Two New Jersey congressmen have asked Secretary of State Rex Tillerson to intervene in the case of the Tibet Women’s Soccer team which was denied visas to attend a prestigious soccer tournament in Dallas.
Reps. Chris Smith and Tom MacArthur, both Republicans, sent a letter to Tillerson on Friday seeking his assistance on behalf of the Tibetan team, known as the Snow Lionesses. The women were denied visas in Delhi on Feb. 24.
They had been invited to the Dallas Cup in the spring as VIP guests but said they were rejected because they had insufficient reason to make the trip. The team’s coach, New Jersey native Cassie Childers, said in a fundraising post she was asked by a U.S. embassy officer in Nepal to “give me a reason they won’t stay in the USA.”
“They weren’t trying to immigrate,” she wrote. “They were trying to play soccer.”
In their letter to Tillerson, the congressmen appealed to him as overseer of U.S. embassy operations to “give their visa applications careful consideration.”
“This is an opportunity for the U.S. to host a team with an inspiring story, a group of young women who have overcome huge political and social obstacles to play as a team, in a sport that they love,” they said in the letter which was written by Smith.
“International sports tournaments, such as the Dallas Cup, have a way of healing wounds and developing peaceful ties between nations,” Smith said in a statement. “The U.S. needs to do more to foster the organizations that make these peaceful gatherings possible. We must ensure that these girls’ applications are clearly reviewed and given fair consideration.”
“We believe that the visit of the Tibet Women’s Soccer team advances the goals of both U.S. foreign policy and international sports diplomacy,” the letter concluded.
Smith, co-chairman of the bipartisan Congressional-Executive Commission on China, has conducted numerous hearings on human rights in China, including those dealing with Tibet.
No response publicly yet from Tillerson. During his confirmation hearing in January, the former Exxon Mobil CEO said in a written response to a question that he would continue the U.S. policy of encouraging dialogue between China and Tibet’s government-in-exile, which China doesn’t recognize, and said he would seek a meeting with the Dalai Lama.
On Thursday, the Dallas Cup issued a statement saying it would continue to work with the State Department, lawmakers and other government officials to help the Tibetans obtain visas, “however long it takes.”
“We are still hopeful that the Tibet girls realize their dream of a cultural and educational visit to the North Texas area one day,” the statement said, “and once it takes place, we look forward to having them attend the Dallas Cup as our VIP guests.”
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