Laura and Dayana Gomez flew from Colombia Wednesday night into Boston's Logan International Airport, but they couldn't get far. The sisters, who live in Colombia and traveled to Massachusetts to visit their mother and stepfather, have been detained and questioned since their arrival.
Their mother, who lives in Lowell, is extremely worried, and not just because of the lengthy detainment. Laura, who's just 11, was rushed to Massachusetts General Hospital Thursday morning for severe stomach pains. She was then taken back to the airport, where the questioning has continued.
"Here we have an 11-year-old child who came here to see her mother and her stepfather, and she's had a serious medical condition and the tactics here are concerning," said immigration attorney Heather Yountz.
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Yountz says she's never seen anything like this case. She says the sisters, who are dual citizens of Colombia and Spain, have valid Spanish passports and return tickets. She believes U.S. Customs and Border Protection may be fearful that the girls will stay in the States with their mother and won't go back home.
"My concern is that 11-year-old girls being treated in this manner are a result of what's happening right now in the world of immigration, and in airports in particular," said Yountz.
U.S. Customs and Border Protection told NBC Boston it could not comment on a specific case because of privacy laws, and offered the following general statement:
"U.S. Customs and Border Protection officers are thoroughly trained on admissibility factors and the Immigration and Nationality Act which broadly governs the admissibility and inadmissibility of travelers into the United States.
"All travelers arriving to the United States must possess valid travel documents. For foreign nationals, this includes a current passport and a valid visa or visa waiver issued by the U.S. Government. The foreign national must possess the appropriate visa for their intended purpose of travel.
"It is important to note that issuance of a visa or a visa waiver does not guarantee entry to the United States. A CBP officer at the port of entry will conduct an inspection to determine if the individual is eligible for admission under U.S. immigration law.
"As the agency charged with determining admissibility of aliens at ports of entry, under U.S. immigration law [Section 291 of the INA [8 USC 1361] applicants for admission bear the burden of proof to establish that they are clearly eligible to enter the United States. In order to demonstrate that they are admissible, the applicant must overcome ALL grounds of inadmissibility."
The girls are still being detained as of Thursday evening, and it's unclear if they will eventually be released or deported. Laura and Dayana, who's 20, are both applying to become U.S. citizens.