The cat sitter asked if she’d recently had an abortion by officials after arriving in the United States has revealed an Australian airport’s mistake was initially what put a target on her back.
Madolline Gourley was detained 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 prior to being detained and ultimately deported back to Australia, US immigration officials patted her down and interrogated her, before asking whether she was pregnant or had recently had an abortion.
The confrontation made global headlines given it occurred shortly after the US Supreme Court overturned Roe v Wade, giving states the right to make abortion illegal.
Ms Gourley, who allegedly breached conditions of the visa waiver program, this week revealed that it was a malfunction at Brisbane airport that set her up for failure in the US.
“When I was checking in I had to go to the counter because the machine wouldn’t process my booking or let me check in, so I had to actually see someone about it,” she told news.com.au.
“The lady printed my Brisbane to Los Angeles ticket and then called somebody saying the boarding passes for the American airlines aren’t printing,” she said.
“It sounded like it was a known issue. It didn’t sound like it was specific to my situation.”
Staff seemingly decided that Ms Gourley not having boarding passes for all three of her flights wouldn’t be an issue, and set her on her way with just her luggage receipt for proof.
Had she had all three passes, Ms Gourley believes she would not have been kicked out of the US hours after arriving.
The immigration officer who detained her was not interested in viewing her luggage receipt, and seemed convinced she was up to no good the moment he became aware she didn’t have physical copies of her boarding passes for her connections through Philadelphia and Montreal, the Queensland local said.
He was also suspicious about how recently she had been in the country, despite there being no legal or visa restriction on how soon she could return.
“I did all the right things, but he just wasn’t having a bar of it,” she said.
Since returning to Australia, with the inappropriate abortion confrontation making national headlines, Ms Gourley was contacted by a US Border Protection official tasked with investigating how she was managed at Los Angeles airport.
The discussion took a sour turn, with the official seeming to “shift the blame” onto Ms Gourley for not raising 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 manager to intervene,” she recalled.
“It’s like if you were pulled over by the police – you’re not going to ask to see the police manager.
“I just felt they hadn’t listened to anything else I was saying about my travel plans, so I thought it was unlikely they were going to listen to me on that either.”
Despite the ordeal, Ms Gourley is still keen to head back overseas but has been unsuccessful getting help from official agencies.
“I’ve tried reaching out to the Australian consulate, the US Embassy and DFAT (Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade), and it just seems like no one really wants to help,” she said.
The website she has been using for more than five years to cat sit in all parts of the world, Trusted Housesitters, has also snubbed her.
When she asked the website if they could help her, she was told it was up to immigration officials to make decisions on who could travel where.
“So it doesn’t seem like there’s anything travellers can use to vouch for what the website is doing. It’s kind of like you just have to do it at your own risk,” she said.
Ms Gourley’s only remaining option to have her denial of entry into the US overturned is to submit a freedom of information request.
“It’s just been one disaster after the next.”