Why the Rule of Law Matters

The Reno-Tahoe International Airport filed a complaint with the U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) agency over the treatment of a 15-year-old Mexican girl who was detained and questioned after arriving in Reno to visit family for the holidays. CBP officers claim she was taken aside because she had overstayed her travel visa by 11 days during a previous visit to the U.S.

Reno-Tahoe Airport Authority board chairman Andy Wirth and Marily Mora, the president and CEO of the airport filed the formal complaint on December 16 after the teen was denied contact with her family, who was not informed of the situation until about three hours after her arrival. The complaint also says the girl was left alone with an adult male, not given food until after she was questioned and that her family was “treated with sarcasm and disrespect while waiting…”

Wirth, who has a daughter about the same age as the detained teen, said: “If my daughter had received this treatment while traveling to any country, particularly to a neighboring, friendly country — I would be incensed, absolutely incensed.”

Reno City Ward 3 Councilman Oscar Delgado said complaints began this summer with reports of waits to get through customs lasting up to six hours: “There is a mistreatment taking place. There is an aggressive tone taken by CBP with respects to citizens and guests coming to the city of Reno.”

Frank Falcon, a spokesman for CBP in San Francisco, claimed he hadn’t heard of the situation until called by reporters. He did say though that overstaying a visa is a federal violation that can result in deportation, depending on the specific situation.

“Rules are rules, but we definitely look at minors differently. It’s a case by case basis though. There are so many different circumstances,” Falcon said.

This is a chance for all parties involved to learn something: when few people are following the rules as in this situation — this is what happens in an unruly society.

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