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Reno Airport Protests Treatment of Mexican Teenager By US Customs

Alexa Ard


 Reno-Tahoe International Airport has filed a complaint with U.S. customs officials over the treatment of a 15-year-old Mexican girl who was allegedly detained for hours without a chance to contact her family. [Note: This story has been updated with a written response from U.S. Customs and Border Protection.]

Airport officials say the girl was questioned for five hours last month after she flew to Reno from Guadalajara, Mexico.

U.S. Customs and Border Protection officials pulled the girl aside because she had overstayed her travel visa by 11 days during a previous visit.

The girl says the customs agents told her that her visa was canceled and she was going to be deported.

Brian Kulpin is a spokesman for the airport.

"This is about the treatment of travelers coming into Reno-Tahoe International Airport. It's about the right way to treat children or anyone who comes into our country. We want change at the C.B.P. and the way they're treating people."

Kulpin says this wasn't the first time they had heard complaints about customs.

The nonstop flight from Guadalajara to Reno began only a year ago and operates three days a week, carrying both citizens and visitors. It's the first commercial international flight for the airport since the late 1990s.

A formal complaint over the incident was filed December 16.

In a written statement, U.S. Customs says it is investigating, but disputed some of the allegations. A spokesman says it is standard procedure to question and document travelers to determine admissibility to the country.

Read the full response from U.S. Customs:

U.S. Customs and Border Protection is currently investigating the public allegations of unprofessional conduct made by the Reno-Tahoe Airport Authority (RTAA). Upon CBP’s initial review of the case, it has become evident some of the statements made by RTAA in their news release and news conference are incorrect. All international travelers arriving at Reno Tahoe Airport have snacks and water available in the primary and secondary areas. The items are provided by RTAA as a convenience to the traveling public. Restrooms and water fountains are also available in both primary and secondary areas. CBP does not withhold access to food, water, or restrooms for any traveler regardless of their status. Any traveler passing through a CBP facility always has an opportunity to file a complaint, either on-site directly with a CBP Supervisor, or online at CBP.gov. To date, CBP has not received any complaint from the passenger, her family or members of the community. Allegations of misconduct are taken very seriously, and are promptly investigated by CBP. Despite engaging the passenger and family as early as December 7, 2015, RTAA did not forward a complaint to CBP until December 18, 2015 – one business day prior to the news conference. CBP was not provided an opportunity to respond prior to the news event. Furthermore, RTAA publicly released what should have been considered private documents, including a handwritten personal statement allegedly belonging to a minor. It should be noted that despite the fact that these statements were released, there is nothing in the standard questions and answers that demonstrates inappropriate behavior by CBP Officers. It is standard CBP process to question and document the interview with those travelers to determine their admissibility to the United States. We appreciate that RTAA acknowledged CBP ultimately exercised discretion in allowing the passenger entry to the United States. CBP Officers working in Reno have pledged to treat all travelers with dignity and respect. CBP Officers have an important role in protecting this country and we acknowledge that sometimes our mission requires a little extra time to make the right decisions. Not only do we protect the people of Reno, but we also live, work, volunteer, worship and participate as proud members of the community.

Julia Ritchey is a former reporter at KUNR Public Radio.
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