April 18, 2020
The Board of the Central Eurasian Studies Society and the Executive Committee of the Association for Slavic, East European, and Eurasian Studies write to protest the recent inclusion of Kyrgyzstan to the list of countries currently facing travel restrictions to the United States. Under the current White House administration, the U.S. first implemented the travel ban citing national security concerns in 2017 (executive order 13769).[i] Because the ban targeted primarily Muslim-majority nations, it was widely protested within the U.S. as discriminatory.[ii] Because of its deleterious effect on international students and faculty, the ban was decried immediately by a wide variety of American universities and higher education leadership.[iii] The executive order was contested in federal courts as being in violation of the U.S. Constitution and federal statutes; however it was upheld by the Supreme Court in 2018.[iv] In February 2020 Kyrgyzstan, along with five other countries, was added to the list of restricted countries whose citizens are no longer eligible for visas leading to permanent residency in the U.S.[v] Kyrgyzstan has responded saying that it has been unfairly targeted.[vi] This matter is of immediate concern to CESS and ASEEES as colleagues from Kyrgyzstan join regularly our Annual Conferences, which are held in the United States. While in theory the provisions of the ban as it stands are not supposed to affect non-immigrant visas, in practice there is a great risk that our Kyrgyzstani colleagues will be subject to additional scrutiny, evaluation, or even rejection of their requests for short-term education-related visas.[vii] Further, the CESS Board and the ASEEES Executive Committee contend that this ban unnecessarily jeopardizes the hitherto positive relationship between Kyrgyzstan and the United States[viii], and has the potential to seriously impede and harm efforts by U.S. educators in Central Asia to promote the ideals of democratic freedom and inclusion. The CESS and ASEEES unequivocally condemn this ban as short-sighted and discriminatory and call for its revocation.
[i] The original order has been twice amended, once to remove Iraq from the list of countries, and once to add North Korea and Venezuela.