Multiple reports are alleging that citizens of other nations, including Canada, France, and Great Britain, were turned away at the American border yesterday after traveling to participate in the anti-Trump protests following the inauguration. According to The Guardian, several travelers report being harassed and asked “point blank” if they were “anti- or pro-Trump.”
The story first broke when CBC reported on two groups of Montrealers who were planning to attend both the inauguration and the protests the following day. Joseph Decunha, a McGill University physics student, was traveling with his partner and a friend, both of whom are American citizens. When they attempted to cross the border at Lacolle, Que., at 10 p.m. ET Thursday, they were promptly asked how they felt about the incoming president by a border guard.
“The first thing he asked us point blank is, ‘Are you anti- or pro-Trump?’”
Decunha and his friends were subsequently detained for secondary processing, after explaining that they were hoping to attend the inauguration and the march. He had a conversation he described as “casual and jovial” with a second border guard, who asked about his political views, and why he disapproved of Trump.
He also asked if Decunha had ever traveled to the Middle East and if he believed in violence. Decunha described himself as a pacifist.
After the guard spoke with a supervisor, he informed Decunha that his friends could cross, but that he was being denied entry for “administrative reasons” – entering America for the purpose of protesting didn’t constitute a valid reason to cross.
“I’ve never been denied entry at any border crossing before. I have no criminal record. I’ve never done anything illegal in Canada or in any other country.”
“It’s concerning to see that at border crossings you’re being screened for what your political beliefs are. It felt like, if we had been pro-Trump, we would have absolutely been allowed entry.”
Meanwhile, fellow Montrealer Sasha Dyck, part of a group of eight – six Canadians, two French nationals, traveling in two cars – were detained at the same border crossing. Dyck has dual Canadian-American citizenship but was not carrying his American passport. The Guardian described what followed as “a two-hour ordeal.”
“We said we were going for the women’s march on Saturday – which is true. We did not talk politics at all.” The border agents responded, “Well, you’re going to have to pull over.”
Their cars were searched. Their phones were seized and examined. Every member of the group was photographed and fingerprinted. And finally, they were told, “you’re headed home today,” and that if they came back that weekend, they would be arrested. The French nationals were told that they would subsequently need a visa to enter the United States.
Dyck had previously traveled to America in 2009 to protest Barack Obama’s inauguration and said that he had no problems entering the country at the time.
“I think it’s a shame. I think the U.S. has historically been a very open country – open to other ideas or open to other people. Perhaps we’re seeing the start of them closing in on themselves.”
Meanwhile, British citizen Joe Kroese, a Canadian, and two Americans were also held at the same border crossing. 23-year-old Kroese was studying in Montreal and traveled with the group; they told border agents that they were considering attending the march, but hadn’t yet made up their minds. They were also subjected to questioning, fingerprinting and being photographed, warned that they should not attempt to enter America again for several months, and Kroese was told that he would need a visa in the future if he wanted to enter America. They were informed that they were refused entry because they were planning to attend a “potentially violent rally.”
U.S. Customs and Border Protection has refused to discuss individual cases for privacy reasons.
In an email to The Guardian, U.S. Customs and Border Protection said that “We recognize that there is an important balance to strike between securing our borders… and show[ing] the world that the United States is a welcoming nation.”
According to USCBP, over 1 million people enter the United States every day, and an average of 600 are denied entry.
[Featured Image by Joe Raedle/Getty Images]