Open letter to Anthony Blinken calling for a fair and efficient visa process for at-risk Afghan academics

Introduction

Since the final departure of planes carrying US citizens and Afghan allies from Kabul last August, multiple groups and individual American citizens have continued the struggle to evacuate all at-risk allies left behind. Some obtained placements for scholars and students at US universities. However, many scholars still await the US visas required for them to take up these appointments.

The letter posted here is an appeal from American academics to the Secretary of State to take action to remove the obstacles that stand in the way of an efficient and equitable visa process. It is being sent today with the list of signers to date. More are expected to endorse the appeal which will be sent again in the near future. Copies are being sent to relevant governmental and education agencies. Readers are requested to circulate the letter through their respective networks. Americans are requested to send it to their Senators and Representatives, asking that they also take action toward removing the visa obstacles preventing at-risk scholars from coming to the US universities that have invited them.  (BAR, 6/21/22)

Open Letter

The Honorable Anthony Blinken
United States Secretary of State

July 21, 2022

Re: Visas for at-risk Afghan scholars and students

Dear Mr. Secretary,

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 – 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.  The applicants 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 shameful situation.

Sincerely,

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, Global Campaign for Peace Education
Lecturer, 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

Dr. 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 Tibbets
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 is in process. Institutions provided for identification only.

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