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June 16, 2013

A Letter to the President

Chris Callison-Burch

Omar F. Zaidan, a Jordanian citizen, was denied re-entry to the US on the eve of his PhD defense at Johns Hopkins University. It has been over a year and a half, and he has not yet been allowed to return. This is madness. Omar is exactly the type of person who the US should be actively recruiting to come to the country. Here is a shortlist of reasons why:
  • The US government invested approximately $200,000 in Omar's education through DARPA grants that paid for his tuition and his PhD stipend.
  • Omar had accepted a job at Microsoft Research in Seattle, where he would have repaid his moral debt to the country many times over by paying taxes on his high salary, and through his intellectual contributions to the US tech industry.
  • Omar is the best PhD student who I have supervised in the 6 years that I have been a computer science professor. Omar's research into computational linguistics and Arabic dialects has implications for national defense as well as for the technology sector.
  • Omar is a model Muslim. Omar perfectly assimilated into US culture, while being proud of his own culture and religion. He made efforts to be an ambassador for Islam, patiently explaining aspects of his religion (like fasting at Ramadan) to his friends and classmates.

Posted by Jim Zellmer at June 16, 2013 12:45 AM
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