Dog lover banned from U.S. for five years
Published Monday, June 13, 2011 8:21AM PDT
A Maple Ridge dog lover is howling after she was turned away from the U.S. border and banned for five years with no chance of appeal.
Pearl Fabbro was accused of heading to the United States to work as a dog breeder, even though she says she's just a hobbyist who's never received any money for what she calls a labour of love.
"I was floored," Fabbro told CTV News. "I've never worked a day in my life in the U.S."
Fabbro's three collies, Jasmine, Drummer and Vera, are her passion. Fabbro says she goes to the U.S. three to six times a year to take them to compete at shows.
"There's absolutely no money in dog sports," said Fabbro. "In fact, it's quite the opposite – it costs me a lot of money to do it."
On June 1, Fabbro was en route with her three collies to visit a friend who lived in the States.
"I got stopped at the border, I was searched, and I was interrogated for approximately six and a half hours," she said.
Officials searched her truck, and then her purse – and found two straws that are used in dog breeding. They concluded that was evidence she was intending to work in the U.S., and issued her a ban.
"They took that and took it one step further and just grilled me. It's not uncommon for me to have any dog paraphernalia in the car. I have dogs. That's what I do," she said.
Her immigration lawyer, Len Saunders, said there was no work going on. And even if Fabbro had been going to the U.S. to breed a dog, he's never heard of a visa being required.
"They're not used for commercial purposes. If they're commercially breeding dogs, they'll go to a vet," Saunders said.
Fabbro is just the latest Canadian to complain that they have been targeted unfairly by U.S. Customs officials. North Vancouver man Leah Shaffer was banned by a guard who accused him of living in Point Roberts – even though he had proof he lived and worked in B.C.
Another man, Mark Goddard, was banned because an official confused him with a man with a similar name and birthdate. Both had their five-year bans removed after they appealed to the office that issued the ban.
Others have spent tens of thousands of dollars on appeals to U.S. Courts, only to have the judges say they simply have no jurisdiction on the expedited removals.
Between 400 and 500 Canadian citizens are issued bans each year, according to U.S. Customs and Border Protection. The agency refuses to comment on individual cases.
"A lot of expedited removals are issued correctly," said Len Saunders. "A lot of people deserve them. But there seems to be an increasing number of people who don't deserve them."
Saunders said it may be that border guards are using a tough law designed to discourage illegal immigration from the Mexican border on the Canadian border.
"The tools they use at the southern border filter up here, and they have to be a little bit more discretionary," he said.
The Canadian government appears reluctant to challenge these five-year bans head-on. In an e-mail response to CTV News, a spokesman said: "We consider it a positive indication of the responsiveness of U.S. Customs and Border Protection that some initial decisions are reversed."
Fabbro says her chances at showing her dogs at American shows will be dashed. One dog, Vera, will be too old by the time the five-year ban elapses.
"I'm still in shock over this," she said. "I hope it doesn't happen to anybody else, but unfortunately it will."
With a report from CTV British Columbia's Jon Woodward