The process of immigrating to a new country can be complicated at the best of times, even more so amid a global pandemic.

This year we’ve seen Japanese borders go from being open in January (wide enough for Carlos Ghosn to make an escape) to being closed to anyone but Japanese citizens as the virus known as COVID-19 spread. With borders slowly reopening, some foreign residents, students and workers have been able to return to Japan, but what this whole process has taught us is just how much our fates can depend on the people who are guarding the front gate.

Pato knows the feeling of dealing with the so-called gatekeepers, and as a result of some negative experiences she has asked to keep her last name private. Local activists have come to campaign for her under the name “Pato-chan,” her first name with an affectionate Japanese honorific attached to the end of it.