Tuesday, April 21, 2015

The surprising story of my rejection at the Canada border (part 4)

The events of one year ago, continued...

Part 4: The Canadian Border Authorities' gracious boon

The next day I got on the road at 5:00 am. I drove up through the wild, vast, uninhabited stretches of North Dakota and got up to the Canada border about 4:00. The drive was a pleasant and delightful time spent with the Lord, in which I composed a song called "Wake Up the Mighty Men" as a call to the mighties of this generation to come and die (to self and the flesh) and rise up and do exploits for the kingdom of God. The refrain echoes the cry of the Moravian missionaries who called from the ship as it was pulling away from the shore, "Is not the Lamb who was slain worthy to receive the reward of his suffering?" I was very excited about the song and in a pleasant and happy frame of mind due to the joy of having spent almost two whole days alone in the car with Jesus.

Approaching the border, I had not the least nervousness. In my mind, there was no way anything could go wrong. I wasn’t doing anything wrong, so why should anything go wrong? I would just be upfront with them and explain the situation and they would understand and let me through. I drove up to the stop sign and stopped. A guard came over to my car.

“Purpose of your trip?” she said.

“Well, I guess you could call it a mission trip,” I said. “There’s a family, and the mom just died, and I’m going to stay with them for a few weeks and homeschool the girls and take care of the house for them.”

The guard asked me to go over to the side area and park. “Uh oh… this is not a good sign,” I thought.

She came over to my car and asked me a series of other questions: How long was I staying and did I have a job at home and how was I being supported and what was the name of my church and had we contacted immigration previously and what was this family’s address. I answered her questions. She left briefly and made a call. Then she asked me to step into the office. “Uh oh… this is really not a good sign,” I thought.

I stood and waited in the office for several minutes, still not really believing that anything could happen. Of course I would get through the border.

The guard came and summoned me to a back room. I followed her, thinking, “Oh, boy, we are going to the back room. This is really not good. Are they going to arrest me or something?” Another male guard accompanied us. We entered a small, bare room with a table and three plastic chairs that were bolted in place. It looked like the classic interrogation room you see in the movies. No artwork, no wallpaper, no beautifying touches. It was simple, stark, hard. The female guard motioned to me to have a seat.

“You are going to be allowed to leave Canada,” she said, as if she were granting me a gracious boon. “We cannot allow you to come into the country, because your entry would deny a potential job to a Canadian citizen. You should have contacted Immigration for a visa to do this kind of work. In order for you to come back, the family will have to get a Labor Market Opinion from Immigration, and that is practically impossible to obtain. It’s not a thing you can get in a day or a week; it’s something that takes months if you get it at all. If you should attempt to come back into Canada at another crossing, you will be banned from Canada for a year. You can make a U-turn and enter back into the American side. I will tell them that you’re coming.”

She also asked me to bring her a copy of my driver’s license and vehicle registration, so I went back out to the car to get it and brought it back to her in the main reception area of the office. She spent quite a long time entering all the details of all of my documents into the system. (I later found out, when a member of Canadian Parliament looked into my case, that she had labeled me irrevocably as a "nanny attempter" and that I will have difficulty getting into Canada for the rest of my life because of that.) As I was standing there, bewildered, surprised at the way things were progressing, the primary thought in my mind was, “Don’t be upset. This is of the Lord.”

I did, however, gently try to press for more details. “Is there anything I can do to change this?”

“No, there’s nothing you can do. The family will have to get a Labor Market Opinion. That is all.”

“So just to verity, without that document, there would be no way for me to enter the country?” I asked.

“That is correct.”

“What if the length of the trip were shorter?” I asked. “I'm going to North Carolina on May 9” (which was only two and a half weeks away).

The smallest flicker of hesitation crossed the guard’s face before she hid it behind a steely official demeanor. “Your denial is related to the purpose of your trip, not to the length of your trip,” she stated. Her posture and attitude were adamant.

Last look through my back window at the border crossing station

She gave me back my documents and made a phone call to the US side of the border crossing, letting them know I would be coming over. I drove around the building and crossed back into the US side. The guard asked me the reason for my denial. “I was going to stay with a family for a few weeks and I guess they think that is going to deny a Canadian a job,” I said with a shrug. The guard asked me to pull forward and pop my trunk. He opened it and looked in for about one second before closing it. “You’re good to go.” I drove off.

In the middle of all that, I got a text from the father of the family I was due to have visited, asking if I was close. I texted back and told him they just denied me at the border. I also tried to make a call to Ellerslie, but I didn’t have any signal. I finally made it back to the nearest town in North Dakota, where I had signal again. I called the father of the girls. “They just denied me at the border. I’m so sad,” I said. While I had remained calm at the immigration office, my voice now threatened to break. But I took a deep breath. This man didn’t need a breakdown over the telephone. We talked about the Labor Market Opinion that they had asked for, and I gave him a telephone number that they had given me to call.

Then I called Ellerslie and told them what had happened and asked them to pray. They expressed their condolences and asked what our plan was. I said I was headed for a nearby town (looking for one a bit larger than where I was), where I would have cell service and just hang out and wait to see if anything changed.

I talked to my Canadian host again after he had put in a call to the phone number I had given him. He said that the person he spoke with on the phone there was very much more sympathetic and that she had invited me to call her to see if we could get anywhere.

I called that number and spoke with the same person the man had spoken with. I started saying, “…and he said you had suggested that I call you—“ when she interrupted me with a very curt manner, saying, “No, that is not what I said to him. What I did say was that I would have no ability to override the decision that was made at the border. If they said he will have to get a Labor Market Opinion, then he will have to get a Labor Market Opinion.”

I called and told him what she had said. By then I was back in the closest town that was large enough to have a hotel, and we decided that I should get a hotel for the night and try again to cross the border in the morning. The girls' grandfather very kindly paid for the hotel. As we continued to communicate, we decided to write two letters, one from the father explaining the situation, and one from me asking that the border officials re-define the way they were labeling my proposed trip from some kind of work to a personal visit. We planned to print the letters out and bring them to the border officials the next day to see if that would change anything.

I stayed the night in the hotel, got up in the morning, checked out, and drove back up to the tiny little town that was close to the border. In the meantime, the father and his girls drove down from their home in Canada and crossed the border into the United States (which they were readily able to do). 

We met and had lunch. It was great to meet them, and we spent a couple of hours visiting. They told me that when they crossed the border, they stopped over on the Canadian side and talked with the people there. The father said they knew exactly who I was, and he said they were absolutely unwilling to work with him. They wouldn’t take the the letters or even read them. So he did not suggest that I try again.

After our lunch, the family drove back up to Canada and I drove back to Colorado.


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