We Welcome Asylum Seekers and Defend Their Rights


(Photo: John Moore/Getty Images)

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