No Terrorists Left Behind; American Universities Ignore Scholars' Radicalism

Article excerpt


The decision to deny a visa to Dora Maria Tellez, a Nicaraguan scholar who had planned to study English at the University of San Diego last fall and teach at Harvard in the spring, has led to campus protests and angry denunciations of the actions of the State Department. More than 100 faculty members and administrators from the University of San Diego, Harvard and Notre Dame signed a letter denouncing the actions of the Bush administration and demanding that the State Department clear the name of Dora Maria Tellez by restoring her human rights.

In denying the visa, the U.S. general consul in Nicaragua, Luis Espada-Platet, indicated in a letter to Ms. Tellez that the Immigration and Nationality Act prevents persons who allegedly endorse or espouse terrorist activity from entering the country. Under the Patriot Act, the federal government has the authority to exclude foreigners who, in the government's view, have used positions of prominence to endorse or espouse terrorist activity.

While Ms. Tellez states that she "is a scholar and not a terrorist," and claims in interviews to have "no idea why I have been labeled," the reality is that in 1978 Ms. Tellez described herself as a "combatant, and guerrilla leader." Ms. Tellez was one of 25 revolutionaries who dressed as waiters and took over Nicaragua's National Assembly. During this time, Ms. Tellez called herself "Commander 2" and served as the political commander in the takeover of the national palace In an impressive show of force, Ms. Tellez held 2,000 government officials hostage in a two-day standoff. She later led guerrillas to rise up in the city of Leon. After the revolution, Ms. Tellez served as minister for health in the Sandinista government. She is a long-time advocate for gay and lesbian rights. The State Department has claimed that the Tellez visa denial is not related to her sexual orientation.

Faculty members from Notre Dame joined their San Diego colleagues in the denunciation of the Tellez denial. Most likely the Notre Dame involvement is related to the fact that last year, Tariq Ramadan was denied a visa to teach there. While the faculty claim that Mr. Ramadan was unfairly linked to terrorist groups simply because his grandfather, Hasan al-Banna, founded the Muslim Brotherhood, the most powerful Islamist institution of the 20th century, the reality is that Mr. Ramadan seems to have developed his own links. …