A husband and wife from Missouri are demanding answers from U.S. Customs and Border Protection after the woman’s mother and terminally ill father — who were visiting from China on valid travel visas — were abruptly detained and deported following a family cruise to the Bahamas.
Now, the couple tells Fox News her parents are coming back to the country following the upsetting ordeal.
Joseph McDevitt and his wife Zhengjia had invited her parents, Huan Wang and Yuanjun Cui, on a cruise with the couple’s two small children during what was supposed to be a six-month stay in the country.
Cui, Zhengjia's father, is suffering from stage 4 cancer, so the McDevitts saw it as a way to reunite one last time before he passes, First Coast News reported.
Joseph, an Apache helicopter pilot for the National Guard, said the crew of the Carnival Elation had a few questions for the grandparents before boarding, though they were ultimately let on the ship. Upon returning on to port in Jacksonville, Fla., on May 21, however, Wang and Cui were separated from the rest of the family and “immediately” fingerprinted.
The rest of the family was also detained, and that was the last the McDevitts saw of Wang and Cui. The couple told First Coast News they believed the two were deported back to China.
Zhengjia also confirmed to Fox News that she had been in contact with her parents, who had landed at the Beijing airport and were waiting to board a flight right back to the U.S.
However, according to Snopes.com, the pair is planning to return on June 19 instead.
Following Cui's detainment and deportation, Susan Pai, an immigration lawyer for the family, shared footage of an officer claiming that Wang and Cui had filed for a “withdrawal” of their visas — but she claims the two did not understand English and may have only signed withdrawal papers under pressure from U.S. Customs and Border officials.
Pai further claimed on YouTube that the CBP issued a “contradictory statement” five hours after they claimed Wang and Cui withdrew their visas, and that they later reported the two were denied admission into the country.
The CBP released a statement to First Coast News, but would not give specifics on Wang and Cui’s status or infractions.
“Under U.S. immigration law [Section 291 of the INA [8 USC 1361] applicants for admission bear the burden of proof to establish that they are clearly eligible to enter the United States,” the statement read in part. “In order to demonstrate that they are admissible, the applicants must overcome ALL grounds of inadmissibility.”
The CBP explained grounds for inadmissibility include health reasons, security reasons, illegal entry and criminal convictions.
The Carnival Corporation, too, told First Coast News it knew no specifics regarding Wang and Cui, but confirmed that passports are required from foreign nationals before boarding. The cruise line added that crew members will provide the CBP with passengers’ documentation if requested.
“So we do not know what the issue is with these passengers or why they were detained nor would we know. It is up to each passenger to comply with U.S. immigration law,” the company said.
McDevitt said he was told Carnival paid for his in-laws’ trip home, but he worried that they did not have their money on them, or even their keys, when they were abruptly separated. Zhengjia had also shared footage of her and her husband being denied access to her parents after they were allegedly told they could hand them some cash before they were flown to China. (Warning: Video contains strong language.)
The McDevitts now say they wished they had never invited her parents. Moreover, Joseph partially blames Carnival for letting his in-laws board the boat in the first place.
"If there was any reason they couldn't let us return to the U.S., they should not have let us on that boat," he told KOMU.
On Thursday morning, Zhengjia told Fox News she boarded a flight to Seattle to meet her parents when they arrive back in America.