for research on a Basque author who was a target of MacCarthyism, and Haluk Gerger, a Turkish journalist and sociologist who PEN defended and the U.S. State Department supported in the 1990s when he was jailed repeatedly for his writings on Turkey’s Kurdish minority.

Prevalent during the Cold War, ideological exclusion kept such writers as Gabriel García Marquez, Mahmoud Darwish, Pablo Neruda, and Doris Lessing out of the United States for many years. PEN believes excluding international colleagues on the basis of their ideas and opinions violates the First Amendment rights of Americans to hear these views and engage with the speakers. Ideological exclusion does not make us safer; instead, it impoverishes cultural exchange and academic and political debate, and sends a message that our country is more interested in silencing than engaging its critics.

Stand with PEN in urging the Obama administration to end ideological exclusion and allow a full and free exchange of information and ideas.

Over the last eight years, the Departments of State and Homeland Security revived the discredited practice of ideological exclusion denying visas to non-citizens whose politics the government disfavors.

This policy is an embarrassment to our country has led to a number of unjust exclusions, including that of one of Europe’s top Islamic thinkers Dr. Tariq Ramadan, and Basque PEN member Iñaki Egaña.

Censoring ideas at the borders is toxic for academic and political freedom. It deprives individuals like me access to speech that is protected by the First Amendment.

In order to ensure the United States remains a vibrant place for the exchange of ideas where political discourse is not just welcome but encouraged, I am asking that you to immediately end the policy of ideological exclusion immediately, and swiftly grant visas to foreign nationals, including Dr. Ramadan and Mr. Egaña, who have been unjustly excluded.

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The End Ideological Exclusion Now petition to Attorney General Eric Holder and Secretaries Clinton and Napolitano was written by PEN American Center and is in the category Human Rights at GoPetition.