Sex workers' rights activist and social work student Monica Jones, who's still fighting a U.S. 'manifesting prostitution' charge she considers biased and unconstitutional, has been unable to find reprieve from criminalization by traveling abroad to continue her college education.
Last month, the 29-year-old trans woman of color was stopped at an airport in Sydney, Australia by customs officials and not allowed to enter the country, reports the Australia Broadcasting Corporation. She was returning to Australia to conduct AIDS research after having begun her project earlier in the month.
Jones was detained because her name was, according to attorneys for Australia's Immigration Minister, on a "movement alert" list of people considered "possible threats" to Australia. It remains unclear how Jones was added to this list, but ABC reporters speculate that it was related to her conviction for "manifesting prostitution" in Phoenix, Ariz., which Jones is appealing on the grounds that the law under which she was convicted is an unconstitutional restriction on free speech, and encourages police profiling.
But immigration officials weren't the only ones to meet Jones when she disembarked from her plane. Australia's Channel 7 Network was also present, apparently tipped off to the fact that Jones would be barred from re-entering the country, notes ABC. Jones told the U.K.'s Guardian that the network's crew seemed to know the customs officials' intentions prior to her arrival, suggesting possible procedural misconduct on behalf of Australia's Immigration Department.
"They knew what was going to happen," Jones recalls. "They knew details of what immigration was going to do to me. I think they knew it was great TV, that they could sensationalize my story."
The alleged leak of confidential information was made possible, Jones tells the Guardian, during her previous visit to Australia, when, she says, her phone and laptop were examined by customs officials for 20 to 30 minutes before she was allowed to board the plane home. Her ticket indicated that she would be returning to the country on November 28.
When she returned as planned, her passport scan alerted authorities to detain her in an interrogation room. Moments later, she says, Channel 7 Network producers entered the room and tried to pressure her into agreeing to be filmed for their popular reality TV program Border Security.
Jones says she refused at first, telling the producers, "I see how you guys treat trans women here," referencing the lurid media coverage of trans Brisbane resident Mayang Prasetyo's murder in October.
Jones ultimately gave into the continued requests of the Channel 7 producers in hopes that appearing on the TV show would help resolve her visa issues, she tells the Guardian. But when the cameras started rolling, it quickly became clear that the interview wasn't about her visa, and she asked the producers to stop. Despite their protests, Jones says she held firm.
The Channel 7 producers eventually left, and Jones' visa was soon cancelled. After successfully applying for a judicial review of this decision, Jones was then granted the right to appear in court and held over the weekend at Villawood Immigration Detention Centre.
On December 1, Jones appeared in Australia's Federal Circuit Court to fight her deportation, sitting among a group of vocal supporters, reports ABC. She stated her case, but ultimately lost her bid to remain in Australia and was voluntarily deported the following day.
Jones intends to challenge the ruling and the Australian Immigration Department's alleged procedural misconduct, and will next appear in court via video link from her Arizona home.