Destinations

Aussie tourist’s “mortifying” ordeal with US customs

Hannah Edensor

It hasn’t been all that long since an Aussie was detained at the US-Canada border, and an Aussie couple’s US visa issues ruined a trip of a lifetime. And now there’s this.

Melbourne woman Molly Hill was handcuffed, interrogated, and thrown into a women’s prison after her diary – yes, her personal diary – raised flags with US immigration.

Hill had been planning to spend 88 days – the US tourist visa lasts for 90 – with her American boyfriend, arriving to meet him in Honolulu. She had booked and paid for a return ticket to Australia.

Hill had quit her job back home to take the extended holiday, as well as celebrating farewell drinks with friends – before documenting all this in her journal.

Sadly, this would lead to a very horrific ordeal for Hill upon arrival in the US.

“(I) expected to pass through customs without too much hassle as I was going on a tourist visa for 88 days, the max is 90, with my return ticket paid for,” Hill wrote on Facebook.

“I was taken into an interview room and had every inch of my luggage searched.

“They understood that I have an American boyfriend and I spent about six hours in and out of the interrogation rooms.

“In the end they were convinced I wanted to immigrate illegally because my diary had notes like ‘going away drinks’ and ‘last day at work’, things I got in order before expecting to be away for three months.”

Hill couldn’t even contact her boyfriend, who was waiting for her in the airport, to explain the situation, and instead was detained in a detention centre.

She was forced to strip naked so officers could frisk search her, then transported to a women’s prison overnight.

“Myself and a Japanese woman were handcuffed and transported to the detention centre, which was a federal prison,” Hill said, per news.com.au.

“It was such a shock. It was something — it was like something out of a movie. Yeah. The handcuffs were taken off.

“I was frisked, made to undress in front of an officer and show that there was nothing in my hair or mouth, and asked to ‘squat and cough’ which was absolutely mortifying.

“Then I was provided a prison uniform and to add insult the officer gave me a size S bra and size L everything else.”

Per news, Hill had to give authorities a list of her tattoos and was asked if any of them were gang related. Officers supplied a blanket and a peanut butter and jelly sandwich, before leaving her in the prison.

Hill had plans to celebrate her birthday with her boyfriend the next day.

“They were passing on the message that I had been detained, but… they didn’t pass on any details about what the facility was like, or where it was,” Hill added, per her Facebook post.

“The next morning it was my birthday. I was woken up by a flashlight and an officer who yelled ‘Hill! You’re getting released today’.

“I got changed (strip, squat routine) and was handcuffed again. I remained in handcuffs and was escorted throughout the airport. Then I was finally allowed to call home, and had to pay $620 for a flight to Sydney.

“I stared at the walls for another four hours, then my possessions were finally returned and I was escorted by customs security into the aeroplane for my next 11-hour flight.”

According to news, Hill described the ordeal as taking “a big chunk of money, heartache and tears”.

The US Customs and Border Protection told news.com.au that officials had legit reasons for detaining her, including that her diary suggested she wanted to stay and get married to her boyfriend.

“U.S. Customs and Border Protection acted with respect, integrity, professionalism and according to current federal law when Molly Joan Hill, an Australian citizen presented herself for CBP inspection at Honolulu International Airport May 15,” a spokesperson told news.

“Hill applied for admission as a visitor for pleasure (which means that she is only eligible to stay in the United States for a brief period of time) under the Visa Waiver Program (VWP). However, upon inspection, CBP officers found that Hill presented conflicting information and was determined to be inadmissable under the VWP.

“She was advised that she is no longer eligible for admission under the VWP and must obtain a valid, unexpired visa prior to subsequent entries to the U.S.

“When a foreign national is found inadmissable, the traveller must remain in custody until the next flight back is available, in this case the following day.

“CBP operations at Honolulu are not 24 hours, so it can’t hold travellers overnight. For that reason, Ms. Hill was transferred to an ICE facility for an overnight stay until the next available flight back to Australia.”

Image: Molly Hill Facebook

SEE WHAT PEOPLE ARE SAYING

  • Owen Olsen

    Hope this is a lesson to anyone going to the USA to see friends. Don’t write conflicting information in your diary/journal in physical (notepads, diaries, etc.), or in digital form (laptop, tablet, smartphone, emails, Facebook, etc.). Make sure not to make jokes, be sarcastic, facetious or make silly remarks about authority. Be polite. Make the point you are a tourist, you are there to see their lovely country and have booked hotels and tours. Basically give them an itinerary in paper form. That will shake off any suspicion if there is any. Also say a prayer you’ll get a CBP officer who’s got out of bed on the right side. That includes the TSA. Good luck. Cheers.

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