President Donald Trump's embattled travel ban, which he will surely address in his speech at the joint session of Congress tonight (or maybe not, considering how little regard he has exhibited for presidential conventions thus far), has claimed another member of the arts community—and this time, with even less pretext. After Asghar Farhadi, the Iranian director of The Salesman, and Khaled Khateeb, the Syrian cinematographer who contributed to The White Helmet, were denied entry into the country to attend the Academy Awards ceremony in Los Angeles to celebrate their respective Oscar wins, the well-respected New York design gallerist Juan Garcia Mosqueda, who operates the Chelsea gallery Chamber, sent around an open letter today recounting his experience this past Friday, February 24, when he disembarked a flight from Buenos Aires and was subjected to 14 hours of, by his account, a "dehumanizing and degrading" process of interrogation by U.S. border officials. At the end of which, he was forced onto a flight back to Buenos Aires.
Mosqueda was attempting to return to New York to oversee the opening of a new exhibition at his gallery this Thursday. Below you'll find the entire account of his gross mistreatment. (And in case you need the reminder, Argentina is definitely not on the list of the seven countries named in Trump's executive order.)
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