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12-21-2015 - Airport Officials Demand Changes to U.S. Customs

Reno-Tahoe Airport Authority (RTAA) officials have expressed  outrage over the treatment of an unaccompanied minor by U.S. Customs and Border Protection officers (CBP) at Reno-Tahoe International Airport and are calling for immediate changes in the federally operated facility.

During a Monday press conference, RTAA Chairman Andy Wirth announced the airport has filed a complaint with the CBP over the Nov. 27 incident involving a 15-year-old girl from Mexico who flew into Reno alone from Guadalajara.  “She was coming to visit her family for the holidays and was treated in a way that should not be tolerated in our airport, our community or in our country,” Wirth said. “The treatment she received was appalling on every level and deeply disconcerting.”

Upon arrival at the CBP facility in Reno:

  • The young traveler, who speaks very little English, was detained in the CBP facility at Reno-Tahoe International Airport -- isolated from her waiting family for almost 5 hours and interrogated by CBP agents.
  • During questioning she was threatened with deportation.  Following her four-and-a-half-hour flight from Guadalajara, she was not provided food until after she had been questioned.
  • There is reason to believe that, despite being a minor, she was not segregated from adults as required.
  • When her deeply concerned and emotionally distressed family was finally allowed into the CBP facility, they were treated with sarcasm and disrespect while waiting for their relative.
  • It’s increasingly clear that the actions taken by the CBP agents involved did not conform nor comport with the practices or professionalism more commonly displayed by this important and dedicated federal department.

It should be noted that the unaccompanied minor had overstayed her Visa by 11 days in her last visit to the United States and that is what led to her being sent to secondary screening. CBP officers could have deported her over that issue.  However, what the RTAA stands opposed to is the unprofessional behavior and callous disregard for decency that she and her family experienced.

For several months, the RTAA has been working with a local church and Hispanic community leaders to substantiate rumors of passengers experiencing insulting and degrading treatment at the hands of the CBP in Reno. On Dec. 2, the unaccompanied minor’s family came forward and the airport conducted an investigation that resulted in the complaint against the CBP.

“We fully understand and support that the CBP’s priority is the security of our nation,” Marily Mora, RTAA President/CEO, said. “Regardless of any issues with a Visa, the CBP undermines what this nation is about when they isolate a young girl for 5 hours, deny her access to her family, interrogate her and threaten her with deportation and leave her hungry and deeply scared for several hours.” 

Reno-Tahoe International Airport maintains no oversight or control over CBP agents or CBP rules or regulations. The CBP is a federal agency working separately from the airport.  For the past year, the airport has been working closely with the Nevada Congressional Delegation to add CBP staffing and improve the slow processing of passengers in the Reno CBP facility. Wirth hopes the news of passenger mistreatment will strengthen the Delegation’s effort to improve the Reno CBP customer experience.

“The disrespectful treatment of our passengers, regardless of their origination and nationality, must end immediately,” Wirth said. “There must be change to the CBP in Reno.”

Anyone who feels they have been mistreated by the CBP in Reno should call 1-800-565-0060 or email customs@renoairport.com or aduana@renoairport.com, so the airport can document your complaint. Please see attachments for further information.              

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