Canadian woman turned away at U.S. border; told she needs immigrant visa

A Montreal woman says she's confused and upset after a planned spa trip to Vermont with a couple of friends turned into a nightmare at the border on Sunday.

The parents of 30-year-old Manpreet Kooner are from India, but she was born in Canada and is a Canadian citizen with a valid passport.

But she was told at the border station at Highgate Springs, Vt. that she needed an immigrant visa to get into the country — her passport, apparently, wouldn't be enough.

"When we got to the border, my friend that was driving gave them all three of our passports," Kooner told CTV News. "They asked the basic questions like how do you know each other, where are you going, where do you work. After that..I guess when they scanned my passport, they noticed that in December, when I was crossing the border with my friends to go to New York State, that I was refused entry."

That night in December, she was told she wouldn't be let through because of a computer glitch, and to try again the next morning. They did, and got through without any problem.

On Sunday morning in Vermont, however, she and her friends stayed at the border from about 9:30 a.m. until 2 p.m. In the meantime, her car was searched, and she was questioned, photographed and fingerprinted — before she was told she'd have to go back.

Neither of her friends — who are both white — were singled out for special treatment.

She says at one point, she was told by the border official, "I know you may feel like you've been Trumped, but this is just the way this is playing out this time." — an apparent reference, of course, to U.S. president Donald Trump, who signed his administration's revised travel ban order on Monday. The original one, which placed a 90-day ban on travel from seven Muslim-majority nations, was struck down by the U.S. courts.

Instead of spending her Monday off at a Vermont resort, Kooner spent Monday at the U.S. Embassy in Ottawa, after she had been told to go there to apply for an immigration visa. The answer she got left her even more perplexed.

"I went to the U.S. Embassy this morning and was told by them, 'why are you here? You're a Canadian citizen. You don't need a visa. That's odd.'"

Kooner travels several times a year to the U.S., and has never had problems. She's getting married in June, and has a bachelorette party set up for Miami in May. She also has plans to attend a music festival in Miami later this month — with pricey non-refundable tickets.

Now, she wonders whether having to deal with customs at all would be worth the trouble.

Immigration lawyer and CJAD 800 contributor Neil Drabkin says what happened to Kooner is almost certainly the result of the kind of "extreme vetting" that's been happening since Trump became president.

"We've seen a number of cases where people are being stopped regardless of the fact that they're Canadian citizens and being given a rough time," Drabkin says.

Entry into the U.S., Drabkin says, is a privilege, and not a right, but he says this kind of story is troubling.

"It's inappropriate, is what it is. It's incumbent upon our Canadian government now to recevied assurances from the United States that Canada and Canadians will not be subject to this kind of extreme vetting. There'll be an opportunity this week for our minister of public safety to meet with his counterpart, the Secretary of Homeland Security, here in Canada, and he has to raise these cases, and he has to tell him, 'this is unacceptable, and and Canada will not tolerate it.'"