Last night K got a Facebook call from Charis. She was in Toronto and being detained by Customs and would not be allowed to enter the country. Why? Because she was honest about her circumstances.
She had a one-way ticket. When asked who bought it, she told the official her friends had bought it for her. Strike number one.
She doesn’t have a bank account, doesn’t have piles of money, so she had to find someone to move into her trailer, to change the utility account over, etc. The officer asked her if she had any other “assets” in the USA (read: reasons to return). She mentioned the second cat, the one she couldn’t bring with her because the airlines would let a single person travel with two cats. The second cat wasn’t enough as it was too easy to abandon. She has no bank account balance. She has family and friends, but apparently having a utility bill in her name would be considered a better reason. Strike number two.
She was then asked how she would support herself while she was in Canada. She replied that her friends had invited her to stay for up to six months and had agreed look after her while she was here. She in turn would help out around the house, watch our dogs from time to time, etc. The Customs Officer then informed her she would be taking a job away from a Canadian (because I guess if we can afford to host our friend, we must be able to afford paid domestic help?). Strike number three.
K asked to speak to the Customs Officer to verify her story that we had indeed agreed to support her. He called her number and informed her that Charis understood and “was in full agreement” with the reasons why she was being denied entry. (So because she didn’t argue or cause a fuss she must be in agreement?) K broke down on the phone, but was calm and civil as she did not want to aggravate the situation.
So in the wee hours of Sunday morning, she was escorted to a detention area and told she would be deposited back across the border in the morning with her luggage and the little bit of money she has in her pocket. She spent the night on the floor, cuddled up to her poor cat who was still in the carrier, trying to catch a nap while K watched over her via Skype and her laptop.
Charis managed to talk Customs into sending her to New York. K has just finished sending info to the hotel desk to cover her bill and she is on her way there now to sleep and get her cat out of the carrier for a few hours. We have no idea what will happen next.
Since when did it become a crime to accept a friend’s offer of help? Since when did being responsible about your obligations turn a person into a “bad return risk?”
If anyone in Internet land has any suggestions regarding how to help Charis get here for Christmas, please let me know. Please share our story. Someone out there must be able to help us make this right for her.