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We Welcome Asylum Seekers and Defend Their Rights

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

"All people have the right to come to this country, seek asylum, and have their cases heard," argue the letter's signatories. "U.S. law is clear in outlining the rights of people to come to the country and claim asylum." (Photo: John Moore/Getty Images)

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.

"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."

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

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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-Palma, Strategist & Movement Leader

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

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Rev. Dr. William J. Barber II

Rev. Dr. William J. Barber II

Rev. Dr. William J. Barber II is national president and senior lecturer of Repairers of the Breach. His latest book is The Third Reconstruction: How A Moral Movement is Overcoming the Politics of Division and Fear. Follow him on Twitter: @RevDrBarber

Noam Chomsky

Noam Chomsky

Noam Chomsky is Institute Professor (retired) at MIT. He is the author of many books and articles on international affairs and social-political issues, and a long-time participant in activist movements. His most recent books include:  Who Rules the World? (Metropolitan Books, the American Empire Project, 2016); Power Systems: Conversations on Global Democratic Uprisings and the New Challenges to U.S. Empire (with interviewer David Barsamian); Making the Future: Occupations, Interventions; Empire and Resistance, Hopes and Prospects; and Profit Over People: Neoliberalism & Global Order. Previous books include: 9-11: 10th Anniversary Edition, Failed States, What We Say Goes (with David Barsamian), Hegemony or Survival, and the Essential Chomsky.

Noura Erakat

Noura Erakat is a human rights attorney and writer. She is currently an assistant professor at George Mason University. Follow her on Twitter: @4noura

Tom Morello

Tom Morello is an American musician, songwriter, actor, and political activist. Follow him on Twitter: @tmorello

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