The writers’ organization PEN America has issued a statement regarding Donald Trump’s actions over the weekend. PEN America is a member of PEN International, a worldwide association of writers founded in 1921 to promote friendship and intellectual cooperation among writers everywhere and to fight for freedom of expression.

Here is the statement they issued over the weekend:


“President Trump today signed an executive order suspending the admission of refugees to the United States, and barring the entry of immigrants from seven predominantly Muslim countries. The order includes language indicating that the administration may impose an ideological test on immigrants, excluding those who hold opinions critical of the United States. Banning immigrants on the basis of their political views would resurrect the worst excesses of McCarthy-era paranoia toward foreigners, and would violate the First Amendment rights of Americans to hear the views and engage in debate with a diverse range of speakers.

“The decree, titled ‘Protection of the Nation from Foreign Terrorist Entry in the United States’, includes vague language stating foreigners entering the U.S. should not ‘bear hostile attitudes toward our country and its founding principles’ and should support the U.S. Constitution.’ These provisions could potentially block critics of the United States or particular U.S. policies from entering. This should shock and alarm Americans who value our staunch commitment to free expression and association and want this country to continue to serve as a beacon for freedom and democracy.

“PEN America has long fought against ideological exclusion tests. These tests were enacted by the McCarran-Walter Act of 1952, at the height of the McCarthy era. The Act allowed the exclusion of foreigners on the basis of their political beliefs and was used to deny entry to some of the most important names in international literature, including Doris Lessing, Pablo Neruda, Gabriel García Márquez, Graham Greene, Dario Fo, and others. These exclusions and visa denials were a national disgrace, and became ammunition in the hands of repressive governments around the world who ridiculed U.S. hypocrisy on free speech and civil liberties. After sustained protest and lobbying by PEN America and other civil society organizations, the Act was amended to eliminate the ideological exclusion provision in 1990.

“Excluding people from the United States purely based on what they think and believe is unconstitutional and would evoke a dark chapter in our history, when the battle with the Soviet Union prompted efforts to root out dissent at home and close our borders to dissent. Amid a rising tide of isolationism, PEN America will fight to keep the flow of ideas and information between the U.S. and the rest of the world open, resisting any attempt to exclude individuals based on ideology. The list of distinguished PEN Members and guests who have been subject to ideological exclusions historically is long. This legacy is a stain on America’s record as a haven for free thinkers and should not be revived.”

Suzanne Nossel
Executive Director, PEN America
January 27, 2017