Métis Family Calls for Apology after Southwest Staff Raise Trafficking Concerns

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A Métis family has asked Southwest Airlines for an apology, after a flight attendant flagged them as suspicious, mistakenly assuming the white mother was trafficking her biracial child.

Mary MacCarthy said her 10-year-old daughter Moira now “calms down” when they recount how an airline employee and two police officers interrogated them after their flight landed in Denver on October 22.

“It’s all based on what I think is a racist assumption about a mixed race family,” MacCarthy told The Denver Post.

After MacCarthy’s brother died, she and Moira flew to Denver from Los Angeles at the last minute – with a connection via San Jose – to attend the funeral. MacCarthy, a single mother, said her brother had been a father figure to Moira.

McCarthy said she and her daughter were shocked and sleep deprived when they boarded the plane for Denver for the last time, as they were part of the last boarding party. On board, other passengers have moved so as not to have to be separated. MacCarthy tried to sleep while Moira listened to an audiobook.

When MacCarthy got off the plane in Denver and noticed the officers waiting, she said, she panicked, terrified that another family member had died.

But it turned out that an air hostess suspected her of human trafficking, after she and Moira got on board last and asked the others to change seats so they could can sit together.

The flight attendant claimed she had never seen MacCarthy and Moira speak and that MacCarthy had warned her daughter not to speak with the flight crew, NBC News reported.

MacCarthy denied this and said that she and her daughter were “deeply traumatized by the assumption that just because we do not have the same skin color we are involved in a very serious crime”.

In the video of the confrontation with the police, Moira is heard moaning as MacCarthy tries to explain why she and her daughter are traveling.

“It’s okay, darling,” MacCarthy said to Moira.

“She doesn’t need to be afraid,” said an officer. “Because you have no problem, okay?” ”

MacCarthy would later tell officers and a Southwest employee, Moira “has unfortunately been traumatized by the police in her life.”

A police report said the incident was “baseless,” according to NBC News. But MacCarthy still received a follow-up call from an investigator in the human trafficking unit.

“If this little girl had been white there wouldn’t have been a raised eyebrow,” MacCarthy’s attorney David Lane told NBC. “Race was therefore the only factor that triggered this call to the police.

“It’s with Southwest Airlines that I have a problem. And I think it’s a violation of civil rights because they’re forcing one of their paying customers to go through the trauma of being arrested by the police.

Southwest told NBC it is “conducting an internal review” and “will contact the customer to address her concerns and apologize for her experience traveling with us.”

A spokesperson said that SFGate staff “received solid training on human trafficking”.

Other Métis families were reported as suspicious during a trip. A man on another flight from the southwest was suspected of trafficking his Chinese adopted daughter on his way home from a trip to Florida. A black woman flying Frontier Airlines with her adoptive white sister was interviewed in Dallas.

MacCarthy told SFGate she was traveling with Moira’s birth certificate so she was “ready to answer any questions.” She also said she understood that the job of the Transportation Security Administration was to make sure they “saw in the right circumstances.”

But it was different from “being accosted by armed police and being told we acted suspiciously,” she said. ” It’s not the same thing at all.


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