“Every person who applies for admission to the U.S. — meaning who crosses the border to be a visitor — is subject to inspection and no one is entitled to enter the U.S., except a U.S. citizen,” said Cassandra Fultz, who works as a regulated Canadian immigration consultant in Toronto.
“For everyone else who’s not American, it’s a privilege, not a right to enter the country.”
Border officials have the right to ask any question they deem relevant to entry.
“Any question can be asked. Any information is subject to scrutiny,” said Fultz.
While there is no reason for border officials to ask about your religion or sexual orientation, there’s nothing to stop them from doing so.
Just because you have the proper documentation doesn’t mean you will be allowed into the U.S.
The case of Manpreet Kooner, born and raised in Montreal to Indian parents, has raised concerns about Canadians’ rights at the border. Last weekend Kooner was driving to a Vermont spa with two friends when she was held at the border for hours before being told she needed a visa to enter the U.S. and turned around.
Kooner, a chemistry lab technician at Marianopolis College in Montreal, said the agents did not raise any issue with her caucasian friends.
“I feel like I’m a criminal, like I’ve done something wrong, but I haven’t,” Kooner said.
U.S. Customs and Border Protection told Global News it cannot discuss individual cases, but noted “that possession of a valid travel document does not guarantee entry to the United States.”
Fultz said it does seem like “that CBP officer made a mistake.”
“A natural-born Canadian does not need a visa to enter the United States,” said Fultz.
Just because you’ve been crossing the border for years without a hitch doesn’t mean you won’t suddenly run into problems
Calgary resident Bill McLevin said he was made to feel like a “criminal” after he was photographed, fingerprinted and denied entry to the U.S. last weekend. The reason? A drug trafficking charge from 43 years ago, which he has a pardon for in Canada.
“(CBP) do have absolute discretion to turn you around,” said Kate Duncan, regional manager for the National Pardon Centre.
“They don’t care if you’ve been pardoned, how long ago it was. Anything to do with drugs they’re really strict about that.”
The National Pardon Centre helps people who have been deemed inadmissible to enter the U.S. acquire an entry waiver, an official document from the Department of Homeland Security that allows passage into the U.S. The process can take up to a year and be costly.
Duncan said travelers often have no trouble crossing the border for years before an officer decides to deny entry.
“It’s just the certain border guard that you get on a certain day and whether or not they run your information or question you,” said Duncan.
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It’s nothing new, Duncan said, adding there has not been a recent spike in need for waivers.
“It’s always been the case, I don’t think it’s any more frequent now,” said Duncan.
If a traveler feels they’ve been treated unfairly they can make a complaint online or in person and should receive a response within 24 hours.