Texas resident Sylvia Acosta reported to Buzzfeed News that she was recently detained at the airport by a Customs and Border Protection agent, who did not believe that she was the mother of her own child.
After landing at the Dallas-Fort Worth airport on Sunday, Sylvia Acosta and her 15-year-old daughter, Sybonae Castillo, were waiting in line for customs when they experienced, what Acosta calls a Handmaid’s Tale moment.
After handing over her necessary documents to the Customs and Border Protection agent, the agent asked if Sybonae was Acosta’s daughter. Upon confirming that she is, in fact, Sybonae’s mother, he continued his questioning, asking “Why don’t you have the same last name?”
Acosta recalled that she then explained to the agent that she decided to keep her maiden name for professional reasons, noting that she had received her doctoral degree before she had gotten married.
According to Acosta, the agent proceeded to ask for legal documents proving that she is Sybonae’s mother, like a birth certificate, adding that he was asking because of human trafficking concerns.
Acosta told Buzzfeed, “I was shocked, but understood. I didn’t have any of those documents because we have traveled together internationally very often since she was a baby and I’ve never needed them.” After explaining this to him, Acosta claims the customs agent “told me my life would have been easier if I had taken my husband’s last name.”
Acosta informed the agent that was no longer married to Sybonae’s father and had since remarried after getting divorced. The agent then allegedly asked if she had her divorce decree on hand to prove this, but she said no.
After more questioning, Acosta claims the agent suggested that she might be a human trafficker because she had no legal documents on hand to prove that Sybonae is her daughter and was then led into a back room, where she and her daughter sat in silence for a while.
“It felt like an eternity but I finally went up to one of them and demanded to know what was going on,” Acosta said. The agent, however, told her all the documents she should have had on hand to prove that Sybonae is her child.
Acosta told Buzzfeed, “I kept trying to explain myself and they kept ignoring me and shutting me up. I was completely violated and humiliated and they treated me in such a condescending, patronizing way.”
After another half an hour, Acosta and her daughter were finally able to make it through customs and head home. Sybonae, who had been just as confused as her mother, claimed that throughout the entire process, “Not a word was said to me. They never asked me anything and disregarded my presence entirely.”
Acosta recounted her experience on Facebook later that day, receiving a flood of comments. Notably, one person wrote, “I could see this happening in another country. Not in the United States.”