A Chinese grandfather with stage 4 cancer and his wife are being allowed back into the U.S. after a harrowing border protection detention.
On Monday, U.S. Customs and Border Protection at the cruise port in Jacksonville detained 60-year-old Yuanjun Cui and Huan Wang who were vacationing with their American daughter and son-in-law.
The couple traveled from China to the U.S. in December on a travel visa valid for 10 years. The vacation took a dramatic turn after a Carnival cruise to the Bahamas ended with Cui and Wang being taken away by federal officers.
A spokesperson for Customs and Border Protection could not provide the specifics of why the two were detained due to privacy concerns. The couple's son-in-law Joseph McDevitt of Ozark, Missouri said he tried explaining the travel visa and his father in law's condition to officers. In video recorded by McDevitt of the exchange, an officer tells him Wang and Cui have to go back to China and cannot speak to their relatives before the trip.
"CBP contacted and told us they are going to allow [my wife's] parents to turn right around and fly to Seattle from Beijing," said McDevitt. "I'm excited, I feel like they are doing the right thing."
On Tuesday evening, attorney for the family Susan Pai confirmed the detainees arrived safely in Beijing, China but had no food, money or way to get to their home city of Shenyang over 400 miles away.
Less than 72 hours after being taken out of the country, Wang and Cui are flying back to the U.S. with the permission of officials, McDevitt said Wednesday morning.
The couple's daughter, Zhengjia McDevitt, talked with her parents on the phone after they arrived in China.
"[My mom] said 'why are they treating us like this, acting like we're guilty and prisoners? We're not. We did the right thing,'" Zhengjia said quoting her mother who only speaks Chinese. "They are scared because they were threatened and put in handcuffs in the New York City. [My mom] said 'why do we deserve all this?'"
She described them as still in shock, confused, and exhausted from the ordeal. "My dad is absolutely exhausted, I'm concerned about his health. I don't understand why they had to go through this."
Attorney Pai said she continues to look into how officials red-flagged Wang and Cui.
"We still have very serious questions for Carnival Cruise Lines," Pai said. "I have no idea why they were targeted because they have been in the United States since 2009 visiting regularly their daughter and son-in-law and grandchildren without incident, without problems."
Wang and Cui's flights to China from Jacksonville were paid by Carnival. The cruise's spokesperson said, "any carrier that transports a passenger that is found to have violated US immigration law is responsible for the cost of getting that passenger home."
The Thursday flight back to the U.S. the McDevitts had to pay out of pocket.