MESA Tries to Manufacture a Victimhood Story
by Winfield Myers • February 6, 2007
What happens when you need a story that portrays visa applicants to America from academics in the Middle East as victims of U.S. immigration policies and the Patriot Act, but don't have the data to back it up? If you're Middle East Studies Association (MESA) executive director Amy W. Newhall of the University of Arizona, you go on a fishing expedition via the email reproduced below and archived at Campus Watch. You may bet the farm that any scholars who are denied a visa by U.S. authorities will be declared official victims of American perfidy and elevated by MESA and their friends in the media to the status of Official Hero, as occurred with Tariq Ramadan last year when his application for a visa to teach at Notre Dame was denied.
Here's the full text of the email:
Dear MESA members,
Many of us are concerned that our colleagues from outside the US, particularly our Middle Eastern colleagues, encounter unusual difficulties when trying to obtain visas to enter the US for the purposes of attending scholarly meetings or giving invited talks. We believe this to be true but to what extent is this perception based on reality? Aside from the well known Tariq Ramadan case, MESA has received few reports of visa denials. Our Committee on Academic Freedom (CAF) would like to know more. Background information of this kind will help the committee when it composes letters objecting to US immigration policies and the Patriot Act. While I am not asking you to name names, as much detail as possible will help me separate rumor from fact. Please email your responses directly to me: firstname.lastname@example.org < mailto:email@example.com>. I will collate the raw information for the committee but I will respect any request for confidentiality.
I would be very grateful if you could answer the brief questions below.
1. Are scholars or students denied US visas on the basis of their viewpoints or the topics they study (ideological exclusion)?
2. If you know scholars who were not able to attend a meeting or give a presentation in the US, was it because they were OFFICIALLY DENIED a visa, or was it because the visa did not arrive in time? If the visa did not arrive in time was it applied for in a timely fashion (in this new world that means 6-8 months ahead) ?
3. Have you ever heard of scholars withdrawing their own visa application upon advice from a consulate or embassy?
4. Have you ever heard of scholars being asked politically charged questions during the interview required of visa applicants?
5. Are foreign scholars and foreign scholars resident in the US now self-censoring to avoid jeopardizing future visas or immigration status?
6. Are foreign scholars giving up on efforts to come to the US? Why?
With thanks for your help,
Amy W. Newhall
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