When I woke up on Wednesday morning it was still dark out so when I turned my phone on it made the whole room glow in an eerie kind of way. I opened the messages from friends and family that I had missed while I was sleeping: I’m scared, many people said. I love you, someone wrote. And then a Facebook message from my Argentinean friend Anto:
Lo siento tanto
Me desperte con muchas ganas de llorar y pensando en vos.
That was the one that got me.
I met Anto in 2009 when I studied abroad in Argentina. This past spring she came to visit me in New York City and we did all kinds of ridiculous things like ride bikes to Central Park and then to the Staten Island Ferry on which we drank beer and ate peanuts. We talked about the election and Trump (way back before he was even officially the Republican nominee) and what it might mean for Anto’s future visits here. But it was all so hypothetical we didn’t really worry about it.
Depending on what country you live in, it is already pretty hard to get in to the United States even just as a tourist. It usually requires a visa which requires a lot of money and a trip to the U.S. consulate or embassy. And there’s still no guarantee the visa will be approved. It is unfeasible for so many people in so many parts of the world to just visit the United States.
I thought about Carlos, a man who took us out in his fishing boat off the coast of Costa Rica. When I told him I lived in New York City, his eyebrows raised and he wanted to know more. What was it like? How big was my apartment? Who were my roommates? I knew that in spite of his genuine interest in the city, he would probably never go there. There were too many hoops to jump through. It reminded me that the walls around our country are already tall.
I thought about Anto and other friends in Argentina, Mexico, Chile, Spain, Canada, France, and here in the U.S. who have welcomed me into their homes with eagerness and open arms. It is something that I have taken for granted: that I am welcomed in countries all over the world, that I can buy a plane ticket and not worry that I will be turned away at the border, that I can whisk through customs without so much as a second glance (except in Canada where they like to give me a hard time–thanks for keeping it real, Canada!) But I wondered on Wednesday morning: how long and how hard can we keep pushing people away?
To those who have hosted me: thank you for inviting me in to your intimate spaces. I said this to Anto and I say it to you: no matter your nationality, or language, or immigration status, no matter the president of this country or of any other country, if you are a friend of mine you are always welcome in my house.