An Australian traveller was denied entry to the US, cavity searched, sent to prison alongside criminals and subsequently deported 30 hours after arriving, due to a little-known entry requirement for the US.
The Victorian student Jack Dunn applied for a visa waiver for his trip to the US in May and planned to travel on to Mexico. He had been warned about the need to prove his plan to exit the US, but was unaware of the rule that requires those entering on the waiver to have booked either a return flight or onward travel to a country that does not border the US. After arriving in Honolulu Dunn was refused entry to the US and detained at a federal prison until he could be put on a return flight to Australia.
Dunn said he had since suffered panic attacks over his detention and called on Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) to clearly advertise the entry rule on its Smartraveller website so others can avoid his experience.
After landing at 6am on 5 May, he was interrogated by a US Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officer, who refused him entry after determining that he had not booked onward travel beyond Mexico. He was put in an interrogation room with no wifi. Because he did not have a local sim card, had no access to the internet.
He was ultimately denied entry to the US because he did not “possess a ticket, valid for at least one year to any foreign place/port other than a contiguous territory or adjacent island unless they permanently reside there”.
Dunn said about six hours after landing he was handcuffed and taken to the Federal Detention Center in Honolulu, where he was told to strip naked and was twice searched under his scrotum and anus for contraband before being admitted. He had no access to his phone or contact with his parents in Australia, and claimed he was placed in a cell with another prisoner who had smeared blood and faeces on the wall. He was told to sleep on a concrete floor with a paper bag for a pillow.
Dunn spent about 30 hours in the detention centre, before being taken back to the airport and put on a flight to Sydney. Throughout the whole episode, Dunn’s parents were told by the CBP and Dfat officials that he was safe. His family has lodged a complaint with the CBP about his treatment and the behaviour of the individual officer.