The cat sitter asked if she had recently had an abortion by officials after she arrived in the US has revealed that an Australian airport’s mistake was what initially put a target on her back.
Madolline Gourley was arrested on June 30 while passing through Los Angeles on her way to Canada, where she planned to look after people’s cats in exchange for free accommodation.
She claimed last week that before she was detained and eventually deported back to Australia, US immigration officials patted her down and interrogated her, before asking if she was pregnant or had recently had an abortion.
The confrontation made global headlines since it happened shortly after the US Supreme Court was overturned Roe v. Wadewhich gives states the right to make abortion illegal.
Gourley, who allegedly breached the terms of the visa waiver program, revealed this week that it was a malfunction at Brisbane airport that set her up for failure in the US.
“When I checked in, I had to go to the counter because the machine wouldn’t process my order or let me check in, so I actually had to see someone about it,” she told news.com.au.
“The lady printed my ticket from Brisbane to Los Angeles and then called someone and said that the boarding passes for the American airlines are not being printed,” she said.
“It sounded like it was a known issue. It didn’t sound like it was specific to my situation.”
The staff apparently decided that Gourley not having a boarding pass for all three of her flights wouldn’t be a problem, and sent her on her way with only her baggage claim as proof.
Had she had all three passes, Gourley believes she would not have been kicked out of the US hours after arriving.
The immigration officer who arrested her wasn’t interested in seeing her baggage claim and seemed convinced she had nothing new the moment he realized she didn’t have physical copies of her boarding pass for her connections through Philadelphia and Montreal, Queensland said local .
He was also suspicious of how recently she had been in the country, despite there being no legal or visa restrictions on how soon she could return.
“I did all the right things, but he just wasn’t into it,” she said.
Since returning to Australia, with the inappropriate abortion confrontation making national headlines, Gourley was approached by a US border protection official tasked with investigating how she was managed at the Los Angeles airport.
The discussion took a sour turn, with the official appearing to “shift the blame” onto Gourley for not addressing her concerns at the time.
“They asked me why I didn’t raise the inappropriate questioning with the supervisors and why I didn’t ask for a supervisor to intervene,” she recalled.
“It’s like you were stopped by the police – you’re not going to ask to see the police chief.
“I just felt like they hadn’t listened to anything else I said about my travel plans, so I figured they were unlikely to listen to me about that either.”
Despite the ordeal, Gourley remains keen to return overseas, but has been unsuccessful in getting help from official agencies.
“I’ve tried contacting the Australian consulate, the US embassy and DFAT (Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade) and it just seems like nobody really wants to help,” she said.
The website she has used for more than five years to sit cats in all parts of the world, Trusted Housesitters, has also turned her down.
When she asked the website if they could help her, she was told that it was up to immigration officials to make decisions about who could go where.
“So it doesn’t seem like there’s anything travelers can use to vouch for what the site does. It’s kind of like you just have to do it at your own risk,” she said.
Gourley’s only remaining option to overturn her denial of entry to the United States is to file a Freedom of Information request.
“It’s just been one disaster after another.”