The founder of New York design gallery Chamber has described the "dehumanising and degrading" ordeal of being turned away by US border patrol when he arrived in the country last week.
Juan Garcia Mosqueda – originally from Argentina but a legal US resident for the past 10 years – spoke about his experience in a letter to friends and colleagues, titled The Visible Wall.
The gallery founder and curator was denied entry into the US on 24 February 2017, when he was interrogated under oath and eventually forced onto a flight back to Buenos Aires 14 hours later.
During this time, Garcia Mosqueda was denied access to legal counsel, deprived of food and kept under surveillance while he went to the bathroom.
"The procedure was dehumanising and degrading every step of the way," he wrote. "This 36-hour nightmare is nothing but clear evidence of a deeply flawed immigration system in the United States, carried out by an administration that is more interested in expelling people than admitting them."
Garcia Mosqueda studied in the US and has worked for various companies in the country. He opened Chamber in New York's Chelsea neighbourhood in September 2014. He will not be able to attend the gallery's next show opening, which is on Thursday.
Since President Donald Trump took office in January 2017, travel into the US by non-citizens has been limited and immigration rules have been tightened.
The president is attempting to enforce restrictions preventing citizens of seven countries in the Middle East and North Africa from entering the US, and is also ploughing ahead with his plan to build a wall along the American border with Mexico.
Those who have protested against these moves include a plethora of US tech companies and several prominent American architects, while the AIA released a statement calling for fair and impartial immigration policies.
Read Garcia Mosqueda's letter in full below:
The Visible Wall
This past Friday, February 24, 2017, I was denied entry into the United States — the nation where I have been legally residing for the past ten years. The procedure was dehumanizing and degrading every step of the way.
After being escorted to the secondary inspection premises, I was brought down for interrogation where I was questioned under oath and threatened with the possibility of being barred from entering the country for five years.
The border patrol officer denied me the right to legal counseling, arrogantly claiming that lawyers had no jurisdiction at the borders. Shortly after my sworn statement was delivered to the chief officer in charge, they informed me that I was not permitted to come into the country and, therefore, would be forced onto the return flight to Buenos Aires later that evening.
During the following fourteen excruciatingly painful hours, I was prohibited from the use of any means of communication and had no access to any of my belongings, which were ferociously examined without any warrant whatsoever. I was deprived of food. I was frisked three times in order to go to the bathroom, where I had no privacy and was under the constant surveillance of an officer.
Finally, I was escorted by two armed officers directly onto the plane and denied my documents until I reached my destination, Buenos Aires.
This thirty-six hour nightmare is nothing but clear evidence of a deeply flawed immigration system in the United States, carried out by an administration that is more interested in expelling people than admitting them.
I was educated in America, worked at prestigious design entities, and, now, as you all know, own a gallery which employs Americans and non-Americans alike. Chamber supports architecture and design studios in the United States and abroad.
I own several properties in New York and have collaborated in numerous projects with architects, contractors, and construction workers to bring to life projects around the city. We have created a network within the creative industries that span all disciplines and media that help individuals sustain their practices and do what they love.
We proudly carry the New York flag to every fair that we do and every project we initiate across the globe. We self-publish books printed in the United States. And, needless to say, we pay considerable federal and state taxes that help fund many of the societal aspects that fuel the American engine.
Although I am not an American citizen, Chamber is an American product that I hope adds to the cultural landscape of the country. The gallery was conceived in alignment with the same idea of inclusion that was found in the streets of the Lower East Side (where I live and was denied access to) not so long ago: a melting pot of all nationalities and religions, importing ideas from abroad to a culturally embracing metropolis.
We have worked with over 200 artists and designers, from Tokyo to Los Angeles, from Amsterdam to Santiago, in our less than three years of existence and rely heavily on social mobility to get our message across and display the works that we want to show.
To my American friends, I urge you to contact your congressmen and push for immigration reform. Push for a system that does not alienate, intimidate, and bully foreigners but that, on the contrary, welcomes and encourages citizens from all countries to want to keep investing in and contributing to your wonderful country.
This coming Thursday, I will not be able to celebrate the opening of our newest show, Domestic Appeal, which my team and I worked hard to conceive, and will not be able to meet some of the incredible participants that are traveling to the United States to take pride in displaying their creations in one of the most culturally relevant cities on the planet.
Please come see it, have a glass of wine, and enjoy it on my behalf!
Hope to see you all very soon,
Juan Garcia Mosqueda
Buenos Aires, Argentina