B.C. man barred from visiting own U.S. cottage
Published Wednesday, May 18, 2011 7:16PM PDT
A North Vancouver resident has reluctantly sold his cottage in Point Roberts, Wash. after being barred entry over a dispute with border guards.
Leah Shaffer and his wife bought their beloved retreat 23 years ago, and have been spending weekends and summers there ever since.
"The area is beautiful," Shaffer said of the idyllic, conveniently-located border town. "When you're down there, it feels like you're away from the harshness of other worlds."
But after complaining about his treatment during one February incident at the border, Shaffer was told not to come back – for five years.
"No chance of justice, no chance of safety, no chance of fairness," he said. "This is about an officer treating you with an agenda."
During the encounter, Shaffer was denied entry by a border guard who accused him of living in the cottage. Shaffer showed documents proving he worked and lived in Canada, but was still turned away.
U.S. law requires Canadians without residency status to stay a maximum of six months, less one day per year – which leaves plenty of time for summer and weekend trips.
Shaffer complained about his treatment to the director of field operations in Seattle. But while trying to cross over to Point Roberts again in April, he met with the same border officer – and found himself barred.
Feeling hopeless, Shaffer put his vacation getaway on the market.
Lawyer Len Saunders has built his career helping Canadians who have faced problems at the border, and has taken up Shaffer's case. He's been talking with head office about turning things around.
"I'm hoping it's going to be rescinded," he said. "They were reviewing the case yesterday and we may hear some positive results."
But it's already too late for the Shaffers' cottage. And though Mr. Shaffer may soon be allowed back into Point Roberts to pack his belongings and say goodbye, restoring his faith in U.S. customs may take a lot longer.
With a report from CTV British Columbia's Mi-Jung Lee