Over the weekend, it was reported that renowned Columbian journalist Hollman Morris — one of 12 international journalists selected to participate in the prestigious Nieman fellowship program at Harvard University during the 2010–11 academic year — has been denied a visa by the State department. The U.S. embassy in Bogota informed him that he has been found permanently ineligible for a visa under the Immigration and Nationality Act.
Today, the ACLU, American Association of University Professors and PEN American Center sent a letter to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to express alarm over this apparent incident of ideological exclusion — a practice under which foreign nationals are denied entry to the United States because the government does not agree with their political views.
Earlier this year, Secretary Clinton signed orders effectively lifting the exclusion of prominent scholars Adam Habib and Tariq Ramadan, who were excluded by the Bush administration. We had hoped that Secretary Clinton’s orders signaled a broader commitment to ending the practice of ideological exclusion, but the Hollman Morris case makes us wonder whether the practice has actually been retired.
The letter we sent today states:
No legitimate interest is served by the exclusion of foreign nationals on ideological grounds. Ideological exclusion impoverishes intellectual inquiry and debate in the United States, suggests to the world that our country is more interested in silencing than engaging its critics, and undermines our ability to support dissent in politically repressive nations.
Yesterday, Alex Gibney, Academy Award-winning director of Taxi to the Dark Side, re-released this short video about Morris's work. Gibney writes in The Atlantic: "What kind of message is the Obama administration sending? Work for human rights and you are not welcome here?"
Join us in standing up for the First Amendment: Tell Secretary Clinton to end the practice of ideological exclusion once and for all.