Now that i am "out" about quitting at work, i have gotten into longer discussions with some of my colleagues about Brexit, and the experience of being an immigrant for most of my life. Here's a thing - for the last 30 years, i have never lived in a country where i was a citizen. I have never been able to vote. I have never had the comfort of knowing that if something really bad went down, my fellow countrymen would have my back. There is a constant fear in the back of my head that i might one day do or say something wrong and end up deported back to the UK - a country i haven't seen since i was a young child.
But, hold on, it's not entirely true that i have never lived in a country where i was a citizen. Until article 50 goes through, i am technically still a citizen of the EU. Coming back to Europe after 15+ years living in Australia and Canada was a revelation. For the first time in my adult life, i could go into the "citizen" line at the airport. The customs guy just waved me through. Welcome back. Welcome home. Of course, even though i am a citizen of the EU, that doesn't come with voting rights in the country i live and work. But it does provide some amount of peace that people who have never been immigrants take for granted. Brexit blew that all to hell for me.
Let's talk about this utter clusterfuck of an executive order that was signed yesterday. If it wasn't already disgusting enough to enact a blanket ban on refugees and travelers from specific countries, actual fucking American permanent residents are being blocked from traveling back to their own homes and families. The news coming out this morning is terrifying, and a manifestation of every fear i have held as a lifelong immigrant.
Right back when i started this journal i had been living as a permanent resident in Australia for several years, but i took a year off to be with my partner in the US and try to find a way to live up there. Technically it's illegal to "live" in the US on a visitor's visa and look for work at the same time, but i was in love with a girl from across the Pacific and i just wanted to fulfil my dream of moving to America - that shining city on a hill where anyone from anywhere in the world could go to be happy. Needless to say, looking for work immediately after the dot com bust and 9/11 was not the best idea. I headed back to Australia humbled and heartbroken. But, you know, at least my family and some friends would be there.
And then i didn't get let back into Australia. Little did i know that permanent residence in Australia is not really permanent - it expires every 5 years, and while i had been in the US, mine had expired. So, penniless, i was refused entry to the country where my family lived. I was taken into an interrogation chamber and forced to explain myself. Eventually i was given a temporary visa and told i had to visit immigration within a week. In the end i was granted residence again, but every time i left the country after that i dreaded a repeat occurrence.
It happened again in Canada. I had married a Canadian citizen and my own permanent residence application was pending, but in the mean time my visitor visa was about to expire. On the advice of our immigration lawyer we traveled out of the country and came back the next day to renew the visa. Once again i saw the inside of an interrogation chamber. I was separated from my wife and everyone on the Greyhound had to wait while i tried to convince the border officers that yes i had a permanent residence application pending and no i was not working illegally and no that letter from my lawyer was not a forgery. I don't even want to go into the hassles i encountered when i first arrived in Canada. And this in a "liberal" country which actually allows dual intent on a visitor visa.
Since then i have become a Canadian citizen and dear Lord i am forever grateful i had the foresight to file that application before i left Canada. Otherwise Brexit could very well have triggered an even more drastic reaction in me than just going "fuck everything, i'm leaving Europe for good".
Anyway, point is, being an immigrant FUCKING SUCKS. You are disenfranchised in the country you call home. You pay taxes and may never see the benefits. Building a credit rating is extremely difficult. And then there is that apprehension that you might get thrown out on your ass on the whim of a sadistic cop or border agent. But in spite of everything that sucks, we still do it because we want to learn, we want to contribute, we want to belong. We emigrate because we have a dream.
And then along comes a xenophobic demagogue to tell you that because of where you were born or the religion you follow, you are a risk, you cannot be trusted and you can no longer travel. You can't visit family or friends, your job doesn't count for shit, your contributions ain't shit, and hell yes prepare to be booted out on your ass. It's horrifying. Absolutely sickening. I am filled with anxiety for everyone who is suffering today and will likely continue to suffer while these neo-Nazis remain in power.