Sasha Dyck, a native of Montreal, was traveling to the march with five other Canadian friends and two French nationals Thursday. But when the group reached the border, they were stopped after explaining that they planned on participating in the march.
The whole group was fingerprinted, photographed, and had their phones examined. After being detained for two hours, they were ultimately denied entry.
The border agents told Dyck and her friends:
“You’re headed home today.”
Dyck and her group were warned that if they attempted to cross the border again over the weekend, they would be arrested. The two French nationals were told that any future entries into the U.S. would require a visa, a stipulation that is not normally required of French travelers making short-term visits.
Struggling to make sense of the experience, Dyck said:
“It seems to me that they just weren’t interested in having us in the country for the inauguration.”
Dyck’s experience was not an isolated incident. Another Montreal native, Joseph Decunha, was denied entry at the same border crossing where Dyck and her group was rejected. Traveling with two American friends Thursday, Decunha said the border agent asked his group probing questions about their politics.
“The first thing he asked us point blank is, ‘Are you anti- or pro-Trump?’”
After Decunha admitted that he disapproved of President Trump, he was pulled aside. And like Dyck and her friends, he was fingerprinted and photographed.
Decunha’s friends were allowed into the country, but he was not.
“They told me I was being denied entry for administrative reasons. According to the agent, my travelling to the United States for the purpose of protesting didn’t constitute a valid reason to cross.
“It felt like, if we had been pro-Trump, we would have absolutely been allowed entry.”
U.K. national Joe Kroese, likewise, was detained en route to the U.S. from Montreal on Thursday. He and three friends – a Canadian and two Americans – were held at the same border crossing for three hours.
Kroese, a student, hadn’t even made definite plans to attend the Women’s March. But after telling the border agent that they were considering it, he and his group were detained. Like Dyck and Decunha, Kroese and his Canadian friends were fingerprinted, questioned, and photographed. Ultimately, they were turned away.
Kroese says the border agent explained that he did not want them attending “potentially violent rally.” Like the French nationals, Kroese was told he would now need a visa to enter the U.S. His Canadian counterparts were instructed not to travel to the United States for a few months.
It is rare for anyone to be denied entry to the U.S. through Canada. Less than a tenth of one percent of those attempting to cross are denied entry. In a statement to the Guardian, U.S. Customs and Border Protection said:
“We recognize that there is an important balance to strike between securing our borders while facilitating the high volume of legitimate trade and travel that crosses our borders every day, and we strive to achieve that balance and show the world that the United States is a welcoming nation.”
The practice of banning foreign visitors from attending presidential inaugurations is not a standard protocol, as Dyck explained that she visited the U.S. in 2009 to attend President Obama’s swearing-in.
“I couldn’t even get in for this one, whereas at the other one, the guy at the border literally gave me a high five when I came in and everybody was just like, ‘welcome’. [Washington, D.C.] was partying; nobody was there to protest Obama the first time.”
The troubling thing about these incidents is that they occurred before Trump was even in office. In other words, these decisions were likely made by pro-Trump factions operating within U.S. Customs and Border Protection, either the agents themselves or a manager higher up the chain. But if these trends continue, who else might be denied entry merely on account of their political leanings?
Check out the march in Vancouver below:
Featured image via YouTube video.