It’s very easy to read the bad news out of Washington these days and think that we’re different out here in Hawaii–protected by Democrats pretty much running everything. In fact, one of the great fears from having the presidency and congress guided by unapologetic white supremacy is that all that hate and fear permeates the nation at the bureaucratic level.
Evidence of this landed in my inbox yesterday. On May 11, the Hawaii chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) filed a complaint with the U.S. Department of Homeland Security over the alleged treatment of a deaf Japanese woman at Honolulu International Airport earlier this year. According to the complaint, the woman (referred to only as “M” in the complaint) says customs and border patrol officials were anything but welcoming to her.
“M., who wishes to remain anonymous because of her fears of retaliation by immigration officials, was detained on January 31, 2017, shortly after she landed at the airport on a trip to visit her boyfriend, a resident of Hawaiʻi,” states the news release. “Throughout hours of questioning by U.S. Customs and Border Protection officials, M. was denied access to an American Sign Language (“ASL”) interpreter–despite her repeated requests that one be provided. M. was forced to communicate by lip reading and writing, which was not effective, and she did not understand what was going on. Nor was any ASL interpreter provided during her overnight detention by the Federal Bureau of Prisons. M. was also denied access to an accessible telephone that she could use to communicate with her family and boyfriend. Additionally, in violation of Department of Justice guidance, M. was handcuffed behind her back when transferred to and within the Federal Detention Center, preventing her from communicating using her hands.”
As you might imagine, the experience was apparently traumatic.
“I was so scared and felt alone,” M says in the ACLU news release. “For people with deafness, being cut off from our ways of communicating is terrifying. I have traveled a lot, but have never experienced anything like this at any airport ever. With this complaint, I just want to make sure that other deaf people coming through Hawaii’s airports are treated with basic respect and dignity, and that disabilities are accommodated.”
In a May 12 email, Homeland Security Branch Chief Jaime Ruiz says the department is investigating the complaint.
“U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) has received the complaint and will address these accusations once our investigation is completed,” Ruiz said in the email. “CBP takes accusations of mistreatment against travelers with disabilities very seriously. CBP officers receive extensive training in disability awareness and treat all travelers with disabilities with dignity, respect and professionalism.”
Click here for a copy of the ACLU Hawaii complaint.