Windsor Senior, Volunteering In The U.S, Refused Entry At The Border

A Windsor senior who has been volunteering in the U.S for 20 years, is calling her treatment at the border "demeaning", after she was refused entry into the U.S.

Gail Peters and three friends, aged 68 to 75,  have been volunteering as ushers at the Fisher Theater for nearly two decades to support the arts in Detroit.

On Sunday, while crossing through the Windsor-Detroit Tunnel, U.S Customs pulled them into secondary.

They were held up for 2.5 hours and were photographed, fingerprinted and refused entry

She was told by U.S Customs that people from Canada can only volunteer in the U.S for a religious event or non-profit.

Speaking on AM800's the Morning Drive, Peters says nothing like this had ever happened before.

"We have come through and always been honest," she told customs officers. "There was never any deception, no one has ever told us we weren't to do this and he said they are enforcing the rules and it has always been in the books."

Peters says a warning would have been nice.

"We were told to go back to Canada.  The agent escorted us to the tunnel entrance complete with a paper stating our names and our 'crime' of usher volunteering."


(Photo by Sandy Huffaker/Getty Images)

But U.S Customs and Border Protection believes the entry refusal may have been for lack of documents.

Chief Ken Hammond can't comment on any specific case but says there are clear regulations as to what a person needs to present at the border to be allowed entry.

"If you're coming to work, even as a volunteer, you must be able to provide sufficient documentation in order to make sure you're not here to work illegally," says Chief Hammond.

He says the company that is seeking help, whether it's a paid or volunteer position,  must supply documentation to support what the volunteer is doing.

Hammond indicates any person being refused entry has recourse to dispute what has been done.

"If there were any times any traveler feels a mistake was made or they were treated unprofessionally or unfairly, they can always ask to speak to a supervisor and we could look into it and make sure things were followed correctly."

Chief Hammond says when it comes to photographing the four ladies in question, it is part of the process required under the legislation in the case of a refusal.

He reminds that the burden of proof is always on the traveler to supply proper documents.

--With files from AM800's Teresinha Medeiros and Peter Langille.