1987 January 6

“Visa War”: Documentary Film Attacks Reagan Administration on Free Trade in Ideas


The film, Do Not Enter: The Visa War Against Ideas, a documentary on the denial of visas to writers and intellectuals whose views the Reagan Administration did not like, opened on this day. Those denied a visa for entry into the U.S. included Mexican author Carlos Fuentes and Nicaragua Interior Minister Tomas Borge.

The power to deny visas on political grounds was explicitly established by the 1952 McCarran-Walter Act, signed into law on June 27, 1952. The law was one of the major anti-Communist measures of the Cold War. In earlier years, beginning with the 1903 Immigration Act (March 3, 1903), the government had the power to deny visas to anarchists. In addition, however the State Department had regularly denied visas to other people whose politics it did not like. The restrictive provisions of the law were largely repealed in by the 1990s.

Read the ACLU report: ACLU, Free Trade in Ideas (1985)

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

Tariq Ramadan defends free trade in ideas. Read his essay here.

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