'I've done nothing wrong': B.C. man handed five-year ban at U.S. border
A B.C. man from Tsawwassen who says he planned to visit the beach and buy some groceries in the U.S. exclave of Point Roberts, Wash. says border officials instead handed him a five-year ban and told him to go back to Canada.
Nick Austin, who is between jobs, and in the process of moving from Vancouver Island back to the Lower Mainland, attempted to drive across the border on Sept. 5, when U.S. Customs & Border Protection (CBP) agents sent him inside for further questioning.
"The best thing they could have done is turn me around at the very beginning, say, 'We're not letting you in today.' That's it," Austin said.
Instead, CBP records show Austin was interrogated about his job, his home, his intentions in the U.S., and the items in his vehicle, which was packed up with the contents of his previous apartment. He was then told he was inadmissible and handed a five-year ban, what's known as "expedited removal."
"You appear to be an intending immigrant…" Austin's documents read, "After it was determined that you have relinquished ties to your home country of Canada."
But Austin insists he had no intention to work or live in the U.S.
"I used to come to Point Roberts with my family as a young child," he said. "I just had a thought: Oh well, why don't I go over and take a visit and go to the beach?"
Austin believes border agents made a mistake. So does his Lawyer, Len Saunders, who's taken on the case pro bono, after observing a spike in these types of bans being issued by U.S. border agents since June.
"I think it's an overreach," Saunders said. "Yes, I understand he didn't have a job at this point. A lot of Canadians are between jobs. Yes, he didn't have a residence. A lot of people move at the end of the month. Yes, he had some stuff in his vehicle, but it's not like he had a U-Haul truck."
Saunders said he's seen at least a dozen expedited removal cases in the last few months and says while bans in the past included those who lied to border agents or were caught working illegally, now they appear to be given out "for no apparent reason."
"My concern is that this is a trend which is going to be continuing for Canadians," Saunders said.
While those entering Point Roberts are subject to the exact same scrutiny at other U.S. Ports of Entry, the peninsula, which was once dubbed the safest gated community in the U.S., can only be accessed on land through the international border crossing from Canada, and is surrounded on three sides by water.
A spokesperson for U.S. Customs and Border Protection wouldn't discuss Nick Austin's case citing "privacy regulations," and told CTV News that all decisions "about admissibility are made on a case-by-case basis…based on the facts and circumstances known to the officer at the time."
When asked about whether five-year bans at B.C. border crossings were indeed on the rise, CBP spokesperson Jason Givens wrote, "While I can acknowledge that there has been a recent increase in the issuance of expedited removals, there has not been a policy change within the CBP nor is there a quota."
CBP has also told CTV News that all expedited removals must be approved by a supervisor before being issued, and they are later reviewed by upper management.
Saunders said Austin can wait out the five-year ban but could be subject to another when trying to enter the U.S. after it expires. His other option is applying for an Immigration Waiver, a process that will cost Austin approximately US$930, the equivalent of about $1,200.
He's also cautioning Canadians to be extra careful at U.S. Ports of Entry, a warning that comes too late for Nick Austin.
Asked what he would want to tell CBP if given the chance, Austin said: "I've done nothing wrong."