Oct 26, 2007 The feds: Censoring overseas voices by keeping them from America’s shores
A huge problem I have faced with my decades of civil liberties activism are the often attendant feelings of upset, anger, and disbelief at the extent to which people step on other’s basic liberties, often in the guise of well-meaning politicians, judges, prosecutors, cops, and government bureaucrats, as well as from such other power structures as the rest of the government-military-industrial complex. That is what I get for not having pursued the path of blissful ignorance.
On the immigration front, in law school, I finally learned how deeply the spirit of McCarthyism survived his Senate censure to this day. Repeatedly, the United States government bans and substantially impedes even brief visits by non-citizens to the United States (even for lecture circuit purposes) on the basis of ideology and speech. Those banned include Nelson Mandela (listed as an “undesirable alien” until 2003, requiring special permission to enter the United States); Gabriel Garcia Marquez (who had to apply for special permission for each entry to the United States, through 1996, due to his leftist leanings and friendship with Fidel Castro); and John Lennon (who was subjected to an attempted ban in the early 1970’s, when the United States government mightily tried to deport him due to his pro-peace stance). When comparing the dates of these exclusionary efforts to the presidents in office, we see that such Democratic administrations as Clinton’s allowed such bannings; once again, as in the First Amendment squelching arena (and bannings of such visitors amounts to censorshiop of their voices, too), neither major political party has a monopoly on such repressive activity. More on this sad state of affairs is at the American Civil Liberties Union’s website.
Such banning of brief visitors for their views and voices amounts to government censorship that often goes below the public’s radar. As we gear up for the 2008 Presidential, House and Senate elections, please include considerations of what those candidates will do about the rights of non-United States citizens to visit the United States, and the rights of United States citizens to meet and hear visitors with views different from the presidential administration or the majority of Congress members. Jon Katz.