Advice for international travelers: don't book a connecting flight in the United States of Gilead if you don't want to be detained, fingerprinted, searched, photographed, interrogated about whether or not you've had an abortion, and deported. That's what happened to Australian Madolline Gourley who was stopped by US border officials in Los Angeles on her way to Canada, where she was planning to house- and cat-sit in exchange for free accommodation.
The Guardian reports that a US border official asked Gourley if she was pregnant. She said no, and was taken to another room where another official asked her the same question. She repeated that she wasn't. The official then asked her if she had an abortion.
From The Guardian:
"She was walking me from one room to the next, and she asked the pregnancy question again," Gourley told Guardian Australia. "I don't know if she had forgotten, or she wanted to work out if I was lying or something. "I said no, and she looked at me again and said, 'Have you recently had an abortion?'
"I don't know the thought process behind that … I just thought, 'What's the relevance of that to my situation?'"
Gourley was told she would not be granted entry to the US and would be deported on the next flight back to Brisbane, five hours after arriving, because she had breached the conditions of the visa waiver program, which applies to citizens of Australia and many other countries making short visits to the US for business or tourism, but not regular employment.
A spokesperson for US Customs and Border Protection confirmed that the visa waiver program prohibited applicants from engaging "in any type of employment or get compensation for services rendered". The rule, which appears to prohibit house-sitting for free accommodation, took Gourley completely by surprise and she said she now wanted to warn other Australians of the consequences of volunteering to house-sit or pet-sit in the US or neighbouring countries.