Saturday, November 17, 2007

First Amendment Right for South African scholar fighting denied visa?

After being denied a visa to attend an academic conference, a prominent South African scholar named Adam Habid pressed the US embassy to provide him with a reason as to why he could not obtain a visa. The embassy would only point to the statute of US Immigration and Nationality Act which grants the right for the US to deny entry to anyone who has engaged in terrorist acts or is signaled to engage in them.

Adam Habid says he is not a terrorist. Instead, he is a critic of the current administration and he believes, backed by the ACLU that is in charge of his case, that this is the reason he is being denied a visa. Since 9/11, writers, artists and others have found it much harder to get in the US. Like Habib, many of this people have in common being vocal critics of US foreign policy. Habib is arguing that his first amendment right is being violated because he has the right to speak out against the US government and the people at the conference he is trying to attend have the right to hear what he has to say.

Habid’s case raises many questions about free speech and due process. A spokesman for the US government states that “The US would never sacrifice civil liberties, but life is the liberty on which all others depend.” Does national security override free speech? Are Habid’s rights being violated? Does he have the right to speak and be heard in the United States? Is it ok for an American to criticize US foreign policy without being labeled a terrorist or does this only apply to foreigners?

No comments: