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Open Letter

The following letter was sent to Michael Chertoff, US Secretary of Homeland Security, and Condoleezza Rice, US Secretary of State, on February 22, 2006.

Dear Secretary Chertoff and Secretary Rice:

We are writing on behalf of the Department of History and the Institute for Ethnic Studies at the University of Nebraska–Lincoln to express our dismay over the US government’s refusal to issue a visa to Dr. Waskar Ari to allow him to accept the position of Assistant Professor. We offered Dr. Ari an appointment at the University of Nebraska one year ago on the strength of his unquestioned potential as an outstanding scholar and teacher in the field of Latin American history. Dr. Ari received his Ph.D. from Georgetown University with a promising publication record and several years of meritorious teaching experience in the US as a visiting assistant professor at Western Michigan University and a postdoctoral fellow at the University of Texas. After conducting a nationwide and indeed international search for the best candidate to research and teach Latin American history at the University of Nebraska, we judged Dr. Ari the most qualified applicant and voted to appoint him unanimously. Dr. Ari received several job offers at other American universities, and we are both appreciative and proud that he decided to accept an appointment at the University of Nebraska.

At the time of his appointment, we were—and we remain—deeply impressed with Dr. Ari’s superlative academic record, his rigorous and ambitious research agenda, his palpable dedication to teaching and scholarship, and his sterling reputation as both a student and colleague among some of our most respected peers within our profession. In particular, we valued—and continue to value—the unique perspective on Latin American history and culture that Dr. Ari is able to articulate as a member of the Aymara indigenous people of Bolivia. For instance, Dr. Ari’s cutting-edge research on the Bolivian indigenous intellectuals of the early to mid-twentieth century demonstrates a unique understanding of the processes at work in this region with deep and complex historical roots. Further, his exemplary appreciation of the religious beliefs, traditional culture, and political development of this indigenous Andean nation and the indigenous cultures of South America more generally informs our own research on the indigenous peoples of the Great Plains. Dr. Ari’s superlative ability to analyze and communicate the complex interaction of race, nationality, gender, and class within the history of these regions makes him an invaluable addition to the faculty of the University of Nebraska–Lincoln and indeed to American academic circles in general. Dr. Ari can contribute substantially to the kind of vibrant international community of scholarship that is essential to understanding the challenges our world confronts and preparing our students to encounter them with confidence.

In June, the University of Nebraska–Lincoln petitioned the US Citizenship and Immigration Services for the H-1B visa classification for Dr. Ari, submitted all necessary documentation, and paid the $1,000 fee for premium processing to allow him to enter the US and begin teaching in August 2005. When he returned to Bolivia during the summer, however, Dr. Ari discovered that not only had the adjudication of the visa petition been delayed without explanation but that the US Embassy in La Paz had been told by the Department of State to cancel all existing visas. We were and remain to this day mystified at the US government’s refusal to grant a visa to a promising scholar of Dr. Ari’s caliber, as well as to provide any explanation whatsoever for that decision. In the absence of any evidence that Dr. Ari poses a threat to American national security, the US government’s continuing refusal to grant him a visa seems unjustified and indeed inexplicable.

The Department of History and the Institute for Ethnic Studies at the University of Nebraska–Lincoln join the American Historical Association in expressing intense concern over the plight of Dr. Ari, urging that the petition be granted without further delay, and if such appeal is not forthcoming to provide us with a clear and compelling explanation.

Kenneth J. Winkle

Chair, Department of History

University of Nebraska–Lincoln

Marcela Raffaelli

Director, Institute for Ethnic Studies

University of Nebraska–Lincoln

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