Australian Children's Writer Mem Fox Says Her Detention at US Border Was ‘Traumatic’

Mem fox at Ubud Writers and Readers Festival 2014

Mem Fox at Ubud Writers and Readers Festival 2014. Photo by Flickr user Anggara Mahendra. CC BY 2.0

Social media in Australia and beyond ignited over the recent detaining and aggressive questioning of much-loved Australian children's author Mem Fox by United States border authorities.

The 70-year-old Fox was held for an hour and 40 minutes and “interrogated” for 15 minutes in early February at Los Angeles airport on her way to the city of Milwaukee for a conference. The detention was apparently the result of a mistake over her visa by US Customs and Border Protection agents, not President Donald Trump's immigration policies.

When news broke on 25 February, the first responses on social media were disbelief and outrage:

Mem recounted her “traumatic” experience and the treatment of others in an opinion piece for The Guardian:

In that moment I loathed America. I loathed the entire country. And it was my 117th visit to the country so I know that most people are very generous and warm-hearted. They have been wonderful to me over the years. I got over that hatred within a day or two. But this is not the way to win friends, to do this to someone who is Australian when we have supported them in every damn war. It’s absolutely outrageous.

She said when it came to the agents’ interactions with those detained, “everything was yelled, and everything was public”, and specifically detailed the treatment of an elderly Iranian woman in a wheelchair and a woman from Taiwan, both of whom didn't appear to speak English.

Mem said she received a written apology from US officials after she lodged a complaint with the United States embassy in Canberra. However, the apology didn't seem to quieten her supporters:

Mem's books and characters became a recurring meme in online reactions, especially a certain green sheep:

Other tweeps found their own humour in this unfortunate story:

Sarah J. Schmitt spoke for many parents:

Fox's latest children's book, titled “I'm Australian, Too”, was particularly relevant given the experience:

In fact, Fox in her piece reflected on its deeper significance:

The irony! I had a copy of my new book “I’m Australian, Too” – it’s about immigration and welcoming people to live in a happy country.


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