My Visa Story
I realized that I happen to have one of the most “powerless” passports in the world when my UK visa got rejected three times and I could not attend EUROCALL2017 in person, and many thanks to Virtually Connecting, I could participate in the conference online (You can read about my visa story here: Denied yet Present at EUROCALL 2017: A Memoir).
Now that I have these visa rejections in my visa resume, every single time I apply for a visa I have to disclose them to the visa officer(s). Maybe this is the reason this bitter memory doesn’t fade away (I have written in detail about the nightmare of conference visa applications here).
Why am I writing these again (and again and again)? Because I want you to exactly know why I am “too sensitive” about visas and why I care “too much” about the unfair, and let me be clear, racist Trump travel ban, known as executive disorder among Iranians.
TESOL and Visa
As an ELT scholar, I have always wanted to attend TESOL conferences. I am a working class English instructor and for me TESOL is not an affordable conference to go, and of course I only have Iranian passport, so I automatically don’t submit my abstract(s) to TESOL conferences.
If you check TESOL2019 visa information page (click here, and I couldn’t find the similar page on TESOL2020 website), they ask:
Need A Visa?
For general visa information, visit the U.S. State Department website.
My answer to this question is a big yes, and I did check the US State Department website. I found this brochure, and of course the following information:
On Trump Travel Ban
Nationals of seven countries are currently subject to various travel restrictions contained in the Proclamation, as outlined in the following table, subject to exceptions and waivers set forth in the Proclamation.
The President issued Presidential Proclamation 9645, titled “Enhancing Vetting Capabilities and Processes for Detecting Attempted Entry into the United States by Terrorists or other Public-Safety Threats,” on September 24, 2017.
|Country||Nonimmigrant Visas||Immigrant and Diversity Visas|
|Iran||No nonimmigrant visas except F, M, and J visas||No immigrant or diversity visas|
|Libya||No B-1, B-2, and B-1/B-2 visas||No immigrant or diversity visas|
|North Korea||No nonimmigrant visas||No immigrant or diversity visas|
|Somalia||No immigrant or diversity visas|
|Syria||No nonimmigrant visas||No immigrant or diversity visas|
|Venezuela||No B-1, B-2 or B-1/B-2 visas of any kind for officials of the following government agencies Ministry of Interior, Justice, and Peace; the Administrative Service of Identification, Migration, and Immigration; the Corps of Scientific Investigations, Judicial and Criminal; the Bolivarian Intelligence Service; and the People’s Power Ministry of Foreign Affairs, and their immediate family members.|
|Yemen||No B-1, B-2, and B-1/B-2 visas||No immigrant or diversity visas|
Source: Click here
You might wonder what “except F, M, and J visas for Iranians” means:
M and F visas: Student visas
J visas: Exchange visitor visas
This protest sign can explain why Iranians get this wavier:
Source: Unknown (A friend shared this with me)
Let’s keep in mind that this waiver doesn’t mean that you can get the visa as you will be subject to “increased scrutiny”.
And the family members of the individuals affected by Trump travel ban are living in limbo.
Scholars of Color and Travel Ban
I guess now everyone knows about Trump travel ban. Infographics have been designed (one example here), documentaries have been made (one example here), and Twitter accounts have been created (one example is @UndoFamilyBan). Speaking of academia, Scholars of Color have been directly affected by Trump travel ban. Some examples:
You can read more about scholars’ travel ban stories here:
Documenting the impact of the immigration ban on U.S. science
TESOL and the Actions I Took
First, I contacted @TESOL_Assn on Twitter. Here are my private messages:
I was told that if I have concerns regarding attending the TESOL Convention, I should contact email@example.com, and if I have any other questions, I should feel free to let them know.
I then tweeted this:
And I wrote an email to the organizers (I usually refer to them as People in Power Positions):
Wed, Jul 11, 2018, 9:40 PM
I hope this email finds you well.
I am contacting you about TESOL 2019 which will be held 12–15 March in Atlanta, Georgia, USA. I have noticed that “Where the world comes together” is being used to publicize the conference on TESOL social media. In this challenging, divisive time, this is not possible and I hope TESOL PR team reconsiders the way the word “world” is used. I am aware that some conference organizers (e.g., International Society for Language Studies) have decided not to hold their conferences in the USA until the travel ban is lifted. This is something that TESOL might want to consider. Moreover, opportunities can be provided to people who are affected by the travel ban to present online synchronously or asynchronously. I look forward to being able to participate at TESOL conferences.
I received a very positive reply and I was told that TESOL is against the travel ban and is trying to provide opportunities for those who are affected by the ban.
Note 2: I am sharing these private efforts because when you blog or share something on social media and express your concerns, you are told, “Why didn’t you write privately to them?”.
Recently, I noticed that “Where the World Comes Together” is still used for TESOL2020. I mentioned @RiahWerner and asked her to be my voice and bring this to the attention of TESOL’s Social Responsibility Interest Section (@SRIStesol) people as I know that she is involved in that SIG.
She then kindly suggested that I could write for the Social Responsibility Interest Section newsletter. I thought that’s a good idea and I immediately opened a Word file and started writing. I was in the middle of writing and researching that I noticed the theme of the conference for TESOL 2020 is “Where the World Comes Together”!
The TESOL 2020 convention theme is Where the World Comes Together. Join the international TESOL community in Denver, Colorado, USA, and experience what makes this association unique: Engage in dialogue with present and future practitioners, administrators, researchers, and advocacy leaders about language education and policy as you enrich your knowledge, networks, and professional experience.
If you are an ELT professional or scholar or in a related field or content area, you are invited to submit a proposal for the TESOL 2020!
Source: Click here
That moment I realized that I should write what I want to say here on my platform.
To TESOL and Scholars of Color
Thousands of academics have signed a letter opposing Trump’s travel ban (click here).
Thousands of scholars have protested against Trump’s travel ban by boycotting academic conferences held in the US (click here).
In solidarity with people affected by the ‘Muslim Ban’, an academic boycott of international conferences held in the US has been formed (click here).
I understand that it might not be easy to hold your conferences outside the US, however, I believe:
- Changing your PR slogan was/is still possible.
- Providing opportunities for virtual presentation and online participation was/is still possible.
- Choosing a meaningful theme for educators who are constantly being told to be “inclusive” and teach “critical thinning”, “critical literacy”, and other buzzwords was possible.
if and only if you truly care.
I have read your TESOL Statement on Second Immigration Executive Order many times! I used to be a big fan of Public Statements, but I’ve changed my mind. Apparently, they just serve the power structure. Also, I do follow your advocacy program which “addresses issues that affect the profession worldwide”. I’ve repeatedly asked myself, Why don’t these advocacy efforts facilitate real change? I then go and read @pgorski‘s article again: Complicity with conservatism: The de-politicizing of multicultural and intercultural education.
Dear fellow Scholars of Color,
When we speak we are afraid our words will not be heard or welcomed. But when we are silent, we are still afraid. So it is better to speak.