Saddened and Outraged

This was supposed to be a happy day, the day our friend Charis arrived to spend six months with us. Instead, K and I are still in shock by what has transpired.
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. 

According to Charis, he suggested to her later that K had given him a very hard time on the phone. I guess he didn’t appreciate it when K told him she was never so ashamed to be Canadian as she was at that moment. Our friend who has been hit hard by the recession, who needed a break from the crap she has been dealing with was being denied entry into our country to be hosted as our guest because Customs thought she was a bad return risk. Merry Christmas to you too Mr. Customs Officer!

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.

Row80 update. Not much accomplished.

17 thoughts on “Saddened and Outraged

  1. I don't have any answers, ladies, but my heart aches for you all. The kicker is that if Charis had lied and said she was just visiting friends for the holidays and only got a one-way ticket because she wasn't exactly sure of her return date, they probably would have waved her through without another thought.

  2. I just received this message in my email Prudence. I'm with Myndi. Wow, is right. How very strange. What does having a one way ticket have to do with anything? This doesn't make sense at all. Although it just tells us just how closely they are monitoring the border. There are plenty of dangerous things that we can't begin to comprehend that is happening out there. And poor Charis becomes a victim of circumtance. And the fact that she is in such dire straights is of serious concern. This is so not good. Can you make an appeal to our group and ask if anybody in the NYC area would be willing to take Charis in until this gets settled? Actually, you might just make that same plea to the wana112 group also. Or on WANATribe Prudence. I know this isn't much help, but my thoughts are with all of you.

  3. Oh my gosh, this is crazy. I'm so sorry Charis is going through all this. How scary and awful. And I'm sure you and K are at your wit's end, Prudence. I've never dealt with anything like this and have no answers, but I think Karen's suggestion is a good idea, to ask the WANAs in NYC for help. Hugs and prayers to all of you.

  4. Wow. What a horrible thing to go through. Hug to you all. It was so wonderful of you to try and help out. Sorry that it has turned so sour. I wish I had the answer, but I don't. Hugs to all of you. I hope the solution presents itself soon.

  5. Holy CRAP, this is unbelievable! If the US was one tenth as strict, we wouldn't have an illegal immigration problem! I would have never guessed it would be so hard to immigrate to Canada from the US of all places. If she'd been dumped into Ohio, I'd go get her – hopefully someone in NY will be able to help. {{hugs}}, prayers and good thoughts for all!

  6. Jennette, the sad part is that I am not even immigrating. I am going to visit and get some writing done. I made the mistake of telling the guy that I was going to be writing and he insists that I should be able to do that back home. While I work three jobs to pay the bills and beg food off of friends.

  7. Why isn't she allowed to visit as a friend? Don't Canadians have friends and family come to visit at Christmas? ISn't she allowed thee for at least a few months before it becomes an immigration issue? I don't get the whole 'Customs thought she was a bad return risk' either? Perhaps she just got a really vile customs official who was having a bad day? Can't she seek help from US authorities? I have no idea. All I know is it's really difficult to get in Dubai, but even we had our nephew come stay for 6 weeks by giving him our address to offer them on his way in? That was it. They asked why he was here, he said holiday. He was actually doing a summer job. I SOOOO wish I could help? Madness! All I can off are cyber hugs – woefully inadequate I'm afraid. XX

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