After more than a decade, Americans are accustomed to tight security at airports. Although president Donald Trump’s strict travel ban failed to stick, it hasn’t stopped immigration officials from conducting "extreme vetting." Two Colombian sisters are the latest to experience this process that one could call extreme.
On Wednesday, March 29, 11-year-old Laura and 20-year-old Dayana Gómez, arrived at Boston’s Logan International Airport to visit their mother and stepfather in Massachusetts, according to NBC Boston.
But instead of seeing their parents, the two sisters were immediately detained by US Customs and Border Protection (CBP) agents and were questioned for 36 hours.
The sisters had no access to legal help or their parents. After not hearing from them, their mother went to the airport the next day looking for them with an immigration lawyer, reported NBC Boston. But it wasn’t a happy reunion.
The 11-year-old was taken to Massachusetts General Hospital on Thursday morning with severe stomach pain. The parents were allowed to visit the hospital but were forbidden from using their phones and a border agent stood outside her room, lawyer Heather Yountz told The Boston Globe, who offered her legal assistance.
“This is not like anything that I’ve seen before,” said Yountz.
After the young girl was treated, she was taken back to the airport for further questioning. Yountz believes CBP should have used “alternative practices” because of the young girl’s age and medical state.
“Is this what enhanced screening looks like?” she said. “You have a young girl being detained for more than 36 hours?”
Their mother showed agents their return tickets for the end of May but it wasn’t enough.
The Latinas have duel citizenship in Colombia and Spain, and were applying to become US citizens as well. On Friday, April 1, the Colombian sisters were sent back.
“The detention of this 11-year-old, who was not healthy, is the perfect example of this administration’s policy of inspecting everyone in search or reasons for deportation can go terribly wrong,” said Yountz.
The CBP declined to make a comment about the specific case because of privacy laws.
However, they did release a statement, according to NBC Boston, which said:
“It is important to note that issuance of a visa or a visa waiver does not guarantee entry to the United States. A CBP officer at the port of entry will conduct an inspection to determine if the individual is eligible for admission under US immigration law.”