Cat-Sitter refused US entry; Also asked if she had an Abortion

Weird story. The way it was first presented seemed to suggest that she was refused entry because of abortion, but that was just the cherry on top.

Madolline Gourley is a 32 year old Australian woman who travels around the world, financing it, at least partly, by cat- and house-sitting. She’s been writing a blog about it, One Cat at a Time. She’s been in the US several times.

Recently (June 30) she was traveling to Canada, with a stopover in LA, and she was stopped by the Customs and Border Protection Program people because it was claimed that her cat- and house-sitting activities constituted a violation of the visa-waiver program (she didn’t have a visa for passage through the US because the visa waiver program permitted her to do this. But the CPB claimed that it didn’;t because the visa waiver program forbade “any type of employment or getting compensation for services rendered”. She wasn’t being paid for the sitting services, but apparently they figured that free rent and food constituted compensation. I re-iterate that the sitting job was in Canada, nit the US, and so the objection ought not to have been valid.

Nevertheless, she was patted down, fingerprinted, photographed, and interrogated. One of the questions they asked was if she had recently had an abortion, which is what has headlined this story in most accounts.

She was then deported back to Brisbane.

Just to be clear, though, she apparently wasn’t stopped to be asked about the abortion, but for what appears to me to be a groundless objection to her visa-waiver program. The abortion question came later, and is just an additional outrage.

This doesn’t seem to have registered yet with the US press.

I can’t wait to see her blog entry about this.

Yeah, that story is fucked from beginning to end. Why did they ask her twice if she was pregnant? And, why ask her at all if she recently had an abortion? What the fuck?

It’s a head scratcher, and makes one wonder how many times something like this happens and goes unreported. The only reason I can think of is if she is suspected to have had a child in the US to gain citizenship and she was reported as pregnant and attempting to do this and the boarder agents seeing her looking un-pregnant wanted to ascertain the fate of the child.

The only thing weird in this story is that she is a White Woman, otherwise deportations for the flimsiest of reasons is very common in the US. Hey, as an immigrant myself, I’ve taken extra care to adhere to the rules, not sure why others deserve a pass.

And I am not sure if she made up the Abortion bit just to get attention.

There is a new app that lets people like her house sit, violating a bunch of immigration / tax rules

That article ( dated June 16,2022) refers to a recent trip where she stayed for 75 days in nine different homes in a total of seven US cities. Considering that the article was published on June 16 and she was refused US entry on June 30 , I can’t help but think the two events are related - perhaps she wasn’t refused entry because this trip required a visa but because she entered without a needed visa on the previous trip.

That seems particularly vindictive, considering that she wasn’t traveling to the US, but just stopping en route to her Canadian destination.

I don’t know that it’s vindictive to refuse entry to the US to someone who previously entered without a needed visa - but I do think it’s ridiculous that someone who is not leaving the airport must go through immigration at all. ( I don’t know if this person was just changing planes without leaving the airport or if her stopover involved leaving the airport - but apparently even if she wasn’t leaving the airport , she would have had to go through immigration)

Yeah, that seems somewhat suspect, especially in LA. If it had been Dallas, then maybe, but even there it would be an unusual question to ask. I smell a rat.

Los Angeles is a port of entry. When you arrive from outside the US, you must pass through immigration, even if just changing planes. I had to do that when changing planes in MSP when I came back from Africa years ago, and I’m an American citizen.

You’re telling me! Can you imagine how those cats reacted to some stranger showing up to sit with them?!

Even if the regulations were different, it’s not physically possible to do it any other way without massively rebuilding airport terminals. US airports are built around passengers who have an origin or destination (usually both) in the USA; the USA does not have exit controls, and departing flights to international and domestic destinations can be completely intermixed without any barriers between them (or at the exit from the terminal).

There are no direct flights to Pittsburgh from the Caribbean. Returning from vacation we always end up running to make our connection. We have to go through customs/immigration, pick up our checked luggage, then recheck it, then find our gate.

The worst part of vacation.

I had to do this in Frankfurt even though I was going to a connecting flight to Venice. The bright side was this was the only visa stamp I needed for Italy, Greece and Croatia until I needed an Italian visa stamp in my USA passport to leave Italy back for the US. Now that was ridiculous.

My Google Analytics data sent me here… I’m the deported cat sitter, Madolline.

I just published the blog post about the ordeal. @CalMeacham, you said you wanted to read it :wink:

You were entering the Schengen zone in Frankfurt, which is the unified immigration area for most EU countries plus some non-EU countries like Iceland, Norway, and Switzerland. Your Frankfurt-Venice flight was domestic from an immigration stand point.

Room and board would appear to be compensation by any reasonable definition.

Not vindictive at all. She violated her visa on her previous visit to the US. Now she’s passing through the US and therefore subject to immigration controls.

It sounds like you were switching from an (incoming) international flight to a domestic flight. In that case, you would certainly have to clear immigration on your first stop in the US. However, I’m not sure this is required if you are going international to international?

Yup. There are semi-frequent news stories of people in transit through a US airport either being refused entry or even arrested. Depending on the airport layout you have to go through immigration control regardless of your destination. There may be some airports in the US where it’s not required, but it’s more common to go through immigration control upon arrival in the US.

The exception being remote CBP preclearance facilities in a few foreign airports, mainly the big Canadian ones but also Dublin, Shannon, and some others. There’s a separate controlled area, you go through customs and immigration there, can’t leave the controlled area, but after the flight, you get off the plane in the US like a regular domestic flight.

You do have to get to the airport earlier, but any potential visa or immigration control issues occur before you even get on the airplane rather than in the US.

As for the ‘outrage’, except for the abortion question, which was truly bizarre and unprofessional if true, there’s nothing here that wouldn’t necessarily happen elsewhere. All countries have immigration control upon first entering the country, even if only hopping on a different flight to elsewhere. The few exceptions have to do with things like travel within the Schengen Zone, which as noted above behaves more or less as ‘domestic’ travel would in the US.

And yes, cat-sitting in exchange for room and board would run afoul of the visa waiver program, even if money did not change hands. I would take the opposite tack - in what sane world would anybody allow that kind of loophole? That’s the sort of excuse human traffickers in the US literally make (like these a-holes). Even if the employment was in Canada on the latest attempted travel, the purpose of travel was ostensibly for employment not personal travel, and it’s always been on the traveler to make sure their travel doesn’t run afoul of any of the visa requirements for any countries they travel through on the way to their final destination. This isn’t remotely new nor is it something that the State Department (and corresponding equivalents in Australia and Canada) fail to note. And airlines do make sure to ask passengers to make sure they have checked visa requirements for international travel.

I just saw an episode of Border Security: Canada’s Front Line where a guy was almost denied entry as “coming here to work” because he was going to help his girlfriend’s family put up a dividing wall while staying with them. Border Patrol’s logic was he was taking work from Canadian contractors.

In the US, it is. However I, and a lot of other people, think it’s kind of silly that the US requires people to clear customs and immigration when they’re simply connecting onward to a third country. The EU does not have this requirement. If you, for example, arrive in Frankfurt from the US, and have an onward connection to India, you don’t have to clear customs and immigration, provided you don’t leave the international part of the terminal. You only need to clear customs and immigration if you’re actually staying in the Schengen Area.