we attend a festival put on by groups that work with migrants. they invite six different migrants to the stage—from togo, honduras, el salvador. i listen to a teenager from el salvador recount her long & painful journey to mexico city, one she took with her dad, who has since been deported. borders. she tells us, tearfully, that her dream is to arrive in the united states.

someone, an american, is talking about the NSA. they say, they took away all our rights, now americans have no more rights. my eyes flicker from the american to the two refugees sitting at the table. one of them gets up.

this week i learned about the concept of “mixed flows”—how mexico has migrants & refugees traveling for different reasons, in different directions, with different ends. internally displaced mexicans fleeing violence in guerrero; salvadorians fleeing gang violence in their home country; refugees from cameroon or togo or the congo seeking asylum. it seems a grotesque privilege to move as i do.

i think of the family i met just a few months ago in philadelphia. we flipped through pages of legal forms. i tried to translate the dense jargon that might allow the teenage girl, who loves making movies on her phone & learning italian in school, to get an ID and a two-year work permit. we chatted about their neighborhood in north philly, their arrival in the US, their work. i didn’t tell them my plans to move to their country. i felt embarrassed, frivolous: why should i deserve entry to the home they can’t return to? borders. for me they are hopscotch lines. for others they are sorrow.