UPDATE: Tibet Women’s Soccer team finds allies in Congress

As reported recently, the Tibet Women’s Soccer team, the “Snow Lionesses,” has been denied visas to come to the U.S. They were planning to join in an upcoming tournament. The team, based in India and coached by New Jersey native Cassie Childers was told that they “have no good reason to visit the U.S.”

Congressional help

Last week, two congressmen from New Jersey, Rep. Chris Smith and Rep. Tom MacArthur, both Republicans, asked Trump’s Secretary of State Rex Tillerson to reconsider the denial of entry issued to members of the Tibet Women’s Soccer Team. The visas would have allowed members of the team to travel to Texas for the Dallas Cup, April 9-16 of this year.

In the letter, the congressmen noted that the cup has in the past hosted “Israeli-Palestinian teams, Iraqi teams, and mixed South African and Protestant-Catholic Irish teams…”

What’s more, the Tibet Women’s Soccer team was scheduled to meet the mayor of Dallas, to lead the opening day procession into the Cotton Bowl stadium, and receive widespread media coverage. [read the full letter from both congressmen to Tillerson ]

As noted by the Dallas Star Telegram:

“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…”

Rep. Smith is also knowledgeable of the delicacy of the Tibet issue in U.S.-China relations. He is the co-chairman of the bipartisan Congressional-Executive Commission on China, and has been involved with numerous hearings on human rights in Tibet and China.
It would be easy to suggest this is a case of young women being played like pawns in a cynical international power game. But it’s also likely that this is simply a mistake or “collateral damage” of the xenophobia plaguing many Americans, and perhaps more importantly, the U.S. Administration, today.

In any case, it can be corrected. 

Dallas Cup officials issued a press release, vowing to work with officials at all levels “in assisting the Tibet Women’s Soccer initiative through their visa application process however long it takes.”
There is still approximately one month before the tournament.
And this is one of those issues that should be open to citizen pressure. You can contact your representatives (list here), your senators (list here), or perhaps even create a petition to the White House (here). I’ll add a link here if you do. Tibetan rights and sovereignty issues have often been lauded as liberal or Democratic topics. Nonetheless, it seems that here both parties can and should come together to ensure that the Tibet Women’s Soccer team makes it to America for this “V.I.P. invitation.”
You can also support the team financially. They lost an estimated $5000 in visa application fees when the denial came through and have received back pledges of over $11,000 to date.
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