Is there a culture of anti-Canadian, anti-immigrant attitudes among some U.S. Customs and Border Protection members?
According to Bellingham immigration lawyer Greg Boos, there is – and, he says, it’s a factor in border inspections, including questioning about marijuana use.
In late August, Boos filed a U.S. lawsuit on behalf of business leaders on both sides of the border, seeking to curb an ‘expedited removal’ process that allows CBP members to arbitrarily bar Canadians from entering the U.S. for at least five years.
And he cites a job-forum website, on which apparent current CBP members post under pseudonyms, as indicative of the mindset of some. A comment thread about his case on the website, ‘US Customs & Border Protection Job Forum’, is posted under the message category ‘CBP & DHS in the News’ (“Overzealous U.S. border guards…“).
“You can see people who are clearly CBP officers using pseudonyms… and they are definitely anti-immigrant,” Boos told Peace Arch News. “They shouldn’t be on the job. The one thing I regret is that you can’t figure out who these people are on chat forums.”
Among postings is one from ‘Btacr’ referring to one expedited removal: “No problem at all… looks like OFO (CBP Office of Field Operations) is kicking ass.”
‘Rob S Pierre’ posts: “Canadians that assert their right to come to the US amuse me.”
‘INSI’ says: “Nothing worse than a whiny Canadian who thinks they have every right in the world to live here because they are Canadian. In the meantime any US citizen who had a DUI 20 years ago isn’t allowed into Canada, but they don’t talk about that…
“Oh and I just love the Canadian TN (the NAFTA visa for professionals) applicants while in secondary getting processed just babble on and on about how great Canada is. If Canada is so great why are you moving to the US to work?”
Another posting, by ‘hamboy’, says: “Our lobbies are full of TN applicants, it makes me sick!”
‘Golfquip’ posts: “All of this can be solved if we just annex Canada and make it the 51st state…”
A disclaimer on the site’s home page notes it has “no official affiliation with any element of the United States Government… take any opinions and statements with a grain of salt.”
The forum host, listed as Former CBP Guy (MichCI), says in the disclaimer that the site is principally an exchange of information for those seeking work as CBP officers, and that it welcomes posts from CBP members and others.
Contacted by PAN, the host said it would not be prudent for him to comment, as he still works in law enforcement. He did not identify himself.
CBP representatives have repeatedly declined to be interviewed on how individual members apply policy, particularly pertaining to narcotics enforcement – instead offering a statement that “the United States has been and continues to be a welcoming nation” and that regulations are there to protect U.S. citizens, residents and visitors.
But Boos said the website postings indicate attitudes that are far from appropriate for CBP members in charge of handling visa applications – adding the antipathy of some of these officers evidently extends to border checks seeking admissions of past use of controlled substances.
He agrees last month’s case of a White Rock woman deemed inadmissible to the U.S. because of admitted previous marijuana use illustrates that the treatment received by Canadians at the border is luck of the draw. Boos said that although some CBP members appear in favour of facilitating international trade, others appear to consider it their job to turn people away.
And while Washington State residents recently approved an initiative legalizing marijuana on a state level, Canadian visitors shouldn’t be lulled into the belief that such liberalization of laws applies to them, Boos said.
“It’s still illegal at the federal level,” he noted.
Although U.S. federal authorities have indicated they will take a passive approach to state-legalized marijuana use by Washington residents, he said, any admission by a Canadian that he or she has smoked marijuana constitutes an admission of being a lawbreaker in Canada; sufficient grounds for CBP members to declare a visitor “inadmissible.”
Boos said Canadians should also be aware that, outside of a conviction or their own admission, the burden of proof that someone has committed a crime under Canadian law falls upon the authorities.
“I’m not telling anyone to lie,” he said. “But if I were asked at the border if I had smoked something in the past, my answer would be no.
“I’m not a botanist. I haven’t run chemical tests. I wouldn’t know that anything I smoked was marijuana. Do you know for a fact that what you smoked was marijuana or oregano, or what it was?”
Brent De Young, a Canadian who works as an immigration lawyer in Washington State, is another who believes that CBP members are not administering the rules consistently.
“Laws that aren’t uniformly administered tend to be used offensively whenever they do happen to be applied,” he said.