HOUSTON - An 86-year-old Houston woman says she had to use the bathroom on herself while detained by customs at Bush Intercontinental Airport.
It happened last week after she arrived back in Houston from her native Nigeria via a layover in Paris, France.
“Very emotional,” said Dorothy Ejindu.
Ejindu has buried three of her seven children.
“The children are supposed to bury you,” said Ejindu.
Her only son, Obiora, was the last one. He was laid to rest in the family’s native Nigeria.
It’s a heart-wrenching journey exacerbated by her arrival back in Houston.
“I’ve been traveling a lot all of these years, all of these years,” said Ejindu. “Never had anything like this happen.”
Ejindu says she and a number of others were ushered to a secluded room inside Bush Airport where phone calls were prohibited.
She says customs agents took her passport and other items, and repeatedly refused to let her use the restroom.
“I went back to her and said, 'please, I want to use restroom,' ” said Ejindu. “She said, 'I am busy.' ”
Ejindu says she eventually had no choice but to use the bathroom on herself. And she was sitting in a wheelchair at the time.
That’s what upsets her daughter the most.
“That is not right,” said Uche Baker. “And that is what is killing me, she didn’t have to go through that.”
U.S. Customs and Border Protection isn’t commenting on a specific case. But the agency says all travelers arriving in the country are subject to searches.
“At times, travelers may be inconvenienced as we work through the arrival process to ensure those entering the country are doing so legitimately and lawfully,” said a spokesperson in a statement.
“I don’t want what happened to me to happen to another person, period,” said Ejindu.
Ejindu wonders what laws agents thought an 86-year-old might have been breaking. Ejindu is even more perplexed because she’s been a U.S. citizen since 2001.
But customs officials contend restroom access would never be restricted.
Here’s CBP’s full statement, which includes a way travelers can complain about any incident:
"U.S. Customs and Border Protection’s dual mission is to facilitate travel to the United States while securing our borders. We strive to process arriving travelers as efficiently and securely as possible while ensuring compliance with laws and regulations governing the international arrival process.
Due to the Privacy Act, we cannot comment on specific cases, but all travelers arriving to the U.S. are subject to CBP inspection. At times, travelers may be inconvenienced as we work through the arrival process to ensure those entering the country are doing so legitimately and lawfully.
Any international traveler who seeks resolutions regarding difficulties they experience can use DHS Traveler Redress Inquiry Program (https://www.dhs.gov/dhs-trip). The Department of Homeland Security Traveler Redress Inquiry Program (DHS TRIP) is a single point of contact for individuals who have inquiries or seek resolution regarding difficulties they experienced during their travel screening at transportation hubs or crossing U.S. borders. This includes: watch list issues, screening problems at ports of entry, and situations where travelers believe they have been unfairly or incorrectly delayed, denied boarding or identified for additional screening at our nation’s transportation hubs. DHS TRIP is part of an effort by the Departments of State and Homeland Security to welcome legitimate travelers while still securing our country from those who want to do us harm.
DHS TRIP routes redress requests to the appropriate office for review and adjudication. When a traveler applies for redress, they will be assigned a record identifier or Redress Control Number. This number can be included in future travel bookings after a traveler’s redress is resolved.
Facilities are available in the Federal Inspection Service area for use by international travelers undergoing additional screening."
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