An Incident at LAX Immigration

 Los Angeles International Airport (Source: CBS)

Los Angeles International Airport (Source: CBS)

Mr. Juan de la Cruz (not his real name) owns a BPO company in the Philippines that handles accounting and tax preparation services. His company has clients in the U.S. During this time of the year, he sends a few of his employees to the U.S. for training with an accounting and tax preparation firm. He has been doing this for the past three years without any problem.

Last January 20, 2017, two of his female employees, (let’s call them Maria and Anna) arrived in Los Angeles via Philippine Airlines at around 8 in the morning. It was not PAL’s usual flight time, but the flight the night before was delayed. Los Angeles was their port of entry into the U.S. before continuing on to Kansas and Montana.

Maria and Anna both had B1-B2 visas in their passports. B2 visas allowed them to train with American companies, like what they had been doing for the past three years. Maria passed through immigration without any hassle. But Anna was not as lucky. Facing a Hispanic female immigration officer, Anna was accused of illegally working in the U.S. She was forced to give the password to her cell phone, and going through the text messages, the immigration officer found out that she was traveling with a companion. At that point, immigration looked for Maria outside, and brought her back in to the immigration center.

Both women were detained for several hours, and given only water. Both women were forced to sign a document saying that they were working illegally --despite having legitimate visas --and they were threatened jail time if they didn’t sign. They were not allowed to make any calls because the immigration officer said they were not officially in the U.S., but in the border. Both women’s passports were stamped “BANNED" for five years from re-entering the U.S. Both women were put on the late evening flight of PAL. Both were traumatized.


Both women were forced to sign a document saying that they were working illegally —despite having legitimate visas —and they were threatened jail time if they didn’t sign.

Mr. de la Cruz contacted a lawyer but was informed that it would be very difficult to appeal.

This incident is very troubling in many ways. Both women are not Muslims or from any of the countries banned from entering the U.S. This happened on the day Trump was being inaugurated. Was the immigration officer’s action in anticipation of what she thought would be the government’s new stand? Or could this be just an over zealous immigration officer? Be that as it may, the permission to act this way has been granted.

Since the Philippines was included in the list of countries with terrorist activities during Trump’s campaign, can we expect more of this treatment/discrimination with Filipinos? Many in the Philippines, whose U.S. visas are expiring, are anxious and afraid their visas may not be renewed.