United Talent Agency announced Wednesday it has canceled its traditional Academy Awards party and will instead host a rally at its Los Angeles headquarters two days before the Oscars to express concern over the “anti-immigrant sentiment in the United States.”

UTA officials said such sentiment has a “potential chilling effect on the global exchange of ideas and freedom of expression.” The agency also plans to donate $250,000 to the American Civil Liberties Union and the International Rescue Committee.

One of Hollywood’s top talent agencies, UTA represents figures in entertainment and media, across movies, television, digital, news, theater, video games, books, music and live entertainment.

Among UTA’s clients is Oscar-winning Iranian filmmaker Asghar Farhadi, who is nominated for an Academy Award this year for best foreign-language film for “The Salesman.” Farhadi has already announced he will not travel to the United States for the Oscar ceremony due to “the unjust circumstances” of President Donald Trump’s executive order temporarily barring visitors from seven predominantly Muslim countries.

Trump has defended the order as a needed step toward bolstering national security by revamping screening procedures for international visitors to prevent potential terrorists from entering the country.

“This is a moment that demands our generosity, awareness and restlessness,” UTA CEO Jeremy Zimmer wrote in a letter to agency employees announcing the decision to cancel the Oscar party. “Our world is a better place for the free exchange of artists, ideas and creative expression. If our nation ceases to be the place where artists the world over can come to express themselves freely, then we cease, in my opinion, to be America.”

The 89th Academy Awards ceremony, presented by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, will be held Feb. 26 at the Dolby Theatre in Hollywood.

–City News Service

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