NEW YORK—Sixty of the most prominent names in literature have sent a joint letter with PEN America to President Donald Trump today, urging him not to impose a new immigration ban that would affect the ability of artists, writers, and thinkers to travel to the United States.

The letter’s signatories, including Philip Roth, Zadie Smith, J.M. Coetzee, Anne Tyler, Margaret Atwood, Stephen Sondheim, Khaled Hosseini, and others, expressed as evidence their opposition to the previous Executive Order, signed by President Trump on January 27, 2017, that barred entry to travelers from seven predominantly Muslim nations for 90 days and to all refugees for 120 days.

 “In the countries most affected by the immigration ban, it is writers, artists, musicians, and filmmakers who are often at the vanguard in the fights against oppression and terror,” the letter reads. “By interrupting the ability of artists to travel, perform, and collaborate, the Executive Order will aid those who would silence essential voices and exacerbate the hatreds that fuel global conflict.”

The January Executive Order caused chaos and confusion for millions of travelers to the United States and prompted massive protests at airports across the country. The travel ban has also disrupted major U.S. cultural events, as artists and performers who had planned to participate in these events are now uncertain that they will be allowed into the country. Syrian singer Omar Souleyman, who performed at the 2013 Nobel Peace Prize Concert in Oslo, Norway, may now be unable to present his scheduled concert as part of the World Music Institute in New York this spring. Oscar-nominated director Asghar Farhadi, who is from Iran, has announced that he will not attend the Academy Awards ceremony, whether or not he is permitted, in protest of the ban. 

PEN America’s own World Voices Festival of International Literature, schedule for May 1-7 in New York, has yet to see if the new ban will affect the participation of its authors, including Palestinian-Syrian playwright Rama Haydar.

“Closing our doors to writers, artists, musicians, and intellectuals not only fails to make America safer, but also creates a sort of cultural isolationism that will tear at our nation’s creative fabric,” said Suzanne Nossel, Executive Director of PEN America. “By implementing a blanket ban on visitors who have certain country names printed in their passports, President Trump would dam up the free flow of ideas, opinions, and beliefs that has distinguished the U.S. as a global center for innovation, and would instead fortify the fear and ignorance that characterize the darkest days in American history.”

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PEN America stands at the intersection of literature and human rights to protect open expression in the United States and worldwide. We champion the freedom to write, recognizing the power of the word to transform the world.  Our mission is to unite writers and their allies to celebrate creative expression and defend the liberties that make it possible.

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Sarah Edkins, Director of Communications: sedkins@pen.org, +1 646.779.4830