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Montana Voices: Vacation spoiled by U.S. immigration crackdown

This photo of Abigail Cuellar Gallegos and Michael May was taken at May’s home in Billings when Abigail visited last year. (Last Best News)

By Michael May

I just got robbed of thousands of dollars—and a friend got robbed of her self-respect—by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

Last year, my Mexican friend Abigail Cuellar Gallegos visited her cousins, and me, in the United States. She went back to Mexico according to the terms of her visa. I know. I bought the ticket, and took her to the airport.

This year, she wanted to come for another visit. She has a valid passport and, as required, she went to the U.S. Consulate in Mexico and got another visitor’s visa to come see her family and me again. I know. I paid the passport and visa fees, and bought the ticket.

She wanted to see Disney World, the world’s largest tourism destination, and the ocean. She had never seen either, and it was a dream for her. And she was all set to go. I know. I bought the tickets.

But on her travel day, Valentine’s Day, I got a snotty telephone call from ICE in Houston. 

They said, “Are you expecting a visitor from Mexico?” I said yes, and gave them her name. They said, “We have her,” and wouldn’t tell me any more except that she would be in touch with me later.

Here’s what happened. They stopped her at the airport in Houston and, although she had a valid visa just like last year, they determined that she “might stay longer than her visa allowed.”

For no other reason, they put three armed guards on her and held her in a small room at the airport for hours. Then they put her on a flight back to Mexico. She has no criminal record, does not drink, doesn’t do drugs, or even smoke cigarettes.

Her crime? Apparently just being Mexican and having the audacity to want to visit family and friends in the United States with a valid passport and visa.

Michael May has been a Billings resident since 1979. He owns a local advertising agency, is a local broadcaster and is a live entertainer in a local nightclub.

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