In late 2016, I returned from a trip to Myrtle Beach with some exciting news. One of my clients was just about to launch an indie travel agency, and hired me to do their PR work in exchange for travel perks and shares in the company.
By January, I had put together the 5 Travel Destinations on my 2017 List. That post became – and still is – my most popular for 2017.
Through the post, I’ve received priceless advice from locals and fellow travelers, and heard your stories of where you’ve been and where your 2017 travel plans will take you.
Then, just one week after my post was published, the U.S. President issued an executive order on immigration, which banned the entry and re-entry of immigrants from all over the world.
Ever the vigilant ones, my family and I had a brief five minute meeting; at the end of which we cancelled all our international travel plans for 2017. This included a cruise, and a trip back home to Jamaica.
The nationalities the ban applied to were not disclosed at that time. We weren’t taking any chances.
After much confusion at airports and borders, the Department of Homeland Security issued a fact sheet specifying the countries affected as:
My family and I were not convinced it would only affect those countries and only Muslims. So we held to our decision to keep our travel plans inside America, at least for the rest of the year.
Jamaica Issues Warnings
On January 31, 2017, on my way home from work I came across news headlines from back home in Jamaica. Jamaican immigration experts and attorneys were encouraging Jamaican U.S. residents in America to stay there.
Our own country was warning us not to come home. Jamaican U.S. residents still on the island were encouraged to leave and return to America. We were reassured that our citizenship would be right where we left it, and not to worry about our status at home.
Those words were like daggers in my chest, and I took to Facebook to share the news. Shortly afterwards, a schoolmate who had migrated to the U.S. to live with her husband, maybe around the same time I did, messaged me.
“Should I be worried?” she asked me. “I’m in Jamaica.”
I admitted that I would be if I was her, and told her to hurry back. She came back the very next day.
Luckily, she had no run-ins with immigration, but she also shared the news that two Jamaican U.S. residents she knew were turned away at JFK in New York, and had their green cards cancelled.
Travel Agency without Travelers
In the days that followed, the indie travel agency reached out requesting a meeting. I met with the immigrant-owners on February 2, 2017.
After we had ironed out the details for the agency and the decision to launch under the Alexis Chateau PR umbrella, they reluctantly cancelled the company trip to Dubai. This was despite the fact that both owners have roots in the Caribbean, not Islamic states; and one is a citizen.
As we looked at domestic travel options, I got my details together for my trip to Las Vegas. I then reached out to a fellow road-tripper to ask if he would be interested in tagging along with me to Alaska this year, since Canada was now out of the question.
The following day, February 3, 2017, my mother forwarded an advisory she received, recommending that green card holders not travel at all for the remainder of 2017. Neither domestically, nor internationally.
What Freedom of Speech?
Along with the advisory not to travel, we were also told to guard our words on social media, which I would assume includes my blogs. Anything perceived as anti-American as decided by the U.S. President would also be perceived as potential terrorism and a free pass out of the country.
Immigrants are being told to take their social media down, to wipe their phones, and gods know what else. While telling one of my best friends in Vegas that I wouldn’t be able to make the trip, I asked him:
How is this America???
We went back and forth for an hour or two about how to work around the ban without risk to me. Finding none, I told him I had a good mind to book the bloody ticket and travel anyway. He replied with:
I’m scared for you if you plan on doing that though, Alex.
He is a U.S. citizen, born to a Jamaican mother and American father. I don’t think he intends to do any traveling this year, either. His mother still resides in Jamaica.
A Small Reprieve
On February 4, 2017 Judge James L. Robart granted immigrants a window of opportunity by temporarily blocking the President’s Immigration Order. According to USA Today:
U.S. District Senior Judge James Robart of Seattle on Friday issued a nationwide restraining order blocking the travel ban put in place by President Trump last week.
The White House quickly responded, saying the federal government would challenge the judge’s decision.
However, unless Robart’s ruling holds against the President’s administration, my family and I have decided to stay put. Travelling for recreation – even when it means revisiting our home country – is just not worth the risks involved, until the dust settles.
Travel Blog with No Traveling
And so it is with a heavy heart that I release the following statement:
Owing to the executive order on immigration and the threats this places on my personal and professional life, there is a high probability that I will not be taking trips – domestically or internationally – for the rest of the year, until further notice. As an unfortunate result, the Alexis Chateau travel blog may be a travel blog no longer.
Thankfully, over the past year and a half, the blog has ventured into other topics that have done well, and I’ll continue to write on those. Still, I apologise to each and every reader who follows and subscribes to this blog, specifically to hear about all my awesome adventures 10 minutes, 10 hours, or 10 states away.
I would love to see more of the world, but in the Land of the Free, the decision is no longer mine to make.
I wish the rest of you all the best on your 2017 travels! I will be living vicariously through each and every one of you, so don’t forget to share all your trips and the triumphs and the obstacles along the way.
I’ll be rooting for you, as you’ve always rooted for me.
For those of you who were patiently waiting for the indie travel agency to launch, we still will – just not with the February date we had in mind. I’ll continue to meet with the owners and let you know as soon as their services become open to the public.