NEW YORK—The difficulty Jorge Antonio Guerrero, an actor in the critically acclaimed film “Roma,” has had in obtaining a visa to attend award ceremonies where the film is being honored demonstrates the current barriers facing many artists seeking entry to the United States, PEN America said in a statement today. 

Guerrero has tried on three occasions to apply for a visa and been denied each time, meaning he may miss the Academy Awards this February, where “Roma” is nominated for Best Picture.  He was first denied entry at the beginning of 2018, then later in the winter of last year when he attempted to visit the U.S. for red carpet events associated with ” Roma’s” release. In an interview with Quien, Guerrero said his most recent visa application to the U.S. Embassy in Mexico included a letter written by one of the film’s producers, “expressing explicitly that [Guerrero] would be expected to attend events like the Golden Globes and the Oscars.” However, his third visa application was also denied.  He has already missed attending the Golden Globes. 

“The repeated denial of Jorge Antonio Guerrero’s visa applications highlights the difficulty many artists face in attempting to visit the United States to engage in the free exchange of ideas and artistic discourse across borders,” said Nora Benavidez, PEN America’s Director of U.S. Free Expression Programs. “At a moment of heightened tensions and misunderstanding between the U.S. and Mexico, creative and artistic exchange becomes even more important. We are hopeful that Mr. Guerrero will have the opportunity to join his fellow cast and crew to celebrate the success of a film that aims to tell the story of those whose voices too often go unheard.”

In 2017, PEN America filed a friend of the court brief along with nearly 30 other arts organizations—including the Sundance Institute, Americans for the Arts, and the Performing Arts Alliance—in the case of International Refugee Assistance Project v. Trump, urging the Supreme Court to strike down the Trump administration’s travel ban. The amicus brief represented the arts organizations’ common concern that, in addition to its violation of religious freedom, the ban also represented a violation of First Amendment rights to free speech by restricting the international exchange of intellectual and artistic discourse. In 2017, PEN America spoke out when it appeared President Trump’s travel ban would prevent Kareem Abeed, a Syrian producer nominated for an Academy Award for the documentary “Last Men in Aleppo,” would be prevented from attending the ceremony. Abeed was eventually granted an appeal and permitted to travel to the U.S. in time for the Oscars. 

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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. pen.org

CONTACT: Anoosh Gasparian, External Relations Manager: agasparian@pen.org