Barbara and I received our Portuguese residency permits in the mail this week after a semi hilarious day spent in the bowels of the Portuguese immigration bureaucracy. We’re now entitled to live here as long as we don’t cause any trouble and renew our permits after one year and then every two years thereafter. I was today at the point of posting an account of that experience but I’m concerned recent events may have rendered it a bit unseemly, so I think I’ll wait a couple of weeks.
As of yesterday, there’s a presidential order in force in the US preventing legal immigrants from entering the country. People who have risked their lives for the US in its wars and have survived the most onerous vetting process in the world to obtain visas to go to America are now forbidden because they belong to a certain world religion and were born in a country from which they merely want to escape.
Around the world, people are being prevented from boarding their flights, kept from exiting them after traveling halfway around the world, stranded in airports way far from home and, worst of all, separated from their families with no idea of what’s going to happen to them.
This blog is supposed to be a lighthearted account of the expat experience. It’s not intended to be about politics, a subject about which there are plenty of bloviators already. But it’s hard to ignore the irony of this day. Barbara and I are allowed permanent residency in a benign and gentle country that not too long ago survived the horrors of a fascist dictatorship, through a sometimes silly but basically benign and gentle application process. Meanwhile in our own country, things are sliding the other way.
Whatever happened to “Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free”— did it expire?
There’s only one thing I can contribute to discussion of this matter:
It could be us.
Supposing the Portuguese Guarda Nacional decided to pick us up and put us in prison for a while before deciding how to get rid of us?
It could be our friends Milu and Dave. She’s a Portuguese national and he’s an American citizen who are planning to move here in the next few months. What if Portugal decides the two of them can’t live together in her homeland? Or his, for that matter?
It could be our new friend Rita who recently came to travel around Portugal for a year with no one for company besides her dog Jules. Suppose Portugal decides to pick her up and detain her with no way to contact family, friends or legal assistance.
It could be anyone on a guided tour in a foreign country or a cruise ship coming into port somewhere.
I read where a novel written in the 1930’s by the Nobel Prize winning author Sinclair Lewis, about the takeover of the USA by a fascist dictator, is suddenly popular again – It Can’t Happen Here.
I’m ordering a copy. Of course, it’ll probably take six months to get it through Portuguese customs. Oh, well.