Dorothy Owens is a Belizean-American living in Chicago. She comes home frequently but on May twenty-eight, she did not accompany her two children on their return home to Chicago. When the nineteen-year-old appeared at the airport with her fourteen-year-old brother to board their American Airlines flight, they met resistance from Immigration authorities. Owens said she was on the phone with her daughter hearing the officer question why the minor was traveling with a blank American passport. That passport was a replacement for the one they had lost prior to the pandemic. The officer demanded that the family show proof of Belizean nationality for the younger child. After attempts to explain that there is a naturalization process underway, the teens could not board. Owens said that the situation was a unique one – and one the officer in question could have easily been clarified but instead, the situation escalated to one caused embarrassment, hurt, and ended up costing her a lot of money.
Dorothy Owens, Belizean American: “That really hurt my kids and it especially hurt my son to see his sister being talked to that way by a man they don’t even know. He was very rude and very disrespectful to my daughter who is only nineteen. She was just travelling with her brother, had all the documents that she needed and he wouldn’t even try to look into the system to find out whether my son was in the country legally, if he is who he says that he is, nothing. He just said “Well I have to go eat.” and that’s all I heard him say “I have to go eat.” and I told my daughter “No don’t let him go I need to talk to him.” and he was like he told her no. He said your the adult here, you’re in charge here and he left. He went to lunch.”
After leaving the children there without any recourse, the flight had to be rebooked, and eventually, the two teens left. But for Owens, the situation has left a bitter taste in their mouths – and she’s hoping for an apology and more training for officers.
Dorothy Owens, Belizean American: “What I would have wanted was for his superior whoever Mr.Alvarez’s superior is to give an apology. I believe that me and my kids and my kids especially deserve an apology for putting us through this because it was emotionally, mentally, just hurtful. It was a lot to have to experience just trying to get on a plane which we’d done many times before mind you. We’ve done this many times before so it was traumatic needless to say it was very traumatic and for doing that to my children innocently just because of maybe he was having a bad day I don’t know what it was but it was unnecessary, it was definitely uncalled for so an apology is expected and I would hope that what comes out of this if someone could reassure me is some more training for these officers who are dealing with people from all over the world like as a country Belize is a wonderful, beautiful country and they represent Belize, they are the faces of Belize when people come into the country or when they leave so if this is the way you will be treating a foreigner or something then it reflects badly on us as a country on a whole.”
Owens says that she will continue to follow up with Immigration authorities on this matter but as of now, she’s still not gotten a response to her concerns.