A Black Colorado woman is saying race played a factor in her being stopped and questioned by law enforcement on suspicion of human trafficking while she was traveling with her White adoptive four-year-old sister on Tuesday.
According to Denver7, the White minor, named Olivia, was in the company of her 21-year-old Black sister Lakeyjanay Bailey during a Frontier Airlines flight from Denver to Dallas when a passenger reported her to the crew.
Bailey said she was approached by authorities after their flight touched down at the Dallas Fort Worth (DFW) International Airport. “There were two police officers, and they came up to me and said, ‘Is it okay if we talk to you?’” Bailey recalled.
Bailey said one of the officers asked Olivia “if she knows me and what am I to her, and he asked what my mom was to her.” She added that the White minor was subsequently asked a host of other questions.
An incident report by the DFW Department of Public Safety stated that the officers became involved in the case after Frontier Airlines requested law enforcement to talk to Bailey and her sister at the gate. This was after a passenger on the flight had expressed worry to the crew over a possible human trafficking situation after spotting the White minor in the company of Bailey.
And besides talking to the duo, Bailey also said the officers also had a conversation with her mom as well as a social worker to clarify a couple of things. The officers also spoke with an individual who had come to pick them up after they followed the duo to the baggage claim area, Denver7 reported.
“The whole time they were talking with us, people kept staring at us, whispering and stuff,” Bailey recalled. The 21-year-old added that she believes she wouldn’t have experienced that kind of treatment if she was White and little Olivia was Black.
“If the roles were changed and it was a white person walking off the plane with a Black person, like a Black child, I feel like things would be different,” said Bailey.
Responding to the incident in a statement, Frontier Airlines said it alerted authorities after a passenger reported Bailey to the flight crew for possible human trafficking. It also denied race played a factor in the incident.
“A concern was raised during the flight by another passenger who was sitting near the woman and child and suspected human trafficking. That passenger approached the flight crew with those concerns and subsequently completed a written report during the flight to document her observations,” the statement said.
“The captain was notified and felt an obligation to report the matter. Air travel is one of the most common means for human trafficking. Race played no part in the actions of the flight crew who were following established protocols.”
Meanwhile, Bailey and her family are exploring the possibility of taking legal action against Frontier Airlines. “I feel bad,” a teary Bailey told Denver7. “Knowing that I might have to go through that [experience] a lot.”