The Australian children’s book author Mem Fox has suggested she might never return to the US after she was detained and insulted by border control agents at Los Angeles airport.
Fox, who is famous worldwide for her best-selling books including Ten Little Fingers and Ten Little Toes and Possum Magic, was en route to a conference in Milwaukee earlier this month when she was stopped.
She told the Australian Broadcasting Corporation she was questioned by border agents for two hours in front of a room full of people – an experience that left her feeling like she had been physically assaulted.
“I have never in my life been spoken to with such insolence, treated with such disdain, with so many insults and with so much gratuitous impoliteness,” Fox said.
“I felt like I had been physically assaulted which is why, when I got to my hotel room, I completely collapsed and sobbed like a baby, and I’m 70 years old.”
The author attributed the aggressive questioning to border police who had been “turbocharged” by Donald Trump’s proposed travel ban.
Fox said she was questioned over her visa, despite having travelled to America 116 times before without incident. She was eventually granted access to the country.
After lodging a complaint over her treatment with the Australian embassy in Washington and the US embassy in Canberra, Fox received an emailed apology from US officials.
Fox said she was shocked by her treatment and “couldn’t imagine” returning to the US.
Fox has written more than 30 children’s books, including the hits Where is the Green Sheep? and Time for Bed. Possum Magic has sold more than three million copies and is the bestselling picture book in Australian history.
US border agents ask Muhammad Ali's son: 'Are you a Muslim?'
Boxing legend’s 44-year-old son detained and questioned about religion after flying back to US from Jamaica, lawyer says
Border agents detained and questioned the son of the boxing legend Muhammad Ali about his religion when he flew back to the US this month, a family lawyer said.
“Where did you get your name from? Are you a Muslim?” they asked the 44-year-old Muhammad Ali Jr, who was born in Philadelphia and is a US citizen.
When Ali confirmed to immigration officials at Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood international airport in Florida that he was a Muslim, they began questioning him about where he was born, family friend and lawyer Chris Mancini told the Courier-Journal newspaper. The questioning lasted for about two hours.
Ali had been at a black history month event in Jamaica with his mother, Khalilah Camacho-Ali. She was allowed to enter the country after producing a photo of herself with her famous ex-husband, who died last year, but her son had nothing to prove his link to the boxer.
Australian children's author Mem Fox detained by US border control: 'I sobbed like a baby'
The 7 February incident was the first time the family had been detained or questioned in this way, despite regular international travel, Mancini said.
They consider it religious profiling linked to President Donald Trump’s campaign promise to bring in a “Muslim ban” and his now-suspended executive order banning citizens from seven Muslim-majority countries from entering the US.
“To the Ali family, it’s crystal clear that this is directly linked to Mr Trump’s efforts to ban Muslims from the United States,” Mancini said, adding that they were trying to find out how many others faced similar questioning, and were contemplating filing a federal lawsuit.
“Imagine walking into an airport and being asked about your religion,” Mancini told the paper. “This is classic customs profiling.”
Ali’s is the latest in a string of complaints about US immigration controls after the inauguration of Trump.
The former prime minister of Norway was held for nearly an hour at Washington Dulles airport earlier this month and questioned over a visit to Iran three years ago, which he had made to speak at a human rights conference.
Meanwhile, the best-selling Australian children’s book author Mem Fox has suggested she might never return to the US after she was detained and insulted by border control agents at Los Angeles international airport. The 70-year-old said she was left “sobbing like a baby” after two hours of questioning while on her way to a conference.
A British Muslim schoolteacher travelling to New York last week as a member of a school party from south Wales was denied entry to the US. The foreign secretary, Boris Johnson, had previously claimed the US government had committed to allowing all UK passport holders to enter the country.
British Muslim schoolteacher denied entry to US
"As I was making my way out of the plane I looked back at the kids to tell them everything was going to be okay. The look I got off the kids, they were shocked, they couldn't believe what was happening. This is when I felt like I was a criminal," Juhel Miah, a math teacher at Llangatwg Comprehensive School in Wales told CNN.
Miah, 25, was one of four school staff accompanying the children, aged 12-15, on a trip to New York, that included a one-night stopover in Reykjavik, Iceland.
Miah, who is Muslim, was born in Birmingham, England, and grew up in Swansea, Wales. The trip was due to be his first visit to the US. He was traveling on his British passport with a US visitor's visa, he told CNN. Miah is not a citizen of any other country.
'Ticked all the right boxes'
"It all started when I met the first official. I gave her my passport. My first name is Mohammad. Straight away she looked at me and said you have been randomly selected for a security check," Miah told CNN.
After a brief search, Miah was allowed to board the plane. But shortly after that, he was informed he had been denied entry to the US and wouldn't be able to travel.
"I asked her on what ground was I denied access. I got my ESTA [US visitor's] visa, I have a British passport, I ticked all the rights boxes. She did not give me an answer," he said.
Icelandair told CNN, "We refused carriage to Mr. Miah based on a recommendation from the US Customs and Border Protection Agency and line with our conditions of carriage."
The school trip proceeded but the teacher's removal from the flight left students "shocked and distressed," the school district said in a statement. The students, aged 12-15, returned from the US on Monday.
Miah returned to the United Kingdom the following day.
'Act of discrimination'
In a letter to British Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson, Carwyn Jones, the First Minister of Wales, said the incident appeared to be "an act of discrimination against a UK passport holder, and asked Johnson to seek an explanation from US authorities.
Jones said the incident appeared to contradict Foreign Office advice for UK citizens traveling to the US
, and statements made by Johnson.
Days after President Donald Trump's executive order travel ban was signed on January 27, Johnson told the House of Commons, "We have received assurances from the U.S. Embassy that this executive order will make no difference to any British passport holder, irrespective of their country of birth or whether they hold another passport."
The British Foreign Office said in a statement provided to CNN, "We are providing support to a British man who was prevented from boarding a flight in Reykjavik," but did not provide further details.
The Muslim Council of Wales said it was "deeply troubled" by the incident.
CNN has reached out to US Customs and Border Patrol (CBP) for more information.