As a traveler, I know that it can be intimidating to go overseas -- to leave friends and family behind in favor of new adventures and unfamiliar places. But what’s truly terrifying? The idea that you may never be able to come home.
Going abroad is often described as one of the most rewarding experiences of a lifetime. Equally rewarding is the warm embrace of homecoming, the knowledge that there is a place you belong and people eagerly awaiting your reunion.
When I returned home from studying abroad I was greeted with a smile and quickly waved through security. My blonde hair and blue eyes assured no anxiety in the customs line. I walked out of the international arrivals gate to see my friends and family eagerly awaiting with hugs and flowers. They never for a moment considered that I wouldn’t be let back into the country. Neither did I.
But over the weekend, we learned that for many people, it’s not so simple. Imagine landing in the US after the long journey home only to find out you might be deported despite holding a green card or visa, being held in the windowless immigration area, turned away from the country you call home. That possibility is unfathomable to me, but it’s one that just became real to thousands of people.
My mom was an elementary school principal, so from a young age I had the “golden rule” drilled into my head: treat others the way you want to be treated.
America, is this how we want to be treated? As international educators, can you imagine sending students into the same hostile reception that international students are now facing? As travelers, can you grasp the ramifications of being turned away from your home? Is this how we greet our own citizens and fellow citizens of the world who welcome us to their countries with open arms?
This past November, my sister and I took a trip to Morocco. I vividly remember feeling the shame and guilt in knowing that they had welcomed me into their country so warmly when I knew that our country has never done the same for the majority of their people. Unfortunately President Trump’s policies are not new, merely more blatant.
Taking Action (A Go Overseas Value)
I’m proud to work for a company that stands with our fellow travelers and urges America to open borders and not close them. I'm proud to be surrounded by a community in Berkeley who will spend their Saturday nights protesting with me at the SFO airport. Closing borders equates to closing minds. Mark Twain’s wisdom has never rung so true:
Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness, and many of our people need it sorely on these accounts. Broad, wholesome, charitable views of men and things cannot be acquired by vegetating in one little corner of the earth all one's lifetime.
Go Overseas is calling on our community to pledge to a different kind of travel manifesto. To fight for the right for travelers (and citizens) to be welcomed into our country, just as we are welcomed into theirs. To spread the word that open borders lead to empathy and compassion, as familiarity with other cultures breeds better understanding. We’re launching a petition to ask Congress to do all they can to fight Trump’s executive order. Our CEO Mitch Gordon, along with other representatives from the field of international education will be hand delivering it to our representatives in DC later this month. I’ll be signing it, and I hope you do too.
Note: Petition is now closed.