A young woman traveling home for Thanksgiving with a friend says racial profiling caused extreme delay in her trip when officials from Delta Airlines thought they were victims of human trafficking.
Stephanie Ung and an unnamed friend were returning to Atlanta after a birthday trip to Cancun. Instead of immediately being picked up by family to prepare for Thanksgiving dinner, the two were intercepted by U.S. Customs and Border Protection officers, reported 11Alive.
"I just kept telling them that I wanted to go home for my family Thanksgiving dinner and that they were making me late, but they just didn't care," Ung tearfully told 11Alive. "They just laughed."
Ung believed she was profiled for her race and because she was wearing a dress. Ung was questioned for over an hour by officials and is still unclear as to why they picked her out.
"I know human trafficking is huge within the Asian community, right, and that's the only reason why I could see you stopping me. That and the fact that I was in a dress. I was in a dress with some cardigans and boots, and I think that's totally appropriate to fly on an airplane with," Ung told 11Alive. "Honestly, I think it's just the fact that I'm Asian, she's [her friend] Asian, and we're two little girls on the plane...Mind your own business, but still, that looks like a red flag for everyone."
Delta told the local news station that another passenger thought the two women were not in possession of their passports, which is often a sign of trafficking, and alerted an attendant.
In a statement, Delta said:
“Delta has been proactively fighting human trafficking from the frontlines since 2011 and thousands of our flight attendants are trained to look out for signs of possible trafficking. On a recent Delta flight from Cancun, two customers were observed by another customer to not be in possession of their passports — a possible indicator of a human trafficking event.
“Delta took the concern seriously and contacted the appropriate authorities who addressed the customers upon landing. While their investigation did show that our customers were not being trafficked, we train our crew members to remain alert and use their professional experience and practice best judgment to ensure the safety of all customers.
“We do not tolerate discrimination and are troubled by any accusations of discrimination. We have reached out to speak with our customers directly.”
The U.S. Customs and Border Protection office said in a statement to 11Alive: "If any traveler believes that an officer has acted in an unprofessional manner the traveler may choose to address that through our established systems. The best course of action is to ask to speak to an on duty supervisor at the location where the interaction occurred immediately."
Although the protocol is put in place to save lives, Ung believes the way the situation was handled was insensitive and left her traumatized.
"The fact that I missed dinner with my family – you can't take that back," Ung told 11Alive. "I can just look at the pictures and feel sad that I wasn't a part of it."
(Photo: 11Alive via YouTube)