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Yassmin Abdel-Magied, Muslim-Australian Activist, Denied Entry to U.S.

April 11, 2018

“My heart’s been on double time for the last three hours,” she said when reached via Twitter as she waited for her return flight. “The system isn’t set up for people like me.”

Ms. Abdel-Magied said she had visited the United States many times previously on the same visa without issue.

She has spoken in the United States previously, she said, at events for Chevron, and the Inter-American Development Bank. She was last in the United States in February, she said, on the same visa to speak at a conference for Twitter.

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Ms. Abdel-Magied said she was traveling with a B1/B2 visa. That document allows foreign nationals to visit the United States to attend “scientific, educational, professional, or business convention or conference,” according to the State Department. But it prohibits paid performances, or “any professional performance before a paying audience.”

In a statement, the United States Customs and Border Protection agency said Ms. Abdel-Magied did not have an appropriate visa to enter the country for paid work.

“During the inspection, C.B.P. officers determined this individual did not possess the appropriate visa to receive monetary compensation for the speaking engagements she had planned during her visit to the United States,” the agency said.

“The traveler is eligible to reapply for a visa for future visits,” the statement read.

Ms. Abdel-Magied is the daughter of Sudanese immigrants to Australia. She has been an outspoken critic of Australia’s refugee and immigration policy, and writes regularly about her experiences as both a Muslim and a feminist.

In 2017, Ms. Abdel-Magied moved to London, after a backlash over a Facebook post she wrote critiquing Australia’s refugee detention policy on Anzac day, a national day of remembrance of the country’s war dead. Conservative commentators heavily criticized the post as insensitive. She has called herself “Australia’s most publicly hated Muslim.”

Ms. Abdel-Magied had planned to speak on two panels at the Pen World Voices Festival: one on her experiences as a Muslim woman in a Western country and another on online harassment.

In a statement, the festival’s organizers called for her to be admitted to the United States.

“We call on Customs and Border Protection to admit her to the U.S.,” the statement read, “so that she can take her rightful place in the urgent international conversation to take place at the festival next week.”

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