1947 October 19

ACLU Attacks State Department “Gag” on Foreign Visitors


In a letter to Secretary of State George C. Marshall on this day, the ACLU sharply criticized the State Department’s “gag on visitors to the United States.” The letter was prompted by the case of Rev. Michael Scott of South Africa, an advocate for the rights of Asian Indian minorities, who sought to speak to the UN General Assembly. Scott was admitted only after the ACLU intervened on his behalf; however, he was forced to limit his movements to the immediate vicinity of the UN and to promise not to “engage in public speaking.” The ACLU letter asserted that “the American people are perfectly capable of making up their own minds between conflicting views and that they do not need the guardianship of the State Department . . . .”

The incident reflected not only the longstanding U.S. practice of denying entry to the U.S. of speakers the government did not agree with, but also an intensification of such restrictions during the Cold War. Some notable incidents on the abuse of the visa power to bar entry into the U.S., see April 23, 1985 (the case of Canadian author Farley Mowat); January 6, 1987 (the film Visa War, on the abuse of visas by the Reagan administration; and April 28, 1987 (on the denial of visas to people with AIDS by the Reagan administration).

Learn more about ideological exclusion in U.S. visa policy: https://www.aclu.org/national-security/ideological-exclusion

See a timeline of recent ideological exclusion cases: https://www.aclu.org/timelines/ideological-exclusion-timeline

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