A Dutch tourist got the fright of her life when the American customs arrested her last week and locked up after a visit to neighbouring Mexico. This is because according to them the visa of the 35-year-old woman from Leusden was not in order. “Because of the stricter rules of the Trump government, Rianne was wrongly treated as a criminal for a week,” tells her twin sister outraged by newscaster at Algemeen Dagblad.
She maps the case on behalf of her sister. She has been back in the Netherlands since Friday night, but she was so struck that she could not speak to the newspaper herself. Rianne was arrested on Friday, September 28, when she crossed the American border from the Mexican Tijuana (south of San Diego). “You are illegal in the country”, the customs officers at the San Ysidro border post said casually after they considered the woman’s visa as ‘invalid’.
The Dutch ended up to her dismay in a cell with eleven other women. The circumstances were unworthy and sleep was impossible because the light was on continuously, she told her twin sister in the one phone call that she was only allowed to commit much later.
“Rianne was audibly upset,” tells her sister looking back. “We immediately called the 24/7 contact centre of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in The Hague, but that could not help us. It was 17.00 hours of the day we were told about the matter but had to wait until Monday”. According to the official of duty, no action could be taken because it was not an emergency.
On Sunday 30 September, the family called again to the 24/7 center in The Hague. “We said that Rianne had been in prison for two days under inhumane conditions and had been advised to call the Dutch embassy in Washington, but she could not because she only had one phone call. As only response we were told: ma’am, you can call back tomorrow,” sighs the sister.
Because Rianne lived in the United States for some time, the family decided to switch to her network of friends. That came the next day with even more disturbing news: according to an ex-sheriff, the situation could take six to eight weeks and Rianne would be transferred to the prison in Osay Mesa, an immigration detention centre in San Diego. This with a view to her expulsion from the United States.
For Riannes family reason to call even more intensively with the Dutch consulate in San Francisco and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in The Hague. That finally called back Tuesday, tells Riannes sister. “I indicated that Rianne was not doing well but was told that the ministry and also the Dutch diplomatic representations in the United States could not do anything about American policy.”
Thanks to pressure from the network of friends, Rianne was released Friday. She immediately boarded the plane to Iceland and flew from there to the Netherlands. According to her sister, she was the victim of a mistake by American customs. “Earlier this year, she put a cross on her student visa that was valid for five years. That would never have been possible, because it removed them from the system, as it turned out last week.”
The Trump government introduced more stringent controls at the border with Mexico to curb drug and human smuggling and other cross-border crime. Not only Rianne was unjustly arrested by these new rules, tells her sister. “There are also hundreds of innocent migrants in the cell, Rianne observed. She promised the eleven girls in her cell to address this injustice.”
According to the Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Rianne was the victim of an administrative error at customs. As a result, the Dutch remained illegally in the United States. The ministry confirms that there was a lot going on at the beginning of the case but does not recognize itself in the image sketched by Riannes sister.
Several family members called us after the arrest and confinement of Rianne. Understandable because they were worried but as a ministry we work in this kind of business for the sake of effectiveness with only one contact person,” says spokeswoman Willemien Veldman. “From the moment the contact person was there (Riannes sister), there has been very constructive and pleasant cooperation.”
Source: AD, Reuters, HLN