Around the globe countries are advising citizens against traveling to the U.S.

 
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I was scrolling through Twitter when I came across a tweet stating, "Uruguay warn citizens traveling to the U.S. after shootings." It was sobering to see my two nations linked together so gravely. It was also oddly validating. I left the U.S. four years ago and am always having conversations with people of color, especially Latinxs, about the dangers minorities face stateside. Sometimes my warnings to proceed with caution are brushed off, but for the last year or so, POC ask me if it's safe to go to the USA. I always tell them I can't make that promise and that I, myself, don't feel safe in the States.

A major motivator in my decision to leave the U.S. was gun violence and discrimination towards minorities. So far, in 2019, there have been 9,168 gun-related deaths in the States. Two hundred seventy-six of those deaths occurred during 257 mass shootings. A report by the University of Washington found the U.S. has the 28th-highest rate of gun-related deaths in the world — higher than other Global North countries. Notably, death from guns in the U.S. is 25 times higher than other populous high-income countries, per the World Health Organization. The U.S. ranks first in the world for gun ownership, with 120 firearms per 100 people.

Considering the easy access to guns in the States, it's terrifying that there were 16,149 reported hate crimes in 2017, including attacks on towards minorities and immigrants, according to the DOJ. The FBI reported hate crimes against Latinxs increased by more than 24% from 2017 to 2018. In California, violence towards Latinx has doubled since 2016

Along with being harassed for speaking Spanish in public, ICE raids separating families and locking people in cages, children being sexually assaulted in concentration camps, and a trans asylum seeker dying in ICE custody, it seems we currently live in the most dangerous era for Latinxs in modern U.S. history. Trump continuously spews his dangerous and false rhetoric that Latinx immigrants are rapists, violent criminals, and a threat to the American way of life. Beyond these derogatory terms, Trump laughed when his supporters suggested immigrants should be shot.

A Trump zealot took those words to heart when he murdered 22 innocent people, including 8 Mexican citizens, during the El Paso, Texas Walmart massacre. The alleged domestic terrorist supposedly released a manifesto stated he set out to kill as many Hispanics as possible. The same weekend a gunman opened fire in Dayton, Ohio and took the lives of 8 people.

The world has finally started to take action in warning people of the gun violence they may encounter as tourists in the States. Uruguay issued a travel warning two days after the El Paso shooting informing citizens they should exercise caution "against growing indiscriminate violence, mostly for hate crimes, including racism and discrimination." The advisory urged Uruguayans against taking children to theme parks, sporting events, festivals, religious gatherings, sporting events, or other places where there may be crowds in the U.S. due to the "the indiscriminate possession of firearms by the population." The warning seems extreme that children can't go on a roller coaster without the threat of being shot and killed, but in the U.S., this is our reality. Movie theaters, churches, schools, festivals, concerts, airports, night clubs, and grocery stores are all hunting grounds for violent people with firearms.

Three days before Uruguay issued a travel warning, the U.S. raised its travel advisory for Uruguay from level 1: exercise normal precautions to level 2: exercise increased caution "due to crime" without any further information or examples of potential violence. The travel advisory from Uruguay may have been in retaliation of the negative advisories issued by the U.S., but that doesn't make the warning any less accurate.

Venezuela warned citizens that "increasing acts of violence have found an echo and support in the conversations and actions impregnated by racial discrimination and hatred against migrant populations, pronounced and executed by the supremacist elite who holds political power in Washington." Venezuela has a tense relationship with U.S. authorities who've recognized opposition leader Juan Guaidó as interim president. In April, the State Department released a level 4: do not travel advisory for Venezuela due to "crime, civil unrest, poor health infrastructure, kidnapping, and arbitrary arrest and detention of U.S. citizens." 

There may be diplomatic context around the travel warnings from Uruguay. Venezuela's alert has clear political overtones. However, that doesn't discredit the threat of violence towards Latinxs in the U.S. 

Mass shootings have prompted other countries to issue travel warnings. Notably, it isn't just Latin American countries which are advising citizens to reconsider travel to the U.S. The Japanese Consulate in Detroit stated the U.S. is a 'gun society' and urged Japanese nationals to stay alert. Ireland updated their travel warning to include the U.S. has had several mass shootings recently. Italy warns of terrorist attacks and of "serious firearm incidents." 

Canada mentions incidents of mass shootings occur, but the likelihood of a Canadian tourist being a victim is low. Canada ranks fifth in the world for gun ownership according to the Small Arms Survey with 34 guns per 100 people. Germany's travel page for the U.S. includes the potential risk of mass shootings and terrorist attacks and makes notes it's easy to buy guns in the States. Germany passed strict gun control laws after shootings in 2003 and 2009. 

In addition to the growing list of countries releasing travel advisories, Amnesty International issued a warning as a result of the ongoing "high levels of gun violence in the country," calling it a human rights crisis and stating the U.S. government has failed to keep people safe per international law. The advisory encourages people worldwide to exercise caution when traveling throughout the USA and singled out minorities as being particularly vulnerable to violence. "Depending on the traveler's gender identity, race, country of origin, ethnic background, or sexual orientation, they may be at higher risk of being targeted with gun violence and should plan accordingly," reads the advisory. 

Just like mass shootings in the U.S., these travel warnings aren't anything new. Several countries have issued warnings about travel to the U.S. in the past and cited the prevalence of gun violence as a serious safety concern to their citizens and crowded public places, including tourist destinations, may be targeted. New Zealand increased the travel advisory to 'exercise increased caution due to the threat of terrorism' since November 2018. The online travel advisory states, "there's a higher incidence of violent crime and firearm possession" and "attacks could be indiscriminate, including in places frequented by foreigners." Earlier this year, China issued a travel advisory citing the possibility of mass shootings. Police brutality towards Black people led the Bahamas to release a statement on July 2016 requesting young men to be especially cautious while in the U.S. In November 2016, following Trump's election, Turkey issued an advisory about xenophobia and political protests turning violent.

I'm more anxious than ever to return to the U.S. later this month to visit my sister. I'll continue to dread going back as long as white supremacy encourages racist rhetoric and violent behavior towards POC. I'll never feel safe until gun reform is passed to protect all people from the constant threat of mass shootings. The U.S. has so much for tourists to experience — from our vast variety of culture and cuisine, historic cities, and breathtaking national parks. I hope with all of my heart the nearly 80 million foreigners who travel to the States annually can continue to do so in peace.

 

 
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ABOUT THE WRITER…

Lola Méndez is an Uruguayan-American travel writer and full-time globetrotter sharing her adventures on Miss Filatelista. She travels to develop her own worldview and has explored over 50 countries. Passionate about sustainable travel she seeks out ethical experiences that benefit local communities.

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