A group of Canadians say they were denied entry into the United States on Thursday after they told border agents that they were headed toward the Women’s March on Washington.
Sasha Dyck, a Montreal nurse who once ran for that city’s governing council, said border agents at Champlain, New York, asked the group of eight, including two French citizens, whether they planned to disrupt President Donald Trump’s inauguration. Dyck said he planned to turn his back to Trump’s motorcade but that they had no intention of causing problems.
“I’m a democratic socialist,” Dyck said. “I’m not an anarchist. Not that there is anything wrong with that. Many of my friends are.”
When they learned of the group’s travel plans, U.S. Customs and Border Protection asked them to pull out of the traffic lane, Dyck said. The two cars were then searched and everyone’s phones examined. Each of the group had their fingerprints and photos taken.
The agents turned them away and warned them that they would be arrested if they tried to come back over the weekend. Dyck, who took part in Montreal’s version of the women’s march Saturday, understood that it was OK if they sought to return to the United States on Monday.
U.S. Customs and Border Protection officials declined to confirm Dyck’s account, saying they couldn’t discuss individual cases due to privacy laws. An official said in an email that border agents deny entry to thousands of individuals each year on grounds of inadmissibility, including intent to engage in prohibited activities.
But the official, who responded only on the condition of anonymity, said attending a protest march was not a prohibited activity.
Another Canadian, Joseph Decunha, told The Guardian that he also was turned away at the border after border agents asked whether they were “anti- or pro-Trump.”
“It felt like, if we had been pro-Trump, we would have absolutely been allowed entry,” he told The Guardian.
Canadian actress Michelle Morgan, however, said in a tweet that she and a group of women bound for the D.C. march were allowed to cross the border.
“The whole bus is celebrating,” she tweeted.
Dyck said his group wasn’t asked any political questions, only where they were headed. The father of two said the group was made up primarily of young professional and students, including a Ph.D. candidate. They didn’t have any signs or masks that would indicate any potential trouble, he said.
“We didn’t look very out there, I don’t think,” he said. “I can tell you I don’t consider myself a national security threat.”