U.S. immigration deported an Australian woman after repeatedly asking her whether she’s had an abortion. They suspected her of planning to cat sit while vacationing in Canada as well as on a future visit to the U.S.
She should have just flown Air Canada directly, skipping the U.S. entirely. The U.S. is an inconvenient place for even an international connection since passengers are required to enter the U.S. to connect, which means clearing immigration rather than staying in a ‘sterile’ part of the airport. And that means non-U.S. residents need to obtain permission to enter (whether a Visa or Visa-alternative like an ESTA) just to connect.
The woman, a resident of Brisbane, arrived at LAX on June 30. And that’s where she was detained.
At one point a US border official asked Gourley, who was wearing a loose-fitting dress, whether she was pregnant. The same question was repeated as she was moved between rooms. When she again told the US officials she was not pregnant, Gourley was asked whether she had had an abortion.
“She was walking me from one room to the next, and she asked the pregnancy question again,” Gourley told Guardian Australia. “I don’t know if she had forgotten, or she wanted to work out if I was lying or something. “I said no, and she looked at me again and said, ‘Have you recently had an abortion?’
After being repeatedly asked about her abortion history, she was deported because she was deemed ineligible to enter the Unites States under the Visa Waiver Program. She planned to cat sit not just in Canada but after her visit to Canada when she returned to the U.S. before flying home to Australia.
It was determined that her plan to cat-sit ,I>in the future in exchange for accommodations constituted employment, and that was prohibited under the terms of her entry. (It wasn’t enough to tell her she wouldn’t be allowed to cat sit, the mere fact that she intended to do so in the future made her inadmissible under the terms of the Visa Waiver program.)
Apparently U.S. officials monitor activity on the website TrustedHouseSitters.com. And they were suspicious that she didn’t have her connecting boarding passes from LA to Philadelphia and on to Montreal printed already, even though this is quite common. That made them wonder if she might plan to cat sit in the U.S. immediately, too. To the government that looked like the woman was planning to stay in the U.S.
Australia’s foreign minister finds this reprehensible – both the regulations for transit, as well as the repeated questioning about abortion. And she believes the passenger is due an apology, and “clarification on how this impacts her future travel to the US.”
When asked, U.S. Customs and Border Protection offered a milquetoast statement that they do not allow misconduct but no opinion on whether misconduct occurred here,
“CBP regrets any inconvenience or unpleasantness a passenger may have experienced during his/her CBP processing,” the spokesperson said. “We take allegations of unprofessional behavior seriously. CBP has standard procedures for handling allegations of misconduct. If we confirm employee misconduct, we will take firm and appropriate action to correct the situation.”
U.S. immigration has built up almost unchecked power. They are building a central repository of passenger emails which they plan to keep for 75 years. Their authority doesn’t just exist at the border, or over passengers entering the country. In fact their power extends 100 miles inland, covering two thirds of the population. I covered the arrest of two women for speaking Spanish… at a Montana convenience store.
Roe v. Wade is no longer the law of the land in the U.S. It wouldn’t have protected the privacy rights of an Australian woman at the border from being questioned about abortion by the government anyway.
(HT: Paul H)