ACLU Condemns Government Censorship at the Borders, Says Freedom of Speech and Association Must Be Protected

March 28, 2006 12:00 am

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WASHINGTON- The American Civil Liberties Union today told a House panel that a section of the Patriot Act is being misused to exclude people from the U.S. based on their political beliefs constitutes “censorship at the borders” and infringes on Americans’ freedom of speech and association.

Stop Censorship at the Border

“This country and our Constitution guarantee freedom of speech and association,” said Caroline Fredrickson, Director of the ACLU Washington Legislative Office. “Censorship at our borders is directly contrary to fundamental American values. Attempts to suppress freedom of speech and association are beneath our country – not to mention a waste of government resources intended to keep Americans safe.”

Fredrickson spoke before the Subcommittee on National Security, Emerging Threats, and International Relations of the House Committee on Government Reform regarding the Department of Homeland Security’s Bureau of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). In her testimony on the ideological exclusion provision of the Patriot Act, Fredrickson discussed its inappropriate use in the exclusion of Dr. Tariq Ramadan, a Swiss citizen and arguably the most prominent and respected European scholar of the Muslim world.

The ACLU has filed a lawsuit challenging the ideological exclusion provision on behalf of national organizations that have invited Ramadan to speak to their members. Ramadan’s visa was revoked in August of 2004 and, as a result, he was forced to give up a tenured position the University of Notre Dame had offered him. ICE used the ideological exclusion provision in the Patriot Act to revoke Ramadan’s visa but failed to point to any evidence that he approves of terrorism. In fact, he has strongly condemned the attacks of September 11.

Fredrickson noted that by regulating, stigmatizing, and suppressing lawful speech, the ideological exclusion provision skews and impoverishes academic and political debate inside the United States. Censorship at the borders creates an artificial barrier for Americans and others; this misguided policy deprives Americans of information and debates they need to make responsible and informed decisions about matters of political importance.

“The idea that immigration law is being used as a tool of censorship is unacceptable,” added Fredrickson. “By regulating speech at our borders, we are sending the wrong message to the world. We must not have a double standard regarding the freedom of speech and dissent. That is one of the strengths of our democracy.”

To read Fredrickson’s testimony for the House Subcommittee, go to:


For more information about the ACLU’s concerns with ideological exclusion, go to:

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