Canadian Women Turned Away at US Border: Racially Motivated?

A Canadian woman with valid passport, Manpreet Kooner, was turned away at the U.S. border for uncertain reasons. Initially, when she was turned away after presenting her Canadian passport, the border agents reportedly told her that she now needs a valid immigrant visa to enter America. Typically most travelers from Canada and Bermuda do not require a visa for tourism and visits which are exactly what Kooner was doing that day.

Kooner is a Canadian citizen born in Canada to her two Indian parents. She lives in Montreal’s Lasalle borough with her fiance. She works at a local Canadian college within the science lab department. She was heading from Montreal to Vermont for a spa day with her two friends. Kooner said she was held at the border for six hours before she was told to turn around and return to Montreal.

The border agents reportedly told Manpreet Kooner she needs to apply for a visa at the U.S. Embassy in Ottawa. She went to the embassy the next day only to find out they couldn’t help her. The embassy’s advice was to speak with the U.S. Customs and Border Protection, where she was turned away in the first place. Another controversial action by a border agent was mentioned. Allegedly at one point during the interrogation between Kooner and the border agents, an agent told her: “I know you may feel like you’ve been Trumped,” a reference to the U.S. President, Donald Trump. The reference was mainly referring to many foreigners being stopped at the border due to President Trump’s tough immigration laws. This is controversial because in a statement by U.S. Customs and Border Patrol, they adopted a policy in 2014 that “prohibits the consideration of race or ethnicity in law enforcement, investigation, and screening activities, in all but the most exceptional circumstances.”

Kooner did not directly relate her case to racism, but she did mention that her two friends she came along with were white and not questioned at the border. “People have said we need to take that (racism) into account here, because unfortunately, yeah, my skin color is brown,” she said.

She had had trouble at the border before President Trump was in office. She was stopped before as a random check. She was made to fill out numerous forms only to find out their computers were down, and she could not enter without them working. Kooner and many others are confused why she has been stopped and turned away so many times since she is a Canadian citizen, has no criminal record, and has visited the U.S. many times before.

As stated before most travelers from Canada typically do not need a visa for tourism and visits to the United States. Only Canadians who are intending to immigrate or planning to marry a U.S. citizen are those who need a valid visa. Manpreet Kooner is not planning to immigrate or marry a U.S. citizen; she was purely visiting a day spa.

“I feel targeted. I’m set aside from everyone else, and I feel helpless because I keep asking, ‘What do I need to do?’”

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