February 13, 2015 John J. McCarthy Office of the Graduate

 February 13, 2015 John J. McCarthy Office of the Graduate Dean 514 Goodell Building University of Massachusetts 140 Hicks Way Amherst, MA 01003 Dear Dr. McCarthy, I am writing on behalf of the National Iranian American Council, the largest grassroots organization representing Americans of Iranian descent, regarding the University of Massachusetts Amherst’s new policy to deny Iranian nationals entry into specific educational programs and to require Iranian nationals enrolled at the university to certify their compliance with visa restrictions imposed by sanctions legislation. We strongly urge that you immediately reverse this harmful, discriminatory, and unnecessary action. This policy is apparently based on a flawed interpretation of U.S. law and may run counter to federal and state protections against discrimination based on national origin. By the university’s own admission, this policy “directly conflicts” with the institution’s values and principles. In adopting this policy, UMass Amherst risks setting a harmful precedent that undermines productive academic exchanges between the United States and Iran. We hope the University will reconsider and reverse this policy, and we would offer our support in seeking a resolution to this issue. Section 501 of the Iran Threat Reduction Act of 2012 authorizes the Secretary of State to prohibit visas for Iranian nationals who intend to participate in coursework at an institution of higher education for a career in Iran’s petroleum industry, natural gas sector, nuclear energy sector, nuclear science field or nuclear engineering field. Iranian nationals seeking to study in other fields, such as business, management or computer science, but who intend to use their skills in Iran’s oil, natural gas or nuclear energy sectors, are also ineligible for visas. However, this does not require that universities take their own enforcement action. That duty rests with the U.S. State Department and U.S. Department of Homeland Security, who will only permit prospective Iranian students to obtain a visa if they meet the above requirements. This policy could also deny educational access not just to aliens of Iranian origin, but also to Iranian Americans who hold dual citizenship in both countries. The university indicates that the policy will apply to “all enrolled Iranian national students.” Under Iran’s citizenship laws, persons born in Iran automatically carry 1411 K Street NW
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Iranian citizenship. Additionally, individuals born outside of Iran whose father is an Iranian national also automatically carry Iranian citizenship. However, Sec. 501 of the Iran Threat Reduction Act only refers to “aliens who are citizens of Iran,” excluding Iranian American citizens. The University of Massachusetts Amherst is not the first U.S. institution to misinterpret sanctions legislation in a way that adversely impacts Iranians and Iranian Americans. When confronted with complaints, institutions including Apple,1 Bank of Hawaii,2 and Educational Testing Service (ETS)3 all took steps to correct their policies. The University of Massachusetts Amherst’s decision to self-­‐enforce U.S. visa restrictions above and beyond the terms of the law is harmful and counterproductive. While there is no law to justify creating a second barrier of sanctions enforcement at the university level, there are laws and constitutional protections in place to prevent discrimination on the basis of national origin against persons under U.S. jurisdiction. We urge the University to revisit its decision and take necessary action to ensure it is not disenfranchising Iranian and Iranian American students. We are eager to help broker a resolution of this issue with you and look forward your response. Sincerely, Jamal Abdi, Policy Director National Iranian American Council 1