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We Welcome Asylum Seekers and Defend Their Rights

An open letter from over one hundred artists, activists, scholars, and writers

Published in Common Dreams, February 5, 2019

We — activists, scholars, writers and artists — strongly condemn President Trump’s efforts to vilify, intimidate, and use force against refugees and asylum seekers at and approaching the U.S. border.

We are deeply troubled by the government’s responses to current and recent asylum seekers, which include the deployment of military personnel to an already highly militarized border, and expansion of detention facilities meant to incarcerate people entering the U.S. rather than welcome them. We reject President Trump’s maligning of the refugees as an “invasion.” And we recognize the fact that U.S. political, economic, and military activities in Central America have contributed to the situation that so many people—including families with small children—are fleeing.

President Trump has spoken about the asylum seekers currently stuck in Tijuana, claiming without evidence that “a significant majority will not be eligible for or be granted that benefit.” In fact, all people have the right to come to this country, seek asylum, and have their cases heard.

U.S. law is clear in outlining the rights of people to come to the country and claim asylum. The Immigration and Nationality Act of 1965 states that a foreigner “who is physically present in the United States or who arrives in the United States, whether or not at a designated port of arrival” may apply for asylum. The participants in the Exodus from Central America—as the refugees refer to their journey—are doing exactly what the law requires to seek refuge in the United States.

The rights of asylum seekers are also supported by international law. The 1967 United Nations Protocol Relating to the Status of Refugees—which the United States has signed—states that “refugees shall have free access to the courts of law on the territory of all contracting states” and that they shall enjoy “the same treatment as a national in matters pertaining to access to the courts.” The United States’ actions violate this principle.

The signatories of this statement include people who live both within and outside of the borders of the United States. We believe that the people and government of the U.S. are not only accountable to ourselves, but to the world. We believe that all people, wherever they come from, should be free to move to wherever they choose. We call on others to join us in offering solidarity and welcome to all refugees and asylum seekers.

Signed (organizational affiliations are included for identification purposes only),

  1. Noam Chomsky, Professor Emeritus, Massachusetts Institute of Technology

  2. Rev. William J. Barber II, National President & Senior Lecturer, Repairers of the Breach

  3. Tom Morello, Musician

  4. Teju Cole, Writer and Photographer

  5. Molly Crabapple, Artist and Author

  6. Noura Erakat, Human Rights Attorney

  7. Yesenia Portillo, Organizer, CISPES – Committee In Solidarity with the People of El Salvador

  8. Sonia Nieto, Professor Emerita, Language, Literacy, and Culture, College of Education, University of Massachusetts, Member, National Academy of Education

  9. Mercedes Martinez, President, Puerto Rican Federation of Teachers

  10. Keeanga-Yamatta Taylor, Author, From #BlackLivesMatter to Black Liberation

  11. Rory Fanning, Former US Army Ranger, War Resister

  12. Jennifer Rosenbaum, Global Labor Justice

  13. Lisa Lowe, Tufts University

  14. Phyllis Bennis, Institute for Policy Studies

  15. Maggie Martin, About Face

  16. Steven Mayers, Co-editor of Solito, Solita: Crossing Borders With Youth Refugees from Central America, Professor at City College of San Francisco

  17. Katherine Gallagher, Center for Constitutional Rights

  18. John Cavanaugh, Executive Director, Institute for Policy Studies

  19. Maude Barlow, Council of Canadians

  20. Sameerah Ahmad, United Students Against Sweatshops

  21. Dave Zirin, Sports Editor, The Nation

  22. Peter McLaren, Distinguished Professor in Critical Studies, College of Educational Studies, Chapman University

  23. Jesse Hagopian, Co-editor, “Teaching for Black Lives,” editor, Rethinking Schools

  24. Mike Davis, Professor Emeritus, University of California, Riverside

  25. Katherine Hite, Vassar College,

  26. Lisa Kaul, Vassar College

  27. Joseph Nevins, Vassar College

  28. Diana Taylor, Professor, New York University

  29. Jonathon Kahn, Professor of Religion, Vassar College

  30. Akua Gyamerah, University of California, San Francisco

  31. Tim Koechlin, Director, International Studies Program, Vassar College

  32. Pamela Yates, Film Director

  33. Eva Woods Peiró, Professor, Vassar College

  34. Nancy Kricorian, Writer

  35. Greg Dawes, North Carolina State University

  36. Kathleen Vernon, Stony Brook University

  37. Dao X. Tran, Editor

  38. Eileen Leonard, Professor of Sociology, Vassar College

  39. Mimi Lok, Voice of Witness

  40. Kate Doyle, National Security Archive

  41. Sophia Harvey, Associate Professor

  42. Terrence Fraser, Black4Palestine, Black Alliance for Peace

  43. Marlene Solís, El Colegio de la Frontera Norte

  44. Ricia Anne Chansky, Professor, University of Puerto Rico at Mayagüez

  45. Ariana Vigil, Associate Professor, Women and Gender Studies, University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill

  46. Daralee Vazquez-Garcia, New York Collective of Radical Educators

  47. Natalia Ortiz, New York Collective of Radical Educators

  48. Hector Agredano, Pasadena City College

  49. Shirley Leyro, PhD, Assistant Professor of Criminal Justice

  50. Katrina Powell, Virginia Tech

  51. Edna Bonhomme, Democratic Socialists of America and Frauen Streik Berlin

  52. Emily Satterwhite, Virginia Tech

  53. K.M. Powell, Virginia Tech

  54. John Whitley, Poor People’s Campaign

  55. Natalie Pien, Unitarian Universalist Church of Loudoun, Green Team

  56. Jason Rylander, Artist, Attorney, Activist

  57. Stacy Lovelace

  58. Shane Lovelace

  59. Laura Gillman, Professor Emerita, Virginia Tech

  60. Rachel Carle, ActionAid USA

  61. Doug Hertzler, ActionAid USA

  62. Brandon Wu, Director of Policy & Campaigns, ActionAid USA and Organizer, Sanctuary DMV

  63. Kirsten Wesselhoeft, Assistant Professor of Religion

  64. Brad Simpson, Associate Professor of History, University of Connecticut

  65. Alberta Guerra, ActionAid USA

  66. Adam Miyashiro, Literature Program, Stockton University

  67. Holly Painter, English Faculty, University of Vermont

  68. Yolanda Flores, University of Vermont

  69. Peter Spitzform, Librarian

  70. Emily Coderre, Researcher

  71. Anthony E Grudin, University of Vermont

  72. Kristen Kelley, Housing Advocate and Activist

  73. Andrew Sloin, Associate Professor of History, Baruch College, CUNY

  74. Teresa Mares, Associate Professor of Anthropology, University of Vermont

  75. Boris Dralyuk, Executive Editor, Los Angeles Review of Books

  76. Kenneth Allen, Senior Lecturer

  77. Eve Sicular, Musician, Isle of Klezbos

  78. Susan A.Comerford, University of Vermont

  79. David Slucki, College of Charleston

  80. Selene Colburn, Assistant Library Professor, University of Vermont

  81. Eric M. Fink, Associate Professor, Elon University School of Law

  82. Samuel Greenberg, Jewish Solidarity Caucus

  83. David Shneer, Louis P. Singer Chair, University of Colorado Boulder

  84. Nick Riemer, Departments of English and Linguistics, University of Sydney, Australia

  85. David Brophy, Department of History, University of Sydney, Australia

  86. Michael Gould-Wartofsky, Author, The Occupiers; PhD Candidate in Sociology, New York University

  87. Pam Campos, Former Air Force Servicemember, Executive Director of Common Defense

  88. Zakiyah Ansari, New York State Alliance for Quality Education

  89. Miguel Zavala, Co-President, California Chapter of the National Association for Multicultural Education

  90. Anaida Colon-Muniz, Ed.D., Professor of Scholarly Practice, Attallah College of Educational Studies, Chapman University

  91. Noah Asher Golden, Assistant Professor, Attallah College of Educational Studies, Chapman University

  92. Rosemary Rivera, Citizen Action New York

  93. Pranav Jani, Associate Professor of English, The Ohio State University

  94. Snehal Shingavi, Associate Professor, Department of English, The University of Texas, Austin

  95. Anton Ford, Associate Professor, University of Chicago

  96. Dana L. Cloud, Professor, Graduate Program Director, Department of Communication and Rhetorical Studies, Syracuse University

  97. Nagesh Rao, Lecturer, Colgate University

  98. Martin J. Ponce, Ohio State University

  99. Bill V. Mullen, Professor of American Studies, Purdue University

  100. Deepa Kumar, Associate Professor of Journalism and Media Studies

  101. Nancy Welch, Professor of English, University of Vermont

  102. Phil Gasper, Emeritus Professor of Philosophy, Notre Dame de Namur University

  103. Sam Nelson, Jobs With Justice

  104. Denise Guadalupe Romero, International Socialist Organization and LSSA 2320 of the United Auto Workers

  105. Gillian Russon, United Teachers of Los Angeles

  106. Khury Petersen-Smith, Institute for Policy Studies

  107. Celia Cuddy, University of Vermont