Woman questioned, outrage ensues

This, according to the BBC, constitutes a “Handmaid’s Tale” moment:

Dr Acosta, who is chief executive of the Young Women’s Christian Association, and her daughter had been on a tour of Europe when they arrived back to Texas on Sunday.

“There was a huge line of people,” Dr Acosta said. “We walked up to the customs officer. He lifted our passports.”

Dr Acosta said her daughter was “like velcro” with her as she was very tired after a long flight.

“I was asked if Sybonae was my daughter and I said yes. Then they asked why, if she was my daughter, I didn’t have the same last name.

“I told them I had already established my career and earned my doctorate with my last name Acosta so I had decided not to change it.

“One said I should consider changing my name to reflect that I am her mother.

In some countries – Russia, for example – it is forbidden for a parent to take a child abroad without the written permission of the other parent. This is to stop one parent from just disappearing overseas with the children. As a policy, it’s sound enough, and the expats with kids in Russia soon got used to it. The US doesn’t expressly forbid lone parents travelling abroad with their children without such a letter but:

A CBP spokesperson said: “We strongly recommend that unless a child is accompanied by both parents, the adult travelling with the child have a note from the child’s other parent.”

Dr Acosta says she didn’t have a note from her ex-husband. And she was taken into a separate area for questioning.

Again, rather routine and sensible. And if the mother had a different name from the kid, how are they supposed to know the child is hers? Hence the questioning.

“They thought I might be a human trafficker,” she said.

A CBP spokesperson said: “On December 23, 2008, President Bush signed the William Wilberforce Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act of 2008 to combat human trafficking.

“In instances where the relationship of a minor and accompanying adult can’t be immediately determined, CBP may ask additional questions to determine relationship.

A bit of a pain, maybe a little humiliating, but hardly the stuff of dystopian nightmare depicted in The Handmaid’s Tale. But her reaction speaks volumes:

“I proceeded to tell them that they were perpetuating an institutionalised, misogynistic system which required that a woman take her husband’s name. I am furious.” Dr Acosta said.

Oh please. Your daughter has her father’s name. Why? Are you perpetuating an institutionalised, misogynistic system?

Dr Acosta said her “biggest fear” was her daughter would be separated from her.

I doubt that: if you were, you’d not have gone off on a rant about institutionalised, misogynistic systems which require that a woman take her husband’s name: you’d have answered the questions calmly and rationally. You might also have foreseen the difficulties of travelling with a minor who does not share your name, and obtained a letter from your ex-husband.

One Facebook user wrote: “You should be furious. What if she had been adopted or you had remarried? I did not take my husband’s last name either and it infuriates me when people imply I am less of a wife for not changing my name!”

You may do what you like with your name, but if you’re travelling alone with a child whose name doesn’t match yours, expect trouble at borders.

A CBP spokesperson said: “We strive to ensure that travellers are processed fairly and efficiently, as we endeavour to make certain that all individuals attempting entry into the United States do so in a legal and secure manner.”

Handmaid’s Tale, indeed. Shame on the BBC for publishing this crap.

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28 thoughts on “Woman questioned, outrage ensues

  1. I was once not allowed back into Holland (where I lived) by a border guard with my daughter, until my wife turned up to pick us up from the ferry port.

    A bit effing annoying that was, particularly as I was coming home so by definition wasn’t abducting my daughter.

    I guess the underlying presumption was that, as the father, I would be far more likely to be abducting the kid than her mother would be, but hey, it’s all that there patriarchy, wibble wibble, or something….

  2. It’s perfectly possible for a woman to keep her maiden name for work and use her married name on official documents many of which will record her previous name(s) as well.

    I bet Acosta’s mother took the name Acosta from the bloke who fathered this woman.

  3. It’s perfectly possible for a woman to keep her maiden name for work and use her married name on official documents many of which will record her previous name(s) as well.

    I know a fair few women who kept their maiden name: few are dim enough to not think through the consequences of dealing with children who have the father’s name and not prepare accordingly.

  4. “Again, rather routine and sensible. And if the mother had a different name from the kid, how are they supposed to know the child is hers? Hence the questioning”

    Marxist feminist skunks–included the fatuous T May–bigged up the trafficking nonsense to the sky and have the hard of thinking convinced there is a colossal worldwide forced transprotation of women on a scale that makes the 1920s “white slaver” panic seem quaint.

    When that comes back to bite one of them on the backside then laughter is the default response.

  5. In quite a few countries (Arab, Indonesia, China, India) large parts of the populus do not share any names with either parent. Is that misogyny too? And in Libya – to take an example almost at random – your surname is only the name of your tribe, so isn’t much use for paternity testing. Er… maternity testing, I really must keep up.

  6. It’s also laughable to be hung up about a name which sounds as though you’re hesitating over where to have coffee.

  7. OT (tho it is on the BBC) have you seen the interview with John Cleese where he says he’s moving to the island of Nevis because of Brexit and the behaviour the press. No mention of the zero income tax then John………

  8. “You should be furious. What if she had been adopted or you had remarried? I did not take my husband’s last name either and it infuriates me when people imply I am less of a wife for not changing my name!”

    I used to think this, no I wonder if it is less than a marriage you are maintaining individuality from the family unit. I am not sure but far from convinced.

  9. @Jim

    interview with John Cleese where he says he’s moving to the island of Nevis because of Brexit

    The BBC also featured several stories of talented young graduate professional Brits emigrating to Canada because of their outrage over Brexit.

    You loved Europe so much you moved to an English-speaking corner of the Commonwealth. I’m afraid that one’s on my “struggling to get my head round” list.

  10. “A bit effing annoying that was, particularly as I was coming home so by definition wasn’t abducting my daughter.”

    You might have been abducting her from a mother who had gone back, for example, to Pakistan 🙂

  11. The BBC also featured several stories of talented young graduate professional Brits emigrating to Canada because of their outrage over Brexit.

    That’s rather like the “if I ever have to pay to see a doctor I’ll move to France” crowd.

    Imagine their surprise when receiving a doctor’s bill from a French GP if they ever followed through on it (which they wouldn’t).

  12. I was stopped in Calais a long time ago as I have a French passport, and my kids had their German ones (from their mother) instead of their French ones. We all have the same name obviously, as the patriarchy is quite strong in my family…

    The look on the customs agent’s face trying to reconcile all that with an address in the UK was quite amusing. Unlike the Americans however, when confronted with such situations where their brain cogs stop whirring, French officialdom usually just waves you on.

  13. The multiple surnames scenarios describe my family situation.

    We resolve it by carrying a photocopy of the non-travelling parent’s passport. Problem solved.

  14. And the children’s birth certificates probably too…

    Or as someone brightly said, a family of four from Iceland can arrive at a hotel and ALL FOUR OF THEM have different surnames…

  15. Two brief points.

    First, dealing with the public must be getting harder every year. A customs officer, for example, is trained in the practicalities of sorting people according to citizenship, legal status, and security risk. Then some dopey feminist launches into a stream of pseudo-sociology about “perpetuating an institutionalised, misogynistic system”. How do they stop themselves from either laughing or crying?

    Second, any child named “Sybonae” is probably better off separated from the parent who named them.

  16. Hmm, adopt her husband’s name or keep her father’s name…decisions, decisions.

    A woman who would reject my name in favor of keeping her father’s name is telling me where her loyalties lie (and the depth of her reasoning abilities). The is called a “red flag”. Kind of like women who freak out at the ideas of paternity testing or pre-nuptial agreements. Not good marriage material IMO.

  17. We had a local sports radio guy here in Portland who is a widower attempt to take his kids abroad. They told him that he needs to travel with his wife’s death certificate. This was a scenario where everyone had the same last name. The whole point of this issue is to protect kids, obviously. Family members are the most common abductors. Feminists are so damaged that they think there’s misogyny under every bed. In this case, they are the loudest squawkers about sex trafficking yet can’t follow their own rules. Yes, they are eating their own.

  18. My sister and brother in law in Colombia were traveling with their 15 year old son and told they needed his birth certificate to leave the country (and the surnames matched according to Spanish naming rules).

  19. To be fair – slightly – I’m sure I’ve read somewhere that the aforementioned act of congress was brought in to combat shenanigans from illegal immigrants. If so, it’s probably a bit annoying to be a legit passport holder getting the third degree at an airport over a law meant for hassling Mexicans in the desert. Kind of like how it’s annoying that we’ve all got to take our shoes off when it’s only Muslims that want to blow up the plane.

  20. I came for the Handmaid’s Tale hate and got a story about a cunt in customs. Do you offer refunds or just credit notes only like that *other* blog?

    Ahem, On-Topic: My wife has been watching that Handmaid’s dreck and I went a-Googling to find scathing reviews in either written or video format. I’m unable to fully flesh out just HOW contrived that show is and needed catharsis. 5 pages of google results and only 2 critical reviews! (Disney Star Wars, Orange is the New Black, and Black Panther – for example – had plenty of critical takes easy to find). My guess is that very few people who share my worldview have the patience or fortitude to watch that shit enough to eviscerate it. Oh well, I suppose I’ll have to expound my hate while arguing with my feminist niece.

    What were you guys talking about again – declaring nuts at the border or somesuch?

  21. Travelled to the USA with my teenage niece. Different surnames.
    Passport Control at LA Airport asked if her parents knew she was with me, we both said “yes”, purpose of visit? To visit “Harry Potter World” (some excited teenage jumping up & down accompanied this answer) The lady passport officer squinted suspiciously at me, & said something, but I couldn’t understand her accent.
    Thump thump, passports stamped, & we’re through.

    It may have helped that none of the staff at LA airport were citizens of the USA. The lady who stamped us through was Russian or similar, there wasn’t one US accent anywhere in the building.

    Quite a change from the beady-eyed Irish buzzcuts that I’d been expecting.

    But yeah, she was being a bit precious complaining at being questioned, considering the circumstances, and that she probably did or said something to raise a flag when first questioned.

  22. I’ve carried a letter from my wife when taking our son to hockey games in the US, although I’ve never had to show it – and once when taking a couple of other boys to a different game I had letters from their parents, and not had to show them, either. I didn’t think of having photocopies of the parents’ passports – that makes sense. It did strike me that if I was abducting any of the boys, a piece of paper from someone the customs guy at the border didn’t know, with a signature they couldn’t verify really doesn’t count as much evidence, does it?

  23. If a woman insists on keeping her maiden name, then it is much easier for her when she divorces. She doesn’t have to bugger around with getting the name changed on official documents etc.

    Handy that, and it gives a definite indication of her commitment to the marriage, methinks.

  24. My wife has been watching that Handmaid’s dreck and I went a-Googling to find scathing reviews in either written or video format. I’m unable to fully flesh out just HOW contrived that show is and needed catharsis.

    I gave up around halfway through the first season. I found the whole premise so preposterous I simply didn’t care what happened to anyone.

  25. It did strike me that if I was abducting any of the boys, a piece of paper from someone the customs guy at the border didn’t know, with a signature they couldn’t verify really doesn’t count as much evidence, does it?

    Hammer, meet nail.

  26. It was none of the officer’s business to suggest which name the lady should use. If he wanted to help, he could have said, “carry a copy of your daughter’s birth certificate” or something like that. Anyway, her husband’s last name is Graham so it wouldn’t have helped.

    By the way, women generally don’t take their husbands’ names in the Hispanic world. Children bear two surnames, the father’s and the mother’s, traditionally in this order (it can be reversed nowadays). The maternal name is still bound to disappear – in the next generation, since when AB marries XY, their children will be named AX. Actually, the daughter goes by Sybonae Acosta Castillo, apparently in line with this custom, but that may not match her passport. “Sybonae” seems a variant of Siboney, a “real” name, although rare.

    In some countries – Russia, for example – it is forbidden for a parent to take a child abroad without the written permission of the other parent.

    This isn’t strictly enforced in Russia, especially if the parent and child are flying to popular tourist destinations like Turkey, Egypt or Greece. However, if they have different last names, the parent will almost certainly be required to produce proof of relationship at the outbound passport control. When they come back, I don’t think border guards will ask for anything but their passports, assuming both are Russian citizens.

    What’s odd about this Fort Worth story is that a US citizen coming back home with a US citizen child was asked to prove their affiliation. Perhaps the lawmakers were thinking of American kids returning from some shady foreign location where they were sexually exploited à la Jeffrey Epstein. (Incidentally, Alexander Acosta is the current US labor secretary. As a US attorney, he prosecuted Jeffrey Epstein for child trafficking, with limited success.)

  27. Good comments as always Alex, thanks.

    It was none of the officer’s business to suggest which name the lady should use. If he wanted to help, he could have said, “carry a copy of your daughter’s birth certificate” or something like that

    True, but a lot would depend on the context, timing, and tone. I would not trust this woman’s version of what was said one jot.

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