American educators and human rights activists are looking to make sure foreign academics with ties to terrorists or anti-American views can get back on American campuses. The authors of a March 18 coalition letter criticized the Bush Administration for its war on terror policy of “ideological exclusion” over the last eight years.
The letter, sent on March 18 to Attorney General Eric Holder, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, and Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano, asks the Obama administration to end the practice by which the U.S. government refuses “visas to foreign scholars, artists, and activists not on the basis of their actions but on the basis of their ideas, political views, and associations.”
“As result of this practice, dozens of prominent intellectuals were barred from assuming teaching posts at U.S. universities, fulfilling speaking engagements with U.S. audiences, and attending academic conferences,” states the letter.
The authors urged the Obama administration to “immediately revisit” the denial of visas to
• Iñaki Egaña,
• Haluk Gerger,
• Adam Habib,
• Riyadh Lafta,
• Tariq Ramadan,
• Rafael de Jesus Gellego Romero, and
• Dora Maria Tellez.
Ramadan was offered a position at the University of Notre Dame in 2004, but the U.S. government revoked his visa before he began teaching.
As Accuracy in Academia reported in 2004, Ramadan told the French press that Islamist attacks on the U.S. on September 11, 2001—as well as the attacks in Bali and Madrid—were “interventions” and has denied Osama bin Laden’s connection to the 9/11 attacks. Ramadan, according to writer Olivier Guitta, “is the grandson of Hassan Al Banna, the founder of the Muslim Brotherhood.”
“After U.S. groups filed suit, the government abandoned the accusation that Professor Ramadan had endorsed terrorism,” states the coalition letter. “It continues to exclude him now, however, under the [Immigration and Nationality Act’s] INA’s ‘material support provisions.’”
“We believe that the material support provisions do not apply to Professor Ramadan and the evidence strongly suggests that he has been excluded not because of his donations but because of his vocal criticism of U.S. foreign policy,” they assert.
Ramadan donated $940 to two Palestinian-aiding charities operating through France and his home country of Switzerland: the Comité de Bienfaisance et de Secours aux Palestiniens (CBSP) and the Association de Secours Palestinien (ASP).
The U.S. government designated CPSB and ASP as terrorist fronts on August 22, 2003. “The group has collected large amounts of money from mosques and Islamic centers, which it then transfers to sub-organizations of HAMAS,” stated the U.S. Department of the Treasury. Hamas “grew out of the Muslim Brotherhood,” according to the Council on Foreign Relations (CFR), and has run the political apparatus of the Palestinian territories since the 2006 parliamentary elections.
(E.D. The CFR has never been, to put it mildly, known as a particularly right-wing group).
Professor Ramadan defended his actions in a 2006 Washington Post column, claiming he had no knowledge of the terrorist leanings of these charities.
As this correspondent previously reported in 2007, the USA Patriot Act extends the U.S. government’s “material support” provisions to include those who have funded or recruited for terrorist organizations. “The Consolidated Appropriations Act [of 2008] enacted in December 2007, modified certain terrorism-related provisions in the INA, including exempting specific groups from the INA’s definition of ‘terrorist organization’ and significantly expanding immigration authorities’ waiver authority over the terrorism-related grounds for exclusion,” wrote Legislative Attorney Michael John Garcia and immigration specialist Ruth Ellen Wasem for a Congressional Research Service report to Congress.
“Now, the Secretary of State or Secretary of Homeland Security, in consultation with the other and the Attorney General, may generally waive application of INA….with respect to any alien,” stated the report, last updated on January 22, 2008. “Only the Secretary of Homeland Security (not the Secretary of State) may exercise waiver authority with respect to an alien after removal proceedings against the alien are instituted.”
In other words, Napolitano, Clinton and Holder could work together to decide to admit previously rejected visa applicants, provided that these persons
• do not “engage or have engaged in terrorist activity on behalf of a designated…terrorist organization,”
• have not “received military training from a Tier I or Tier II organization,”
• are not “members or representatives” of such organizations,
• or “endorse or espouse the terrorist activity of a Tier I or Tier II organization, or convince others to support” that group’s terrorist activities.
However, it remains unclear whether Dora Maria Tellez could be admitted under a waiver. Tellez “was ‘Commander 2’ in 1978 when a group of guerrillas took over the [Nicaragua] National Palace and held 2,000 government officials hostage in a two-day standoff,” wrote Duncan Campbell for the The Guardian (UK) on March 4, 2005. “After negotiations, she and the other guerrillas were allowed to leave the country.”
At the time, the U.S. government was backing the Anastasio Somoza regime which Tellez helped topple.
However, according to START, the National Consortium for the Study of Terrorism and Responses to Terrorism, the FSLN, or Sandinista National Liberation Front, is not listed by the government as a Foreign Terrorist Organization (FTO). However, “government officials have accused the Sandinistas of using terrorists to influence election results” in recent years. START is a Department of Homeland Security “center of excellence” based at the University of Maryland.
The question remains: are Barack Obama’s Department heads likely to grant these academics entry to the country? It is not that unlikely.
As Accuracy in Media has documented, Eric Holder was the Deputy Attorney General when the outgoing President Bill Clinton decided to pardon two members of the Weather Underground and members of the Puerto Rican Armed Forces of National Liberation (FALN).
Bethany Stotts is a staff writer at Accuracy in Academia.