Thursday, June 13, 2013

June 19 UPDATE: Surrey Board of Trade joins push for Congressional Reform to expedited removal at U.S. borders

As part of their commitments to promote and protect tourism and trade between the U.S. and Canada, the Bellingham and British Columbia Chambers of Commerce, the Pacific NorthWest Economic Region (PNWER) and PACE have written key U.S. Senators to urge their support in amending S.744, the pending immigration reform bill currently under debate in the Senate.

One of the great risks to cross-border trade and tourism is unchecked use of the expedited removal process by U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP). Except in narrow circumstances, noncitizens ordered removed through the expedited removal process are barred from re-entering the U.S. for a minimum of five years and may not seek review of these orders in any independent forum including in the U.S. court system.


A lack of proper and impartial review has potential to impede the legitimate flow of people, goods, and services between the U.S. and Canada—the world’s two greatest trading partners, creating a chilling effect on cross-border trade. A mechanism must be enacted to provide accountability to U.S. agencies that deal with any aspect of this trade

PACE invites others involved in the promoting the U.S. / Canada trade relationship to contact us and be added to the letter. We seek the signatures of both Canadian and U.S. organizations. Updated copies of the letter will periodically be sent to the Senate as the debate on S.744 progresses.

A copy of the letter follows:

Re: Amending the Immigration Reform Bill, S.744, to ensure that expedited removal orders are issued fairly and accurately at the border, to prevent harm to trade and tourism

Dear Senator:

We, the undersigned organizations from Washington and other states, as well as British Columbia [and other provinces], are committed to promoting tourism and trade between the U.S. and Canada. We are writing to ask that you amend the pending immigration reform bill, S.744, to improve fairness in the expedited removal process, so persons legitimately coming to the United States to engage in tourism and trade are not arbitrarily barred for lengthy periods of time. Issuing expedited removal orders against individuals seeking nonimmigrant admission to the U.S. without proper and impartial review creates a chilling effect on cross-border trade and is at odds with our values promoting accurate and fair adjudications.

As a group of non-profit organizations whose missions include removing barriers that impede the legitimate flow of people, goods, and services across the USA/Canada border, we see the ill-effects of flawed and unreviewable expedited removal orders on a regular basis. Our trading relationship must be protected from these mistakes, as Canada and the United States share the greatest bilateral trading relationship in the world. Each country is the largest trade partner of the other. In 2011 bilateral trade exceeded $680 billion, with goods and services worth almost $2 billion crossing the Canada-U.S. border every single day.[1]

Canada ranks highest in foreign visitors to the U.S., with nearly 20 million visits in 2010 alone. Service providers who engage in cross-border trade are frequently called upon to travel across the border in nonimmigrant status to further commerce. Canada is also the largest source of visitor spending in the U.S.; Canadian visitors spent $20.8 billion dollars in the U.S. in 2010.[2] USA/Canada trade and tourism bonds must not be taken for granted.

One of the great risks to cross-border trade and tourism is unchecked use of the expedited removal process by U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP). Noncitizens ordered removed through expedited removal are barred from re-entering the U.S. for a minimum of five years and may not seek meaningful review of these orders in any independent forum unless they are lawful permanent residents of the United States or have been granted asylum or refugee status. Recently, numerous expedited removal abuses have been documented at United States ports-of-entry on the Canadian border, where persons were arbitrarily denied entry to attend meetings in the U.S., visit vacation homes, attend dog shows, or engage in other tourist and trade activities of mutual benefit to our two nations.[3] Such abuses impede legitimate trade and travel to the U.S. by Canadian citizens.

Recent publicized cases highlight the harsh effects of an expedited removal order on American business and tourism from Canada; here are but a few examples:
  • Canadian actor Chad Rook was denied entry into the U.S. and banned for a period of five years under an expedited removal order. When he arrived at the Peach Arch Border Crossing between Blaine, WA, and Surrey, BC, in February of this year, he had already started the application process for a work visa based on a job offer in the U.S. In the meantime, he was traveling to be at the U.S. premiere of his television show. Rook was stopped at the border, questioned for 8 hours, and required to hand over passwords for his online accounts. Regardless of whether his work visa is ultimately approved, Rook explains, “It’s kind of a crush to your career. It takes the breath out of you.”[4] There can be no independent review of this expedited removal order.
  • For 23 years, Leah Shaffer and his wife owned a cottage in Point Roberts, WA where they vacationed. Shaffer was employed by BC Ferries and lives in North Vancouver. A few years ago, he started being questioned at the border about whether he was living and working in the U.S. He was asked to provide documentation of his residence and work in Canada on several occasions, and he complied. Despite repeatedly providing such documentation, he was questioned again one night as he headed to meet his wife who was waiting to celebrate their wedding anniversary in Point Roberts. He was asked to provide three years of cancelled checks and other documentation to prove his residence in Canada. Shaffer, feeling like he was being targeted , wrote a letter to the director of field operations for CBP in Seattle. When he attempted to cross the border the next time, the same border guard was aware that Shaffer had written the letter to James and ordered him to return with all of his documentation. Shaffer turned back, missing his anniversary, and later returned to spend 8 hours with border officials showing them his daily work records, income tax returns, bank statements, and four years of cancelled checks. Despite all this evidence, he was accused of lying and CBP issued him an expedited removal order, banning him from the U.S. for five years. His immigration attorney states, “His documents were excellent. They were more than satisfactory. . . .It seems almost retaliatory.” Because of the ban, Shaffer and his wife have sold their Point Roberts cottage.[5] There can be no independent review of this expedited removal order.
  • Pearl Fabbro is a Canadian dog show enthusiast who frequently traveled to the U.S. to take her three collies, Jasmine, Drummer and Vera, to compete in dog shows. She explains, “[t]here is absolutely no money in dog sports. In fact, it’s quite the opposite - it costs me a lot of money to do it.” Despite the unpaid calling of showing her dogs, Pearl was accused at the border of coming to the U.S. as a dog breeder, issued an expedited removal order, and banned from the U.S. for five years. Pearl says she will no longer be able to show her dogs, as they will be too old to show by the time the ban has lapsed. “I’m still in shock over this,” she said. “I hope it doesn’t happen to anyone else, but unfortunately it will.”[6] There can be no independent review of this expedited removal order.

These selected real-life examples are only a sampling, but they illustrate how an expedited removal order can impede legitimate trade and tourism from coming to the U.S., and how these orders cannot be reviewed in any independent forum. In the interest of continuing the tradition of a strong and open relationship between two of the world’s greatest trading partners, we ask you to amend S.744 to reform the expedited removal process and ensure that adjudications under these provisions are fair and accurate.


Thank you for your consideration of our views. If you have questions please contact Greg Boos at gdboos@americanlaw.com.

Sincerely,


Alaska Institute for Justice
Bellingham/Whatcom Chamber of Commerce
British Columbia Chamber of Commerce
Pacific Corridor Enterprise Council (PACE)
Pacific NorthWest Economic Region (PNWER)

Surrey Board of Trade

<To have your organization added as a supporter of this measure, please contact Greg Boos at gdboos@americanlaw.com.>



[1] See Office of the United States Trade Representative, “U.S.-Canada Trade Facts.” (2011), available at http://www.ustr.gov/countries-regions/americas/canada
[2]U.S. Department of Commerce, International Trade Administration, Office of Travel and Tourism Industries, “Canada Travel Summary STATS-AT-AGLANCE 2011 YTD” available at http://tinet.ita.doc.gov/outreachpages/download_data_table/Current_Canada_Stats-At-A-Glance_2011_YTD.pdf
[3] See, e.g., Kathy Tomlinson, “Ex-U.S. officer’s border bans to be reviewed.” CBC News (Sept. 26, 2011), available at http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/british-columbia/story/2011/09/26/bc-borderguard.html
[4]Stephanie Ip, “Lethbridge-born actor Chad Rook receives five-year ban on entering U.S. after eight-hour interrogation by border guards.” Calgary Herald (Feb. 14, 2013), available at  http://www.calgaryherald.com/entertainment/Lethbridge+born+actor+Chad+Rook+receives+five+year/7966707/story.html
[5]“Five-year ban prompts man to sell U.S. home.” Vancouver Sun (May 7, 2011), available at http://www.canada.com/story.html?id=d4cd7acc-c01a-47bf-8cae-ccbd06ff11d4
[6]Jon Woodward, “Dog lover banned from U.S. for five years.” CTV British Columbia (June 13, 2011), available at http://bc.ctvnews.ca/dog-lover-banned-from-u-s-for-five-years-1.656055