Yes, some Americans really did leave the country because of Trump. Here are 12 of their stories, and why most aren’t raring to come back now that Biden’s won.
Insider spoke to 12 American expats aged 26 to 61, who moved to countries including Canada, the UK, and Germany after President Trump’s 2016 win.
By Ashley Collman
Weeks before the 2016 election, Michelle Dallocchio was driving home when she had a frightening encounter with an apparent Donald Trump supporter.
A few blocks from her Las Vegas home, the 39-year-old Iraq War veteran with Pacific Islander ancestry came across an SUV stalled in the middle of the road, so she drove around the vehicle.
She said the driver proceeded to pull up beside her, roll down his window, call her a stupid b — — , and tell her to go back to her own country. She is American.
While the man wasn’t wearing any Trump-branded clothing, and didn’t have Trump paraphernalia on his car, Dallocchio said he mentioned “the wall” at one point during his tirade.
After the encounter, Dallocchio said she had a talk with her husband, who is Italian, about moving abroad, telling him: “This is not the future I want.”
“I already gave up so much for this country. I want to leave,” she told Insider in a recent interview.
After the conversation, Dallocchio and her husband moved to Los Angeles for a job they hoped would lead to more international offers. In 2019, after about a year in LA, her husband secured a job in London, where the couple moved in March 2020.
Dallocchio is one of a dozen people Insider recently interviewed who said they left the US because of Trump.
The Americans, who ranged in age from 26 to 61, cited a number of reasons for their moves — from a belief that Trump had emboldened white supremacists, to fears for LGBTQ rights, to access to healthcare.
The exact number of Americans who left the country after the 2016 election is unclear because the US doesn’t formally track emigration. However, immigration figures published by other countries indicate an uptick of people leaving as Trump rose to power:
- Canada: More than 9,000 Americans applied for permanent residency in Canada in 2017, compared to 7,700 in 2016 and 6,800 in 2015, according to government data reported by CTV News.
- Ireland: There was a nearly 30% increase in Americans moving to Ireland after Trump won the 2016 election, per the country’s Central Statistics Office.
- New Zealand: In February 2018, 6,204 people emigrated to New Zealand on work visas, compared to 4,402 in 2015, according to the country’s business ministry.
A threatening atmosphere
While most of the expats we spoke to left the country for purely political reasons, a few cited disturbing interactions with Trump supporters in their decision to move.
Devon Kitzo-Creed, a Black woman, said she had experienced more racism under Trump’s presidency, and that life in the US had become “unbearable.” She and her husband moved to Ecuador this year.
The 29-year-old doula told Insider she was returning from a job in Philadelphia early one morning in the summer of 2019, when a driver with a Trump flag on his car started tailgating her. She said the driver gave her the middle finger, and his passenger made a fist gesture out the window.
“We were going 60 mph on a residential street, but I was just so terrified and had to get away from him. I ended up running a red light so that I could get away from him,” Kitzo-Creed said.
“The racism was a big reason for us leaving,” she added.
Similarly, Patricia Baker, 61, cited her “rabid” Trump-supporting neighbors in Florida as a reason she moved to Austria in May 2018.
A couple who lived next door decked out their lawn with Trump signs during the 2016 election, and could often be heard raving about the president from their porch, Baker said.
The husband was “not stable at all,” Baker said. About two years before the election, she said, he crashed into a mailbox on their street. Baker also knew he had at least one firearm, because she heard him shoot an alligator once.
Baker said these events made her feel “uncomfortable,” adding: “I just felt like this was a person I didn’t want to get on the wrong side of.”
Alice Engelmore, 60, was living in Ireland when Trump was elected, and said she felt a profound change when she and her family returned to the US in 2017.
“I was hearing people saying things that I wouldn’t have heard before — sexist comments, racist comments — as if they were proud of saying them,” Engelmore said.
She recalled one incident soon after she returned to the US, when she was filling up her car at a gas station in the Bay Area of California. She said a man made a “very sexist” comment — the exact words of which she doesn’t remember — and then said: “Yeah, I’m a proud deplorable.”
Engelmore and her husband started making plans to move to Vancouver for their retirement, but bumped up those plans during the COVID-19 outbreak.
“We had two people on our block that absolutely did not believe COVID was real and were not taking any precautions. My husband was working remotely and at a certain point I just asked him, if you’re working remotely could you work remotely from Vancouver?” Engelmore recalled.
They moved in July.
‘This guy will try to kill me’
Rick, a man in his 40s from California, said he moved to Germany after Trump’s election because he was afraid that the administration would end the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare. Rick is a pseudonym; he asked to speak anonymously for security reasons, but his identity is known to Insider.
Since his teenage years, Rick has suffered from irritable bowel disease, a chronic health condition that has made it hard for him to work. He’s spent his adulthood going from one temp job to the next, while living with his parents to save money, and taking out massive student loans to pay for medication.
He said the ACA changed his life.
“I finally didn’t have to do the weird flopping between temp jobs … I could get consistent healthcare. I could start building some sort of foundation,” he said.
But when Trump won in 2016, Rick said the thought that immediately crossed his mind was: “This guy will try to kill me.”
Fearing that Republicans would end the ACA, Rick made it a priority to move to a country with a social health system, eventually settling in Germany on a freelancer visa.
Like Rick, 47-year-old Claudia Clark moved to Germany with her husband after Trump’s election.
She said that while they mainly moved because of Trump’s politics, her personal battle with chronic migraines was another factor.
Clark said that back in the US, her migraines were so bad that she couldn’t work, but her health has drastically improved since being abroad.
Though she doesn’t know for sure what caused the change, she said not having to constantly fight with her health-insurance provider over coverage could be a reason she’s feeling better.
‘What if I’m not always healthy?’
Christine, 26, also cited her brushes with the US healthcare system as a major reason she left the country a month after Trump’s election in 2016. She asked that her last name be withheld to protect her security, but it is known to Insider.
Christine, who now lives in London, knows how illness could upend a life: She had a bad case of mononucleosis in 2015, and her mother, who has delusional disorder, has been hospitalized multiple times in the past.
She felt it was important to move to a country with more of a social safety net.
“Even though I earn enough money to support myself when I’m healthy, what if I’m not always healthy?” she said.
Ayla Kremen Adomat, 32, said Trump “was a huge impetus” for her and her husband’s move back to his native Germany.
She said they were living in New York City before their move to Berlin, and were worried about the cost of starting a family and the less generous maternity-leave policies in the US.
“I’ve heard from friends in the States that for a regular birth — no complications — it can be upwards of $5,000,” she said.
“I had a more complicated birth — I needed an emergency C-section and over a week stay in the hospital. I got a bill for 300 euros ($324).”
Threats to LGBTQ rights
One of the expats we talked to cited fears that the Trump administration would jeopardize LGBTQ rights as a reason for his move.
Chris Good said the Trump administration’s removal of a webpage dedicated to LGBTQ rights from the White House website within an hour of his taking office made it clear that the president didn’t have his interests at heart.
“Even though during the campaign he had said he was going to be for LGBT rights and protections and all that, that was a dead giveaway that that was not the case obviously,” Good said of the webpage being taken down.
So Good used his French citizenship to move to Europe in 2017 with his husband, both quitting their well-paying jobs at consultant firms to do so.
A difficult — and expensive — feat
A few of the expats we spoke to acknowledged that it’s a privilege to be able to move abroad. An international move can be costly considering flights, shipping, and visa applications — and is often an option only open to people with highly-skilled jobs.
Haylee Pearson, a 30-year-old from Gaithersburg, Maryland, who moved to Europe in 2016, explained some of the challenges.
“The process of leaving and moving to another country is a privilege. No one can just up and move to another country. It costs thousands and thousands of dollars,” Pearson said.
Pearson pointed out how when she moved to Spain, and later the UK, she had to prove that she had enough money to support herself for a year.
“That’s a luxury in and of itself,” she said.
Some of the sources we spoke to initially made the move as students, or were able to live abroad thanks to a foreign spouse.
Insider spoke to one man who followed through on a pact to move to Canada if Trump won the election, but returned a couple years later after facing challenges getting residency.
“At the time I was 53 and I was deemed older than is appealing to the Canadian government,” Peter Schink, 56, said.
“I would only have so many functional years contributing to the system before I became a drain on the system.”
Schink and his wife moved back to the US in February 2019, realizing how long of a road it would be towards residency.
Many of the Americans living abroad that we spoke to were heartened by President-elect Joe Biden’s win.
Patricia Baker, the American in Austria, teared up as she described how the election’s result made her feel like she could finally consider moving back to the US.
“I realized how much I didn’t want to stay away forever,” Baker said.
Haylee Pearson said Biden’s win opened up a conversation with her Spanish partner about possibly living in the US one day.
“It’s something that he’s been really apprehensive to commit to … just living in a country where he would be seen as a second-class citizen,” she said.
But the majority of the emigrants Insider interviewed said they had no immediate plans to move back to the US.
George Feil, who moved to Canada in March 2017, said he’s more worried than ever about America’s future.
He said he found it concerning that more than 73 million Americans voted for Trump this year — the most for any Republican in history.
“I think there’s a civil war brewing, to be honest,” Feil said. Some fringe right-wing groups and personalities have floated ideas of a conservative secession in recent weeks.
Meanwhile, for others, moving abroad has provided the perspective to see the US differently.
Claudia Clark, who moved to Germany, said that for “many years” she had felt like a stranger in her own country, and doesn’t “think of going back as an option.”
“My values aren’t aligned with the Americans,” Clark said. “The ‘I don’t want to pay more taxes so people can have healthcare’ or ‘I don’t want to pay more taxes so that the schools are better.’ That mentality is just not me.”
Dallocchio, the woman who was harassed in Las Vegas before the 2016 election, said her first priority is her family’s safety. She said that since moving to London, she has felt a lot safer, and like her ethnicity is not as important.
“If I never come back to the United States to live, then I never come back,” she said.
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