The PJ Tatler

Kerry Asked to Stop Discriminating Against French Speakers

Secretary of State John Kerry has been asked to immediately fix the application process for diversity visas so that French-speaking immigrants aren’t discriminated against.

The congressionally mandated Diversity Immigrant Visa Program makes available up to 55,000 diversity visas annually, drawn randomly and including people from countries with low rates of immigration to the United States.

D.C. Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton (D) said the online application instructions are translated into 14 languages, but French is AWOL.

The submission deadline is Nov. 2, and Norton, who said constituents from Africa alerted her to the omission, asked Kerry to rectify the situation immediately.

“I asked my staff to contact the State Department to confirm this, and the liaison informed us that the 14 translations were the only translations available at this time and that they will add more languages as they become available. The liaison also informed us that embassies have the authority to translate such instructions if they have the resources and that the French instructions were available on the U.S. Embassy in Lome, Togo’s website  While I understand that embassies have the authority to translate instructions, it seems to me that French, an official language of 29 countries, should be published on the State Department’s website,” Norton wrote Kerry.

“I am particularly concerned because having certain language instructions available only on embassy websites, rather than on the State Department’s official website, may prevent immigrants from accessing the instructions. For example, constituents from Cameroon, Africa informed me that they were unable to find translated instructions on the State Department’s website or on their embassy’s website. My constituents, as well as immigrants from French-speaking countries other than Togo, would have no reason to check Togo’s website,” she continued.

“I ask that you have the instructions translated into French and available on the State Department’s website immediately so that all French-speaking immigrants may have access to important information before the quickly approaching deadline for this significant program.  I ask that you give full and fair consideration to this request, consistent with applicable law, rules, and regulations.”

A week ago, Kerry was in Paris but was focused on Middle East peace goals and didn’t break away to address a French government angry over Edward Snowden’s revelations that U.S. intelligence intercepted some 70 million phone calls within France from Dec. 10, 2012, to Jan. 8, 2013.

“I’m not going to comment on the specifics. As a matter of policy, we don’t discuss intelligence matters,” said Kerry. “And lots of countries are engaged in the activity of trying to protect their citizens and the world. As the president – as President Obama said very clearly in a recent speech that he gave at the United Nations General Assembly just a few weeks ago, he said we in the United States are currently reviewing the way that we gather intelligence. And I think that’s appropriate. And our goal is always to try to find the right balance between protecting the security and the privacy of our citizens. And this work is going to continue, as well as our very consultations with our friends here in France.”

At the State Department, spokeswoman Marie Harf confirmed that Kerry was “focused on Middle East peace stuff.”

Harf didn’t know if Kerry had even reached out to the French side as he was wrapping up in his Arab Peace Initiative meetings.

“If issues of any kind arise, he, as you all know, is either happy to talk about them in person or over the phone with his counterparts, and certainly doesn’t want to let these kind of reports out there in the press hurt our efforts to work together on Syria, other issues that we work together with the French on, certainly,” she said.