Holidaying Australian woman detained in Hawaii, accused of immigration scam

molly hill united states immigration hawaii australia
Molly Hill (Facebook)

It was the day before her birthday, and Molly Hill was about to begin a a dream Hawaiian holiday with her American boyfriend - until Customs sent her to jail.

Ms Hill, from Melbourne, has documented a nightmarish start to her three-month stay after authorities convinced themselves she was trying to stay illegally.

She arrived in Honolulu on Monday (local time) on a three-month tourist visa and had expected no trouble from Customs officers, despite the country's crackdown on visitors.

She'd bought a return ticket for the 88th day, but says authorities didn't believe she'd use it, based on reading her diary.

In a Facebook post, Ms Hill says she was interrogated over six hours with "every inch of my luggage searched".

"In the end they were convinced I wanted to immigrate illegally because my diary had notes like 'going away drinks' and 'last day at work', things I got in order before expecting to be away for three months," she wrote.

The interrogation over, Ms Hill was told there were no return flights to Australia that day so she would need to spend the night in a "detention centre" - which turned out to be a federal prison.

That's when things got a bit Orange is the New Black.

She and a Japanese woman were handcuffed and taken to the prison, where they were frisked and made to undress in front of an officer and show they weren't concealing anything in their hair or mouths.

"[I was] asked to 'squat and cough' which was absolutely mortifying," she wrote. 

She was then made to take off all her jewellery and detail all of her tattoos, saying whether they were gang-related.

It appeared the prison officers were slightly sympathetic to her plight, saying she was "unlucky" and joked that she should have fallen in love with a Canadian.

That night, she watched reality music competition The Voice on TV with fellow inmates, one of whom was in jail for driving a large amount of "heroin and meth" over the Mexican border.

She said the inmates were "lovely to me" and intrigued to have an Australian in their midst - until they realised they'd never be able to visit her country because of their convictions.

Ms Hill tried to sleep through the night but was kept awake by her cellmate, who would drain the toilet to "chat to her boyfriend upstairs through the toilet pipes".

The next day, her birthday, she claims she was awoken by someone shining a flashlight at her, saying she was being released.

She passed on the "oatmeal slops" for breakfast, and as she left some of her newfound friends wished her a happy birthday.

Ms Hill was then escorted to the airport in handcuffs, where she was allowed to call home and then forced to pay $620 for the 11-hour flight to Sydney.

She wrote the lengthy post as she waited for her flight home.

"It's been a surreal few days that's taken a big chunk of money, heartache and tears," she said.

The ordeal left her exhausted, Ms Hill saying she'd "sleep for a week" then put a call out for a good immigration lawyer.