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AILA Press Release: Visa Denials and “Culture of No” Hurt America

Cite as "AILA InfoNet Doc. No. 04090760 (posted Sep. 7, 2004)"

American Immigration Lawyers Association

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
September 3, 2004
Contact: Julia Hendrix
jhendrix@aila.org
(202) 216-2404

Visa Denials and "Culture of No" Hurt America

Last week, the U.S. government revoked a visa it had issued to a prominent Swiss theologian, Tariq Ramadan, who had accepted a visiting profession position at the University of Notre Dame. Ramadan is a well-known Muslim scholar who is a strong advocate for democracy and an outspoken opponent of extremism and terrorism. This denial of Ramadan's visa is but the most recent example of the "culture of no" that has permeated the visa issuance and immigration admissions process since 9-11. While purporting to keep America safe from terrorist threat, these measures in fact harm America by keeping out prominent international scholars and others whose voices Americans need to hear.

"We need to make sure we keep out the people who mean to do us harm, not internationally renowned scholars, students who want to study at American universities, families who seek reunification, workers sought by American companies, and foreign visitors who eat in our restaurants, stay in our hotels, and buy American products," said Paul Zulkie, President of the American Immigration Lawyers Association.

The Ramadan visa denial illustrates the reason that many from the Muslim world feel unwelcome in the United States. A recent report from the Association of American Universities states that at least 60 Muslim scholars were prevented from starting their academic programs on time last fall on account of delayed security checks. Increasing numbers of those delayed are taking their skills and expertise elsewhere, rather than coming to America.

The "culture of no" is hurting American business and the travel and tourism industry as well. There has been a 10-20% drop in the number of visas issued since 2001 for all visitors to the United States. Visa applications themselves decreased 15% between 2002 and 2003, as anticipated delays and denials caused prospective visitors to decide not even to apply for a US visa.

"We all want a safer nation. However, when a renowned scholar's visa is revoked, we are not a safer nation," stated Zulkie. "When families remain separated, we are not safer. When businesses cannot access foreign markets because of bureaucratic backlogs, we are not a safer nation either. We need an immigration system that works, one that works for businesses and for families," concluded Zulkie.

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Founded in 1946, AILA is a nonpartisan, nonprofit organization that provides its Members with continuing legal education, information, and professional services. AILA advocates before Congress and the Administration and provides liaison with the Department of Homeland Security and other government agencies. AILA is an Affiliated Organization of the American Bar Association.

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