North Vancouver couple has a troubling encounter with U.S. border guards
It was supposed to be an ordinary cross-border trip for a North Vancouver couple.
John Hyatt and his fiancé Caroline Wojcik were at the Sumas border crossing last Friday to pick up a gift and do a little shopping when they were stopped and moved into a waiting area.
The couple was separated and questioned for more than two hours.
They were also told to hand over the passwords to their iPhones.
“They proceeded to handcuff me behind my back and took me into a cell, and then they had me take my shoes off, and they physically patted me down. That part was really emotional for me,” says Caroline Wojcik.
The couple was apparently red-flagged, but had no idea why.
Both say they cross the border on a semi-regular basis, have good jobs and no criminal record.
The only other clue is — the border guards were questioning Wojcik about a specific name that she did not know about.
Eventually, both Caroline and John were let go of, and had their passports returned.
But their story is not unique.
U.S. Immigration lawyer Greg Boos says there are things people can do if they are detained without an apparent reason.
“It’s unusual for them to cuff someone. They often threaten people to turn over their password. They say they will send you to jail,” says Boos. “That is a little bit coercive. I am not too sure that they have the authority to order somebody to turn over a password to a phone.”
Hyatt and Wjocik say they haven’t decided what, if any, action they will take, but next time they cross the border, it won’t be at the Sumas crossing.