Juan Garcia Mosqueda, founder and owner of Chamber gallery in New York City, claimed in an open letter that he was detained at John F. Kennedy International Airport after returning from a visit to Argentina.
Mosqueda says he was held for 14 hours without access to legal counsel. He was allegedly ushered by armed officers onto a return flight to Buenos Aires later in the day.
“During the following fourteen excruciatingly painful hours, I was prohibited from the use of any means of communication and had no access to any of my belongings, which were ferociously examined without any warrant whatsoever,” Mosqueda wrote in his letter. “I was deprived of food. I was frisked three times in order to go to the bathroom, where I had no privacy and was under the constant surveillance of an officer.”
In a statement, US Customs and Border Protection said that while they wouldn’t comment on individual cases because of the Privacy Act, “CBP not only protects U.S. citizens and lawful permanent residents but also ensures the safety of international travelers who come to our country to visit, study and conduct legitimate business.”
Chamber, located in New York’s art gallery-filled Chelsea neighborhood, is described as a “21st century cabinet of curiosities for one-of-a-kind, rare and limited edition objects of design and art.” Mosqueda, who was born in Argentina and educated in the United States, where he has lived for 10 years, opened the gallery in 2014.
“Although I am not an American citizen, Chamber is an American product that I hope adds to the cultural landscape of the country,” Mosqueda wrote in his letter. “The gallery was conceived in alignment with the same idea of inclusion that was found in the streets of the Lower East Side (where I live and was denied access to) not so long ago: a melting pot of all nationalities and religions, importing ideas from abroad to a culturally embracing metropolis.”
Mosqueda urged friends and supporters to visit the gallery’s new show, entitled Domestic Appeal, and to encourage their elected officials to support immigration reform.
“Push for a system that does not alienate, intimidate, and bully foreigners but that, on the contrary, welcomes and encourages citizens from all countries to want to keep investing in and contributing to your wonderful country,” he wrote in the letter.
In a statement provided to CNN following the public letter, Mosqueda said that he had received “tremendous support” from the design community and from others around the world.
“My reason for sharing my experience was to bring to light the situation currently facing immigrants from around the world and to encourage my American friends to contact your local congressmen and push for immigration reform,” he said.