11-Year-Old Girl And Her Sister, 20, Detained At Logan Airport Wednesday

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The two young sisters, ages 11 and 20, who were detained by Customs and Border Protection agents at Boston's Logan Airport Wednesday after arriving from Panama, have been put on a flight back Friday morning, according to an attorney representing the younger sister.

The sisters, who are Spanish citizens, flew into Logan to visit their mother in Lowell. They are expected to fly on from Panama to Colombia, where their grandmother resides, the lawyer said.

Citing privacy laws, Customs and Border Protection have not said why the sisters were detained for two days or why they were put on a flight back to Panama.

Our earlier story: 

As of late Thursday night, an 11-year-old girl who arrived at Logan Airport from Panama, along with her 20-year-old sister, have been held in detention by Customs and Border Protection agents since Wednesday. Their current status is unknown.

Their mother, Otilia Gomez Lopez, has spent much of the last two days waiting for them in the international arrivals area. The sisters were coming to visit their mother in Lowell.

"The authorities did not let them through because supposedly, they were coming to stay, but they are only coming for two months, no more," Gomez Lopez said at Logan Airport on Thursday.

She says her daughters had planned to stay in this country only until May 30. They were traveling on Spanish passports, as they and their parents are Spanish citizens. As such, they do not require visas to stay in the U.S. for up to two months.

Gomez Lopez speculates that her daughters may have been detained because they had school documents with them. She has applied for permanent residence for herself and for her younger daughter, and she wanted to have the required documents to apply for school for her daughter once their papers came through. The plan, she says, was for her daughters to come for a visit, and then return to Colombia until the youngest daughter's green card came.

"They bullied the girls with questions," Gomez Lopez said. "They came and told me the girls told them they were not coming for a visit, but the oldest one was coming to clean with my husband, because he works in a cleaning business, and the little one was coming to study. And I knew it wasn't like that because they're here on vacation."

Gomez Lopez spoke to Customs and Border Patrol Wednesday night when the dog traveling with the sisters was allowed through, but not the sisters. She says she went home heartbroken. She says her daughters are not terrorists.

The 11-year-old and her big sister traveled from Colombia, where their grandmother lives, through Panama.

They told their mother on the phone Thursday morning that they were about to be put on a plane back to Panama when the youngest one had stomach pains and was taken to the emergency room at Massachusetts General Hospital.

"Our concern here is not that Customs and Border Protection doesn't have a right to question an individual entering the country, but here we have an 11-year-old child who is held for hours overnight, developed severe stomach pains and had to be taken to Massachusetts General Hospital," said Attorney Heather Yountz. She spent much of Thursday at Logan trying to find out why the girl and her sister are being detained.

It was at Massachusetts General that their mother was able to see them for the first time, but when the youngest sister was released from Massachusetts General, she and her big sister were taken back into custody at Logan.

Customs and Border Protection, citing privacy laws, won't say why it is holding the girl and her big sister, or whether they are on a flight to Panama scheduled to leave at 9:36 a.m. Friday.

This article was originally published on March 31, 2017.

This segment aired on March 31, 2017.

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Fred Thys Reporter
Fred Thys reported on politics and higher education for WBUR.



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