Australian describes the terrifying five-hour ordeal of border violence in the US

A young woman who has spent the last five years between Australia and the US as a cat sitter was deported on her most recent visit to the States – and has detailed the horrific encounter with border guards on her blog.

Madolline Gourley, from Brisbane, stopped over in Los Angeles on June 30 on her way to Canada for a vacation, where she planned house-and-cat manners in exchange for a place to stay.

But while she was at the airport, she was approached by US border officials and taken to a holding room, where she was patted down, fingerprinted, photographed and questioned – including asking if she was pregnant.

It started with Ms Gourley’s decision to board a flight, which forced her to stop at LAX airport before continuing on to Montreal, which meant a visa check at immigration.

“The immigration officer who called me started with the standard ‘Where are you going?’ (Montreal) and “What are you doing?” (Holiday) questions,” she writes.

Madolline Gourley, from Brisbane, stopped in Los Angeles on June 30 on her way to Canada for a vacation, where she wanted to take care of her house and cat in exchange for a place to stay

Madolline Gourley, from Brisbane, stopped over in Los Angeles on June 30 on her way to Canada for a vacation, where she planned house-and-cat manners in exchange for a place to stay

“He seemed upset that I couldn’t show a boarding pass for Philadelphia or Montreal because I wasn’t given one at Brisbane airport.

“The Qantas agent who checked me in even called someone about it. Whatever information was shared must have been approved by someone higher up because I was given my BNE-LAX boarding pass and baggage tag and was sent on my way.”

Ms Gourley went to extreme lengths to prove her journey, showing the officer her Qantas baggage check and an email copy of the booking, but he wasn’t interested, she claims.

She spent four months in the US in early 2022, which Ms Gourley sensed the officer was looking at her when he questioned her: “He started asking things like why have I spent so long in the US, where am I going on this journey and why was I’ll be back so soon’.

“I told him that because I was taking care of people’s cats – for free, of course, and through a reputable pet sitting website – I could reach so many places in towns and communities that I wanted to visit.”

Eventually, Ms Gourley was told to “step aside” and another officer would take her in for further questioning.

Eventually, Ms Gourley was told to

Eventually, Ms Gourley was told to “step aside” and another officer would take her in for further questioning

A copy of Mrs Gourley's Qantas ticket and baggage receipt

A copy of Mrs Gourley’s Qantas ticket and baggage receipt

“Twenty minutes later I was dealing with a much younger immigration officer. He said he “understood” I’m not getting paid, but house sitting is against what’s allowed on an ESTA visa,” she said.

“He said something like cat owners would have to pay someone – I assume he meant an American – to look after their cat if it weren’t for me. Then he asked me what I do professionally in Australia.

“He wanted to know how much cash I’m carrying, where I’m going on the trip, what I’m doing on those trips, how long I’ve been doing it, etc.”

She showed him her bank statements during her previous trip and told her that it was illegal to “take employment” while on the visa she had.

“I told the officer that TrustedHousesitters operates on an exchange model where both parties pay an annual membership fee to use the platform,” she said.

“The sitter receives no money, and my flights and transportation are paid for by none other than myself.

“He laughed and said these sites can say anything they want to attract customers.

She showed him her bank statements during her previous trip and told her that it was illegal to

She showed him her bank statements during her previous trip and told her that it was illegal to “take employment” while on the visa she had.

The immigration officer said she needed to speak to someone else to have her case heard, but first she would be frisked by an officer for five minutes.

She was asked if she had a recent abortion – twice – and if she was pregnant, if she was on any medication, what her parents’ names were and if she had ever been arrested.

“It didn’t take long for this guy to tell me I was denied entry into the United States. I remember thinking, Seriously? There was no point in arguing or crying or saying anything because he wouldn’t change his mind,” Ms Gourley said.

Her fingerprints were taken along with her height, weight, hair and eye color before she was allowed to call a friend before boarding a flight back to Brisbane via Sydney.

“I have not received any details about the journey home or what this all means for future travel to the United States of America. The second immigration officer didn’t even tell me I was going home via Sydney,” she said.

“My passport – which could only be returned to me when the flight to Sydney was 10 minutes from landing – was stamped: Refusal under INA Section 217 R27038. This rejection stamp is the only ‘proof’ I have of this whole ordeal.’

A spokesman for U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) said under the visa waiver program, applications are prohibited from “having any type of employment or receiving compensation for services rendered.”

Ms Gourley is currently investigating this turn of events with both US and Australian border officials to determine if she will be allowed back into the States.

“Someone who read my story said that anyone with a s217 stamp in their passport is banned from ever entering the United States on an ESTA again,” she said.

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“Someone who read my story said that anyone with a s217 stamp in their passport is banned from ever entering the United States on an ESTA again,” she said

In response to questions about Ms Gourley’s treatment, a CBP spokesman said: “The department regrets any inconvenience or inconvenience a passenger may have experienced during his/her CBP processing.”

“We take allegations of unprofessional behavior seriously,” the spokesman said.

“CBP has standard procedures for dealing with allegations of misconduct. If we confirm misconduct by an employee, we will take decisive and appropriate action to correct the situation.’

The alarming allegations come just weeks after Victorian student Jack Dunn, 23, was strip-searched and jailed in the US for more than 30 hours after breaking a little-known travel rule.

The alarming allegations come just weeks after Victorian student Jack Dunn, 23, was strip-searched and jailed in the US for more than 30 hours after breaking a little-known travel rule

The alarming allegations come just weeks after Victorian student Jack Dunn, 23, was strip-searched and jailed in the US for more than 30 hours after breaking a little-known travel rule

Upon arrival, Mr. Dunn was asked by a CBP officer if he had a plane ticket to leave the US, which he did not have as he planned to book his flights en route.

After declaring his next flight to Mexico was booked, Mr Dunn was quickly handcuffed and taken to the federal prison in Honolulu after officers determined he did not meet entry requirements.

It was not clear to the youth worker that travelers under the Visa Waiver Program would need another ticket from the United States to another foreign port or location that is not a contiguous country or island.

He was ordered to catch the next flight to Sydney, which was the next day, which meant he was forced to stay in a detention center overnight.

https://www.dailymail.co.uk/femail/real-life/article-11097165/Australian-woman-describes-terrifying-five-hour-ordeal-border-force-US.html?ns_mchannel=rss&ns_campaign=1490&ito=1490 Australian describes the terrifying five-hour ordeal of border violence in the US

Ryan Gaydos

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