Worried about crossing the US border?
Crossing the US border – In the past Canadians never really thought twice about crossing the US border, whether it was for a day trip to Vermont, a shopping trip in Plattsburgh or heading down south to the beaches during winter. Things changed after the September 11th attacks in 2001, we now need passports and the waiting times at border crossings can become excruciatingly long. Because of airport security we have to arrive hours before boarding. It has really been more of an inconvenience than anything else – but that is the past. A revised US travel ban signed by Donald Trump on March 6th and the recent incidents reported at border crossings have Canadians very concerned about crossing the US border – and even questioning whether it is safe enough or not to cross over the border. Since Donald Trump became President of the US earlier this year, turning the White House upside down, it has become uncertain.
When Trump issued the first version of his controversial ‘Travel Ban’ in January it was a disordered mess, the wrong people were being detained by border security and even some fathers away on business trips couldn’t get back home to their families. The hastily enacted order caused chaos at airports as immigrants were literally pulled off planes. It prompted huge protests and a ruling by a US appeals court that deemed it unlawful. We were assured Canadian citizens would have no problems entering and leaving the country – but that too is the past.
The first order, discriminated against travelers from Iraq, Syria, Sudan, Libya, Somalia, Yemen and Iran and the new order is much like the first one, just Iraq is now excluded and different words are used to disguise pretty much the same intents – but it also states that ‘permanent residents of Canada with citizenship from any of the six Muslim-majority countries can be denied entry to the United States’.
With the first version we were told by the White House that permanent residents of Canada could come and go as always – but the second version is contradictory. Parts of it like ‘a landed immigrant from Canada needs to apply for a waiver, that may be granted, on a case-by-case basis, at the discretion of a consular officer or another official from U.S. Customs and Border Protection’ are sure to cancel some travel plans.
Even more alarming are events reported by several Canadians, with valid passports, who were denied entry at some border crossings. Most recently, Manpreet Kooner, a 30 year old Montrealer and a Canadian citizen born here to Indian parents was turned away at a Quebec-Vermont border and told by a border guard she needed ‘a valid immigrant visa’ to enter the US. It was supposed to be a day trip to a Vermont SPA with two of her friends. Not only was she denied entry, but was first detained for six hours.
On January 19th, McGill University physics student Joseph Decunha tried to cross the border at Lacolle, Quebec. He was asked whether he was ‘anti or pro’ Trump – Decunha wanted to attend Trumps’ inauguration, but he too was denied entry.
Also on the day before the inauguration a Sudbury, Ontario couple who told CBC News she and her husband were trying to cross the U.S. border in Niagara Falls with plans to attend the Women’s March – were detained and questioned for more than an hour before reluctantly being allowed through.
Because of the uncertainty about some of their senior Muslim students being denied entry into to the US, Westmount High School’s annual graduation trip was changed from a planned visit to Washington D.C. to Toronto and Niagara Falls.
Even those with valid passports born to parents who immigrated to Canada generations ago, or those who hold dual citizenship with the US have cause for worry – not just about being refused entry, but because of the violence and acts of racial hatred running rampant across the border. The surge in Anti-Semitism is unprecedented with over one hundred bomb threats forcing Jewish community centers and even schools to evacuate buildings, Swastikas are being painted on synagogue doors, headstones are being turned over and broken desecrating Jewish cemeteries.
There are known high-profile fascists in the White House. Neo-Nazis and white nationalists are rubbing shoulders with members of Trump’s team – a very disconcerting thought to anyone of a different ethnic background or skin color.
On February 22nd two Indian men were shot in a Kansas bar by a man, hurling racial slurs at them and yelling “get out of my country” and one of them died. The shooter thought he had killed two Iranian men.
Women, after decades of fighting for their rights, once again find themselves having to organize and protest against the ultra-right wing policy makers in the White House, who are trying to tear down much of what was accomplished. LGBT people who have fought so hard for their rights and equality are finding themselves preparing for battles in court again – and on the streets.
What is most alarming is a President and his team who are not really doing anything significant about the incidents. Except for a couple of scripted speeches and hastily written tweets with little impact – no direct actions have taken place.
There are areas in the US I never really felt comfortable visiting, now I’m not sure how comfortable I feel at all crossing the border. I never imagined that in my lifetime I would actually hear of people from the US seeking asylum in Canada. Are the fears real? Do you worry about visiting the US now, or do you think it is just business as usual?