An Asian woman is saying she was made to feel more like a criminal after federal agents detained her after allegedly mistaking her for a human trafficking victim.
According to WXIA-TV, Stephanie Ung and her friend, both from the metro Atlanta area, were flying back from Cancún, Mexico, trying to make it home in time for the Thanksgiving holidays when they were stopped by six security officers. The officers questioned the women, went through their luggage and even went so far as to refuse to let them use their phones before claiming that they were concerned that the women were human trafficking victims.
“I just kept telling them that I wanted to go home for my family Thanksgiving dinner and that they were making me late, but they just didn’t care,” Ung, a schoolteacher, told the news station. “They just laughed.”
Ung was celebrating her 26th birthday and looking forward to spending time with her family for Thanksgiving. However, her birthday definitely ended on a sour note. Her Thanksgiving with family was also ruined.
“The fact that I missed dinner with my family—you can’t take that back,” Ung said. “I can just look at the pictures and feel sad that I wasn’t a part of it.”
Ung is not quite sure why she was singled out, but believes that her race may have played a role.
“I know human trafficking is huge within the Asian community, right, and that’s the only reason why I could see you stopping me. That and the fact that I was in a dress. I was in a dress with some cardigans and boots, and I think that’s totally appropriate to fly on an airplane with,” Ung said. “Honestly, I think it’s just the fact that I’m Asian, [my friend] is Asian and we’re two little girls on the plane. ... Mind your own business, but still, that looks like a red flag for everyone.”
According to the news station, Delta claimed that another
nosy-ass passenger thought that the two women did not have their passports—often taken as a sign of a victim being controlled by someone else, according to the news station—and alerted a flight attendant. The flight attendant then alerted the authorities.
The airline said in a statement:
Delta has been proactively fighting human trafficking from the frontlines since 2011 and thousands of our flight attendants are trained to look out for signs of possible trafficking. On a recent Delta flight from Cancun, two customers were observed by another customer to not be in possession of their passports—a possible indicator of a human trafficking event.
Delta took the concern seriously and contacted the appropriate authorities who addressed the customers upon landing. While their investigation did show that our customers were not being trafficked, we train our crew members to remain alert and use their professional experience and practice best judgment to ensure the safety of all customers.
Ung denies this claim, saying that she had her passport on her the whole time.
Read more at 11Alive.