Mehdiya Hudda, 22, of Kichener, planned a short shopping trip in Lewiston, N.Y., near Niagara Falls, with her mother and husband on April 26, returning to Canada the same evening. The family is Muslim and both women wear head scarves. They ended up being fingerprinted and photographed, then held in a room at the U.S. border for about six hours, while their car, cellphones and belongings were searched. At 1 AM, they were told to return to Canada.
The Record (h/t Brian R) Her family was denied entry to the U.S. in May 2003 when they were trying to attend an Islamic conference in Washington, D.C.”This many years later and still it’s the same thing, we’re being treated like criminals,” Hudda said. “After all these years, they’ve not changed. It just boggles my mind.”
“It’s not justified,” she said. “It was like we had no rights, (you don’t) being on that line between the U.S. and Canada.” The whole incident was humiliating, especially because it unfolded in full view of hundreds of other travelers, she said.
Rather than simply being told to pull over, out of the line of vehicles at the border crossing, the border guard asked for the van’s keys and placed spikes behind the rear wheels so the van couldn’t be reversed without puncturing the tires. Then three other officers came and asked them to leave all their belongings, including purses, wallets and cellphones, in the van and accompany them to a nearby office.
“We had to walk in front of all the cars in the line, probably hundreds of people who are thinking, ‘Oh, they must have done something.’ “That was just really degrading,” Hudda said. Her mother was questioned about her frequent trips and how she had the money to pay for those trips. “We used to take groups on religious pilgrimages to different shrines,” Hudda explained.
After a few hours, they asked if they could get a drink of water from their van, and returned to the vehicle with an escort to discover it had been thoroughly searched. “They turned our car inside out,” she said. “Everything was a mess. There were papers everywhere. They went through our wallets, our phones.”
Part of what infuriated her, she said, was that they were never given a reason for their treatment. “You should be given a reason. There should be a concrete reason.” (You are not owed a reason, due to National Security concerns)
When she asked the border guards why they were being denied entry, they told her to contact the U.S. Consulate in Toronto. When she called the consulate, she was told it had nothing to do with border controls and had no information on why she was denied entry.
She suspects they were turned back at the border because her father, Shafiq Hudda, is an imam at the Islamic Humanitarian Service, a registered charity based in Kitchener that runs a Muslim community centre and drop-in centre. Her father has never been allowed to enter the U.S. since being refused entry in 2003. (DING DING DING – terrorist ties)
In an email, U.S. Customs spokesperson Richard Misztal said he couldn’t comment on the specifics of any case, but said anyone hoping to enter the United States bears “the burden of proof to establish that they are clearly eligible to enter the United States. In order to demonstrate that they are admissible, the applicant must overcome ALL grounds of inadmissibility.”
Thanks to Blazing Cat Fur for providing the probable reason these two were denied entry: