Vancouver actor ‘violated’ by U.S. border ban
CTV British Columbia
Published Friday, February 8, 2013 6:26PM PST
Last Updated Friday, February 8, 2013 8:10PM PST
A Vancouver-based actor has been banned from entering the United States after customs officials accused him of withholding information, then interrogated him for nine hours at the border.
Now Chad Rook, an actor who has appeared in shows like “Supernatural,” said he feels “violated” from the incident and plans to fight the ban.
Rook pulled up to a customs officer’s booth at the Peach Arch Border Crossing on Jan. 28. He was on his way to Los Angeles where he planned to meet with industry contacts and friends during pilot season, considered one of the busiest times for actors.
“Basically they asked me where I was going and I told them I was driving down to Los Angeles, and they immediately told me to go inside,” Rook said.
That’s where the interrogation began. Rook initially told officers he was traveling to L.A. for a vacation and to meet with family and friends.
Rook said he was an actor and was planning on making industry contacts in hopes of finding a job, but was waiting for an offer until applying for a work visa. He said officers accused him of changing his story and attempting to work in the U.S. without a permit.
The questions lasted for almost nine hours, Rook said.
“They asked me the exact same questions over and over and over. They altered the questions but the exact same questions were asked. It was almost as if they were trying to get me to change my story.”
Rook said he was asked for multiple passwords so that officers could determine whether or not he was planning to work in L.A.
“They said, ‘you can’t leave until you give all this information,’” he said. “They then went through my emails, they went through my text messages, my call logs, they went through my Facebook, my Twitter, everything.”
Rook was released and turned away from the border, but not before he was slapped with an expedited removal – a five-year ban on entering the U.S. – for not providing border officials with all the details of his trip up front, he said.
But a week after banning Rook, U.S. Customs found fault with its document that accused him of fraud and misrepresentation. They sent him a corrected version which dropped the accusation of fraud and instead said “You are intending on setting up residence in L.A. to find work as an actor.”
The five-year ban remained in effect.
For an actor looking to make it big, five years is a long time, Rook said. “It’s kind of scary because, I mean, this is my career,”
Len Saunders, an immigration lawyer based in Blaine, Wash. who specializes in cross-border issues, said he was “shocked” by Rook’s story.
“He was going down for vacation, he was going down to look for job opportunities – not to work,” he said. “I have not seen someone treated like this for a long time at the port of entry.”
Saunders said he recommends visitors who may be looking for work to be upfront with border officials. “Vague answers aren’t good,” he said. “You want to have specific return dates.”
U.S. Customs told CTV five-year bans are not given lightly and are subject to layers of scrutiny. Rook can appeal the ban by sending a letter to the director of field operations, or apply for a waiver, but it won’t be easy, Saunders said.
“It’s almost impossible to get one for at least two or three years,” he said. “I would tell this individual it’s going to be years before he’s able to enter the U.S.”
The number of expedited removals at the local border crossings was down 56% in 2012 from 2011, according to U.S Customs.
There were 53 people given five-year bans last year – a miniscule percentage of the more than 15-million people who entered the U.S.
While he seeks to overturn the ban, Rook has something to say to U.S. border officials.
“Allow people to explain, have patience and understanding that not everybody who gets sent in there is criminal material.”
With a report from CTV British Columbia’s Mi-Jung Lee