VIDEO: Wise words from Mem Fox, Beloved Children’s Author After Being Interrogated Because of Trump’s Travel Ban
(Mem Fox at Mosman Library; Photo: Mosman Library)
Mem Fox is a beloved children’s book author who has travelled to the United States many times from Australia. She is a favorite keynote speaker at literacy conferences and she has read her books to children in bookshops across America.
Mem’s latest book is called I’m Australian Too, and is illustrated by Ronojoy Ghosh, who lived in India, Indonesia, Singapore and New Zealand, before becoming an Australian citizen in 2015.
Mem calls I’m Australian Too one of her “most passionate books” because is it open and welcoming of everyone. But that was not Mem’s experience when she arrived in the U.S. with visa in hand to give the opening keynote at the Wisconsin State Reading Association conference in Milwaukee.
“On Monday February 7th I was held up for almost two hours in immigration at L.A. airport,” Mem writes. “It was week three of President Trump’s administration”
“I was interrogated as if I were some kind of prisoner, in a holding room, in full public view and hearing of everyone in the room,” Mem recounts, “and I was kept standing throughout. The Border Control patrol officer said I was ‘working’ and had come in on the wrong visa. He was wrong, as it turned out. I was right. I knew I was right. It was my 117th visit to the USA, after all. I had every contract and international tax form filled out correctly, in my hand-luggage. The interview was terrifying. The insolence of the officer was like a physical attack. By the time I got to my L.A. airport hotel I was shaking. Less than two hours later I woke from a sleep sobbing.”
When Mem was asked if she would come back to the United States she was adamant that she would not. In the video that you can access here Mem says, “I’m 70 years old. 71 in a few days’ time. Arrgh,” and she explains why she will never return to give keynotes to welcoming teachers and read her stories to eager and welcoming children.
It is difficult to understand how President Trump and his entourage do not understand how unacceptable their rudeness towards people who come to the U.S. is for many Americans who understand that while there must be border controls, they should not strip people of their humanity.
On February 26th, The New York Times reported:
The White House press secretary, Sean Spicer, said on Tuesday that the president wanted to “take the shackles off” of agents, an expression the officers themselves used time and again in interviews to describe their newfound freedom.
Morale amongst our agents and officers has increased exponentially since the signing of the orders,” the unions representing ICE and Border Patrol agents said in a joint statement after President Trump issued the executive orders on immigration late last month.
The ugliness that has been legitimized by President Trump is an anathema to the majority of the American people. For every two that support his encouragement of bullies at the border there are six Americans who are ashamed of the ways in which Mem and so many people traveling to the United States are being treated by Trump. The only word for what happened is vile. If the country does not stand up to him then what will become of the on-going struggle for democracy? It will fail, of course, and we will be plunged into the chaos of some other form of government, ill mannered, and capable of increasing brutality towards those who come into the country and those who have always stayed at home.