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NYT Calls for End to “Ideological Exclusion”

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September 18, 2009

Yesterday, The New York Times opined about “ideological exclusion” — the practice of denying foreign citizens entry into the U.S. based on their political views and associations, rather than any suspicious activity — writing:

“The Bush administration eagerly revived the practice, barring numerous people from entering the country for speaking engagements or conferences or to teach at leading universities — all under a flimsily supported guise of fighting terrorism.

[…]Months ago, a group of free speech advocates, including the Association of American Publishers, the American Library Association and the American Civil Liberties Union called on the Obama administration to end ideological exclusions and to review dubious visa denials. We hope Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton takes heed.

Although “ideological exclusion” originated during the Cold War, when critics of U.S. policy were often excluded as supposed Communists, the misguided practice was revived in the wake of the 9/11 attacks.

The ACLU is challenging the exclusion of foreign scholars Tariq Ramadan and Adam Habib on behalf of academic, religious and professional organizations that have invited these scholars to speak in the U.S. The lawsuits charge that the Departments of State and Homeland Security are violating Americans’ First Amendment right to hear Professors Ramadan and Habib’s speech.

The editorial highlights our cases, stating:

Adam Habib, a well-known intellectual, professor and human rights activist from South Africa, was interrogated for seven hours and told that his visa had been revoked when he tried to enter the United States in 2006 for professional meetings. He was later told that his exclusion was based on terrorism-related grounds. He is challenging the action in court, but the government has yet to explain its precise legal or factual reasoning.

In 2004, the Bush administration revoked the visa of Tariq Ramadan, a Swiss national and Muslim scholar, who was to become a tenured professor at the University of Notre Dame. It again denied him a visa in 2006. Two months ago, a three-judge panel of the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit in Manhattan unanimously reversed a lower-court ruling allowing the government’s move.

The editors at the Times got it right: ideological exclusion is inconsistent with American values. The sad revival of this long-discredited practice should end, and ideological exclusion should be returned to the dustbin of history.

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