Friday 23 June 2017

Irish-American mum horrified after husband 'accused of trafficking' their daughter on United Airlines flight

United Airlines
United Airlines
Amy Molloy

Amy Molloy

A young mother has told of the horrible experience her family endured when her Mexican husband was accused of trafficking their daughter while on board a United Airlines flight.

Maura Furfey, who describes herself as an Irish-American, wrote about the ordeal in an article for the Huffington Post.

She was on the way to collect her husband and three-year-old daughter from Newark Airport in New Jersey when she received a call from security.

A man, who identified himself as a sergeant with Customs and Border Protection, said there had been an incident involving her husband and daughter.

"My heart was in my throat ― I couldn’t even bring myself to respond because my mind was racing to grasp all of the possibilities of what could have happened on the plane," she wrote.

A passenger on board their United Airlines flight, who had allegedly been drinking, accused her husband of child trafficking.

"She claimed that my fair-skinned daughter didn’t look like her Mexican father, and stoked suspicion that he had kidnapped her," she said.

"My husband is Mexican. I am of Irish descent. Our daughter, three years old, looks like both of us: she has dark hair and almond eyes with white skin."

When the plane landed, her husband was met by a number of officers from Customs and Border Protection.

Ms Furfey said they asked him where his daughter was born and where her birth certificate had been issued, before asking for a phone number for the child’s mother.

She was informed by the sergeant over the phone that the accusation was not coming from border protection, but from a passenger on the plane.

"There was no indication whatsoever ― other than the passenger’s racially charged observation ― that my husband had anything but a perfectly normal, loving relationship with his daughter.

"We never thought, however, that flight attendants on a major airline ― United Airlines ― would choose to take such an observation seriously ― and in doing so, that the Port Authority and CBP would drag my husband and daughter off an airplane and interrogate them with a presumption of guilt."

The pair had been returning from Cancun in Mexico after a week-long holiday.

"Never mind that he was traveling with a green card, carrying passports with the same last name and a notarized letter stating that I was allowing my daughter to travel to México for the week."

A few days later, after filing an official complaint, they received an apology and a $100 (€93) travel voucher.

"It is more important to us that United and other airlines review its procedures. A simple check of the passports or flight records would clearly show that there was no problem in this situation and would have prevented the drama and stress that it created."

In a response to Independent.ie, United Airlines said: "This deeply concerned us. We have apologised to the family and are continuing to review this to better understand what happened aboard the flight."

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