Multiple groups of protesters were stopped, searched, fingerprinted and detained by U.S. border agents on Thursday when they revealed they were traveling to Washington, D.C. for the Women’s March.
The Guardian reported Saturday that one group of eight demonstrators — six Canadians and two French nationals — were traveling in two cars on Thursday when they arrived at a land crossing checkpoint between St Bernard de Lacolle in Quebec and Champlain, New York.
Montrealer Sasha Dyck said that she and her companions were completely honest with the border agents about their plans.
“We said we were going to the women’s march on Saturday and they said, ‘Well, you’re going to have to pull over,’” Dyck recounted.
For the next two hours, the travelers were treated like criminal suspects. Their vehicles were searched. Each traveler was photographed and fingerprinted. The French citizens were told their request to enter the U.S. was denied and that any future attempts to enter the country would require a visa.
“Then for the rest of us, they said, ‘You’re headed home today,’” Dyck said. Border agents warned the group that if they tried to cross into the U.S. during the weekend, they would be arrested.
“And that was it, they didn’t give a lot of justification,” said Dyck.
In 2009, she said, when she traveled to Washington for the inauguration of Pres. Barack Obama, the attitude at the border was completely different.
“I couldn’t even get in for this one, whereas at the other one, the guy at the border literally gave me a high five when I came in and everybody was just like, ‘welcome,'” she said. “The whole city was partying; nobody was there to protest Obama the first time.”
A U.K. citizen named Joe Kroese said that he, a Canadian and two Americans were held at the same border crossing for three hours on Thursday.
“After being questioned, fingerprinted and photographed, Kroese and his Canadian companion were refused entry because they were planning to attend what the border agent called a ‘potentially violent rally’… The pair was advised not to travel to the United States for a few months, and Kroese was told he would now need a visa to enter the U.S.,” wrote the Guardian‘s Ashifa Kassam.
And again on Thursday, Montreal resident Joseph Decunha said that he and his traveling companions were detained and the border agent demanded to know their political leanings.
“The first thing he asked us point blank is, ‘Are you anti- or pro-Trump?’” said Decunha to the Canadian Broadcasting Company (CBC).
Decunha said that he and his companions were also fingerprinted and photographed before being denied entry into the U.S., “They told me I was being denied entry for administrative reasons. According to the agent, my traveling to the United States for the purpose of protesting didn’t constitute a valid reason to cross.”
“It felt like, if we had been pro-Trump, we would have absolutely been allowed entry,” he said.
U.S. Customs and Border Enforcement declined to comment on the individual cases for privacy reasons, but said to the Guardian via email, “We recognize that there is an important balance to strike between securing our borders while facilitating the high volume of legitimate trade and travel that crosses our borders every day, and we strive to achieve that balance and show the world that the United States is a welcoming nation.”