Welsh Language Activist Denied US Visa

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Arfon Gwilym, a Welsh folk singer, author and the director of Gwynn Music Publishers, has been denied a visa to visit the United States, according to Celtic News.

Mr. Gwilym had been invited to perform at the Smithsonian Institute’s cultural festival, which takes place next week. However, the US Embassy denied him a visa based on “moral turpitude” for acts he engaged in many years ago as a Welsh language activist with Cymdeithas yr Iaith Gymraeg, the Welsh Language Society.

What does it take to get denied a visa on grounds of “moral turpitude?” Not that much, apparently. According to Wales Online, although Mr. Gwilym was sent to jail three times, his crimes consisted of non-violent activities like taking down road signs as part of a campaign for bilingual road signs and occupying a house to protest against English speakers occupying second homes in Wales.

In the UK, Mr. Gwilym is even considered to have a clean record, because the crimes all took place in the late 60s and early 70s. Under UK law, after a certain period of time, convictions become “spent” and fall off your record. In the United States, however, there is no such thing as a “spent conviction:” once something is on your record, it stays there.

Mr. Gwilym has appealed to US President Barack Obama for assistance via email. From the Celtic News article referenced above, here’s an excerpt of the email he sent:

“After September 11 I can understand the concern for safety in your country, and I can understand also why you do not wish to see murderers and rapists enter your country. May I respectfully suggest that you would not be in your present position were it not for the great battle for civil rights in your country when it was necessary to break the law in order to succeed. Can you imagine Martin Luther King and other civil rights campaigners being refused entry into Britain for ‘moral turpitude’?”

You know, the man has a point…