Madolline Gourley sparked an international outcry when she said that a US Customs and Border Protection officer ask her if she recently had an abortion when she was traveling through Los Angeles two months ago.
Now, the agency is denying her request and insisting that the officer only ask if she had a miscarriage – which is standard procedure for any woman detained at a border gate. .
“CBP denies any wrongdoing,” an agency spokesman told The Daily Beast. “The officer acted with integrity, respect, professionalism, and in accordance with the laws and regulations of the United States.”
The agency opened an internal investigation into the officer in July, after Gourley, a 32-year-old web editor from Australia, made public the story of her detention at the International Airport. Los Angeles. Gourley said Guardians she was passing through the airport on her way to Montreal when border agents at the airports flagged her case and detained her for further questioning.
Gourley said that officers asked her about her finances, her work history and – to her surprise – whether she was pregnant or just had an abortion.
“My first thought was ‘Why are you asking that? ”” Gourley told The Daily Beast. “It’s not appropriate to start asking anyone that, but it’s especially odd given the context.”
But an agency spokesman said the officer involved asked Gourley if she had had a recent miscarriage – something he said the agency is required to ask all detainees, no matter how long.
The spokesperson pointed to a directive issued last November regarding the care of “pregnant, postpartum, breastfeeding and incarcerated infants.”
The directive states that individuals under these conditions may require special treatment and that border officials “may review all information available within the scope of their activities (including observing , self-reported, self-referred, and referred by family members or companions)” when determining whether a person in custody falls under these categories. The word “abortion” does not appear in the document; Examples given for “miscarriage” are stillbirth and miscarriage.
The spokesman said officers were required to fill out a digital questionnaire for all persons denied entry to the US and detained. Part of the questionnaire asked officers to confirm whether the detainee was a woman of childbearing age, and whether she was pregnant or had recently had a miscarriage. He added that the policy was implemented recently, out of concern for the health of “thousands upon thousands” of women being detained at the US border.
“CBP officials are required to ask these questions to the CBP records system,” the spokesperson told The Daily Beast, later adding: “It is for the health and well-being of travelers. “
Gourley asserts that the officer asked her specifically about whether she had a recent abortion, and she noted that not a single officer asked her about any other health conditions.
“If they care about my health and well-being while being detained at the airport, why don’t they ask if I have epilepsy or diabetes?” she speaks. “Because they’re all pretty serious health conditions that can flare up when you’re stressed.”
She added in an email: “I think if CBP were serious about the health of women in custody, they would ask more questions than just focusing on those related to childbirth.”
A CBP spokesperson said agents ask “general medical-related questions” to all travelers in custody, such as whether the traveler is taking any medications. , if they need any medicine right now, or if they are under the influence of any drugs or alcohol.
Gourley said she then spoke at length with a CBP Office of Professional Accountability investigator who emailed her after her story went viral. Although the investigator promised to get back to her in a week, Gourley said she had not received an update on the investigation in nearly a month. She said she eventually contacted the head of the office, who apologized for the delay and told her to expect an early response.
“I didn’t expect much, but maybe I should expect some sympathy or compassion from her for the way I was treated.“
– Madolline Gourley
On September 10, Gourley received her response: an email from the original investigator telling her only: “The investigation is complete.” The investigator said in previous emails, if she wanted more information about her case, she would need to file a FOIA request.
“I didn’t expect much, but I could expect some empathy or compassion from her for the way I was treated,” Gourley said. “I just thought she would give a few sentences about what she found.”
In previous emails reviewed by The Daily Beast, the investigator declined to tell Gourley exactly why she was denied entry, saying only that she was found to be “violating one or more of the following: visa waiver program” —a way for residents of participating countries to travel to the United States without a visa. (The program prohibits engaging in any type of employment or receiving compensation for services while in the US; Gourley told officers she spent several months in the US earlier this year in exchange for a place to stay. .)
A CBP spokesperson told The Daily Beast that administrative complaint findings are subject to restrictions under the Privacy Act, a federal law that restricts disclosure of personal records, and confirmed that records Personal travel is only accessible through FOIA request. But he also confirmed that the visa waiver program prohibits any act of keeping pets, house or babysitting in exchange for accommodation.
“Under the Visa Waiver Program (VWP), applicants may not engage in any type of employment or receive compensation for services rendered,” he said in an emailed statement. “Travelers working illegally in the United States will be denied entry under the VWP under 8CFR 217.4(a)(1) of the Immigration and Nationality Act.”
Gourley said she has filed a complaint with the Office of the Inspector General and is seeking an independent review of the situation.
“And an apology would be nice,” she added. “But I never saw that happen.”