Second Open Letter to the Secretary of State requesting fair process for visas for at-risk Afghan scholars and students

Introduction

This post is a second open letter from American academics to the Secretary of State calling for immediate steps to overcome the present obstacles in the visa process that keeps so many at-risk Afghan scholars from the US universities to which they have been invited. It contains more details about the obstacles and has been endorsed by more academics.

Similar letters are to be sent from constituencies other than the academy. All Americans who read the letter and agree with the need for intervention are urged to forward this letter or similar requests to their respective Senators and Representatives. This campaign has to be wide, vigorous, and simultaneous from multiple sectors to address this immediate problem. Thought is now being given to some other longer-range solutions to the visa problems of at-risk Afghan scholars and students.

Thanks to any and all who take steps toward urging action to address the immediate problem.  (BAR, 7/5/22)

Second Open Letter to the Secretary of State

The Honorable Anthony Blinken
United States Secretary of State

July 5, 2022

Re:  Request regarding visas for at-risk Afghan scholars and students

Dear Mr. Secretary,

This is a second letter, with more information on the problem and additional endorsements, requesting intervention to make the visa process for at-risk Afghan scholars and students more fair and efficient.

We, the undersigned American academics, commend and congratulate the Department of State and the Department of Homeland Security for their endorsement of the Afghan Adjustment Act to facilitate asylum for Afghan supporters of the United States during our twenty years in Afghanistan. It is a significant step toward more just policies toward our Afghan allies.

This letter is intended to urge further steps in the direction of just policies towards Afghans, which also serve the greater interests of the United States. As academics and scholars, we are deeply concerned that J1 and F1 visas for at-risk Afghan academics are virtually impossible to access.

We are deeply concerned about the lives and well-being of these Afghan academics, especially women. They are all at risk and many are threatened with death.  Further, the failure to bring them to safety in situations where they can practice and further develop their professional capacities is a serious obstacle to their futures. The US enlisted the help of these Afghan academics and their fellow citizens and thus has responsibility for ensuring their dignity and wellbeing. The lives of these academics and many human rights defenders are inextricably linked to the future of their country. They represent the best hope of positive change in Afghanistan that seems unattainable as they face the present circumstances in the visa process.

The cost of J1 visas for academics and F1s for students is a nonrefundable fee of $160, a considerable challenge to most applicants, with further expense for those with family, each of whom pays the same fee. This outlay is increased by other added fees such as brief mandatory bus rides to the consulate entrance. Comparatively few of these J1 and F1 applications have been approved, due to the application of the presumptive immigrant standard. Financial issues are problematic, even when a fully funded stipend and scholarship is provided by the inviting university. Delays and denials of these visas are common.

A number of the American academics signing this letter are working to bring at-risk scholars to American universities, attempting to facilitate travel and the visa process. Others represent universities that have invited Afghan academics and students to their campuses to conduct research, to teach and to pursue graduate and undergraduate degrees. All of us have been dismayed and often incredulous at the delays and denials, which sometimes appear to be arbitrary. Among various examples are: a denied applicant being told a sponsor had “too much money” in a bank account on which information was requested; siblings with identical documentation, invited to the same university, one granted a visa, the other denied. The applicants for whom some of the signers have arranged university placements are well qualified, and have no intentions of remaining in the United States, having made arrangements to continue their professional training in other countries.

The integrity of the United States, our claim of full commitment to human rights, and our responsibility to the Afghan people and the world community demand that we take immediate action to remedy this situation of dysfunctional and unjust delay and denial of J1 and F1 visas.

This letter is posted on the Global Campaign for Peace Education site. Copies are sent to President Biden, White House Office of Gender Affairs, Advocates for Afghan Women Scholars and Professionals, Selected members of Congress, CARE at the State Department, American Association of Colleges and Universities, National Education Association, American Association of University Presidents, Institute of International Education, Peace and Justice Studies Association, Evacuate Our Allies, other relevant CSOs.

Mr. Secretary, we request your personal intervention to rectify this urgent situation.

Sincerely,

Betty A. Reardon and David Reilly
(Original signers of the July 21st letter whose names are listed below the names that follow here, signers of this July 5th letter.)

Ellen Chesler
Senior Fellow, Ralph Bunche Institute
City University of New York

David K. Lahkdhir
Chair of the Board of Trustees
American University of South Asia

Joseph J. Fahey
Chair, Catholic Scholars for Worker Justice
Professor of Religious Studies (Retired)
Manhattan College

Meg Gardinier
Georgetown University Center for Research and Fellowships
Instructor for International Training Graduate Institute

Elton Skendaj
Assistant Director, MA Program on Democracy and Governance
Georgetown University

Oren Pizmony-Levy
International and Comparative Education Program
Department of International and Transcultural Studies
Teachers College Columbia University

Kevin A. Hinkley
Assistant Professor of Political Science
Co-Director, Justice House
Niagara University

Monisha Bajaj
Professor of International and Multicultural Education
University of San Francisco

Leonisa Ardizzone
Assistant Visiting Professor of Education
Vassar College

Ronni Alexander
Professor Emerita, Graduate School of International Studies
Director of Gender Equality Office
Kobe University

Jacquelyn Porter
Marymount University (retired)

Gregory Perkins
Counselor, Professor of Student Development, Emeritus
Glendale Community College, CA

June Zaconne
Associate Professor of Economics, Emerita
Hofstra University

Barbara Barnes
Adjunct Associate Professor
Department of Education
Brooklyn College, CUNY

Janet Gerson
Education Director, International Institute on Peace Education
Co-Director, former Peace Education Center,
Teachers College Columbia University

Mary Mendenhall
Teachers College Columbia University

Kevin Kester
Associate Professor of Comparative International Education
Department of Education
Seoul National University

Peter T, Coleman
Founding Director, Advanced Consortium on Cooperation, Conflict and Complexity
Earth Institute Columbia University

Michael Loadenthal
The Peace and Justice Studies Association
Georgetown University

 

Listed below are those who signed the June 21, 2022 open letter:

Betty A. Reardon
Founding Director Emeritus, International Institute on Peace Education
retired founder of peace education at Teachers College Columbia University

David Reilly
President of Faculty Union
Founder and Director of Justice House
Niagara University

Marcella Johanna Deproto
Senior Director, International Scholar and Student Services
University of San Francisco

Tony Jenkins
Coordinator of the Global Campaign for Peace Education
Justice & Peace Studies, Georgetown University

Stephan Marks
Francois Xavier Bagnoud Professor of Health and Human Rights
Harvard University

Dale Snauwaert
Professor of Peace Studies and Education
University of Toledo

George Kent
Professor Emeritus (Political Science)
University of Hawaii

Effie P. Cochran
Professor Emerita, Department of English
John Jay College of Criminal Justice, CUNY

Jill Strauss
Assistant Professor
Borough of Manhattan Community College, CUNY

Kathleen Modrowski
Professor and Dean
Jindal School of Liberal Arts and Humanities
I.P. Jindal Global University

Maria Hanzanopolis
Professor of Education
Vassar College

Damon Lynch, Ph.D.
University of Minnesota

Russell Moses
Senior Lecturer, Philosophy
University of Texas

John J. Kanet
Professor Emeritus
University of Dayton

Catia Cecilia Confortini
Associate Professor, Peace and Justice Studies Program
Wellesley College

Ronald Pagnucco
College of St. Benedict/St. Johns University

Barbara Wien
Member of the Faculty
American University, Washington DC

Jeremy A. Rinken, Ph.D.
Associate Professor, Department of Peace and Conflict Studies
University of North Carolina Greensboro

Laura Finley, Ph.D.
Professor of Sociology and Criminology
Barry University

Jonathan W. Reader
Baker Professor of Sociology
Drew University

Felisa Tibbits
Teachers College Columbia University,
University of Utrecht

John MacDougall
Professor of Sociology Emeritus,
Founding Co-Director, Peace and Conflict Studies Institute
University of Massachusetts Lowell

List of endorsers continues to be in process. Institutions noted for identification only.

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