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The Travel Ban: ICA’s Position, Actions Taken to Help Attendees, and Next Steps

Posted By Laura Sawyer, ICA Executive Director, Monday, April 3, 2017

As you all know, the Trump administration released a travel ban in February 2017 that affects nationals of seven countries and their ability to enter the US. This policy was challenged by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) as a violation of the U.S. constitution. The courts—including a higher court which heard the appeal—agreed with the ACLU, and the White House rescinded the ban. President Trump then issued a second, slightly less restrictive order, removing one country from the list and asserting that those with active visas are still welcome.

While a slight “improvement,” this ban has also been challenged in court by the ACLU and numerous individual plaintiffs. The ban has now been blocked in a lower court in a decision citing its overt motive to discriminate against people on the basis of their religion and national origin, again a direct violation of the U.S. constitution.  

This confusing and evolving situation has raised serious concerns for many members of the ICA community, particularly those intending to participate in the upcoming annual conference in San Diego.  

As the ICA Executive Committee asserted in a statement to our membership and larger community in February in response to the first ban, this situation “run[s] counter to ICA’s commitment to ensure full and equal participation of all members of our organization and participants in our global academic community.”  

We continue to assess the policy’s impact on members and attendees. We recognize members’ concerns regarding the uncertain and changing situation, appreciate your feedback and perspectives, and will remain in dialogue with our entire academic community as this situation evolves. 

In the meantime, we want to make everyone aware of the following actions, which aim to preserve your right as scholars to freely present your work and to collaborate with your peers. 

  • What is ICA Doing to Help?  

    ICA has retained legal counsel specializing in visa issues to advise any member seeking to visit the US for the San Diego conference, including assistance in interpreting the new federal policy and applying for entry. This service is offered at no charge to ICA members and other potential attendees. Please e-mail me (Laura Sawyer, Executive Director), to be connected with this resource. 

  • The ICA office remains ready to assist members in procuring visas to attend ICA conferences and events. Standard invitation letters for visa purposes are available, as always, via the submission website (log in and choose “download invitation letter” from the green menu). If you have a special circumstance and need additional help or special wording in your letter, please contact Julie Randolph, ICA Senior Manager of Member Services & Governance, for assistance.  

  • The ICA San Diego 2017 conference will also support reliable teleconferencing and/or prerecorded presentation for those of you who cannot attend the conference in San Diego but would like to preserve your ability to present your work. ICA is sponsoring landline internet connections in rooms where presenters will be teleconferencing, so that the strength and reliability of Wi-Fi service (while excellent in this hotel) will not be a factor in your ability to communicate smoothly with your chair and your audience. If you are on the program and wish to take advantage of this option because you cannot make it to San Diego, please e-mail me (Laura Sawyer, ICA Executive Director) immediately. I will then connect you to your session chair and provide further instructions to you and your session moderator/chair regarding teleconferencing. Please note that at this point we cannot relocate or reschedule times of sessions in order to accommodate time differences, so depending on where you are this may mean some inconvenience in terms of the time of day where you are.   

  • NEW! Many of our attendees have already contacted me about their situations and we have made arrangements. Those who are planning to come to San Diego in person have taken steps to obtain their visas and airline tickets, and I have given them my personal cell phone number in case of any issues once they arrive in the US. I will be on the ground in San Diego as of Tuesday afternoon, 23 May and will be available to come to the airport if needed. That said, most of you will not have San Diego as your first U.S. stop—you will be connecting from another airport. For this reason, we are developing an internal program whereby ICA members in various states containing major international hub airports can volunteer to be an #ICAsupport for someone traveling abroad, in case of issues at the airport. When you volunteer to be an ICA support, you are offering to give your personal contact information to a fellow ICA attendee coming from outside the US, who will be connecting through your home airport as their first point of entry. You will be “on call” with your connection’s travel itinerary, and s/he will check in with you when s/he has landed. In the (hopefully unlikely) instance that there are any issues at the airport, you agree to be available via phone or if necessary, in person, at the airport to vouch for your fellow ICA attendee’s legitimate reason for being in the country. For more information on this program, see JP Gutierrez’s article on page 5.  
In the coming weeks, we will also be disseminating other “pro tips” on travel to the US, what items to bring along, and who to call if you have trouble.  
As you may have noticed from looking at the online program for the San Diego 2017 annual conference, our program chair and president-elect Paula Gardner (MacMaster U) has assembled numerous special panels directly associated with this policy, recognizing that rigorous dialogue is essential at this moment. Your opening plenary features scholars discussing the issue of the “border” in San Diego: across ethnicity, religious and national identity, gender, and beyond. Another includes international members discussing current global populist movements and cultures, and still others address “posttruth politics” and “alternative facts.” These are examined from a multicultural and multinational perspective, acknowledging that the location for this year’s conference is not the only place in the world undergoing these changes. Several preconferences, Blue Sky workshops, numerous sessions, and a special exhibit on propaganda also address the current environment for academics internationally. At these events, we invite all attendees to dialogue regarding concerns including recent policy actions in the US and elsewhere. This is your conference and your voice is important, now more than ever.  

As we said in the Executive Committee’s official statement in February, “We reiterate ICA’s dedication to a global and diverse exchange of knowledge and perspectives and our mission-- to protect the free exchange of diverse ideas among our members and attendees. We reaffirm our belief that scholarship is expanded and enhanced by our differences. Indeed, we cherish the ideals of inclusion and diversity and we celebrate difference; we do not tolerate speech or behavior that threatens the safety of—or discriminates in any way against—any person or group. Our leadership and our staff are committed to preserving these ideals. We reiterate our commitment to working to ensure that ICA as a whole, and our San Diego 2017 annual conference in particular, are physically safe, inclusive, and welcoming environments for the exchange of knowledge and for the enhancement of scholarship and community.” 

To all of our members and attendees, from me personally and from our staff at the ICA headquarters: We cannot wait to see you all in San Diego. Whether you join in this conversation with your physical presence or via a computer screen from across the globe, your voice is important. We will do everything we can to preserve your ability to participate. If there’s anything we can do for you, please let us know. No matter how we see you, we look forward to seeing you in May.

Tags:  April 2017 

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