Immigration

Customs Officials Protect America from Wealthy Canadian Who Wanted to Spend Money Here

|

Canadian poker pro Terrence Chan has twice been turned away at the U.S. border by customs officials. He describes the first time, a week ago Thursday.

After an hour of waiting, I made it to the front, where I was asked the usual questions. Where do I live? What do I do for work? What is the purpose of my trip? How long will I be there? I answered every question with what would turn out to be the worst possible answer—the truth. I told them that I am a professional poker player with rental property in Hong Kong and Vancouver, and that I was going down to train martial arts for two months, including participating in a major tournament. I made it very clear I had no plans to stay in the United States past December.

They told me to sit down.

About 30 minutes later, I was asked another round of questions. These questions from the same officer were much more accusatory. How could I prove I wasn't trying to stay in the states indefinitely? What ties do I have to Canada? What ties do I have to Hong Kong? What assurances can you give that you will leave the US? I answered that I own property outside of the US that I have to manage, that all my family lives outside of Canada, that I have poker sponsorship opportunities awaiting me in the Asia-Pacific region.

"But none of these things prove that you will leave the U.S."

I was told to sit back down, and waited for another 30 minutes. I was then called up again, taken to the back, fingerprinted, and told to sit back down.

They denied him entry. Yesterday Chan tried again, this time armed with a mountain of paperwork.

They went through every piece of paperwork I had and found something wrong with it in one way or another. I had last month's internet bill in Vancouver and my electric bill in Hong Kong; they now told me I needed six months of bills. They said I needed credit card statements with activity to prove I was spending time in those places. They said I needed a job with pay stubs, and they said that that job had to be where I was physically present, such that it would not be possible for me to do it in the States. They didn't like that my plane ticket from Vancouver to Hong Kong was only for two months, even though neither of those places is in the United States. He even tried to twist my words of "I'm going to train martial arts" as meaning that I was going to work illegally. "If you don't have a visa for that, you can't come in."

Quite simply, they never had any intent of letting me in the country, no matter what I showed, said, or did. There is no conceivable way that I could have convinced them otherwise. I was fingerprinted again and once again shown the door…

I am a law-abiding, honest, wealthy and mobile Canadian who wanted to come for two months, rent a property, buy groceries, pay fees to a school, spend money on entertainment, and leave.

For this, I get treated like a criminal. Well, no more. I'm done with the United States.

Editor's Note: We invite comments and request that they be civil and on-topic. We do not moderate or assume any responsibility for comments, which are owned by the readers who post them. Comments do not represent the views of Reason.com or Reason Foundation. We reserve the right to delete any comment for any reason at any time. Report abuses.

81 responses to “Customs Officials Protect America from Wealthy Canadian Who Wanted to Spend Money Here

  1. We’re trying to rebuild an economy here… we don’t need any of your Canadian Deutch-ey-markees…

  2. Stay classy, Border Patrol.

  3. “For this, I get treated like a criminal. Well, no more. I’m done with the United States.”

    He shouldn’t feel offended. US citizens get treated like criminals for having the nerve to try to buy a home these days. Weeks in limbo, ever more convoluted document requests, etc. Visitor or native…it’s great times equally!!!

  4. Thanks for protecting us from Mr. Chan. Every time I see a poker player in the ariport, who identifies himself primarily, and foremost as a poker player, I get nervous. Is he holding the nuts?

    1. I think you’ve hit on it, rac. “Holding the nuts” is now a TSAr monopoly.

  5. Your border-hassle stories are all alike, Balko. It’s…unpleasant.

    Broke Fucks Turned Away Daily
    Whitey unmoved

    B) He’s a terrible bluffer. I’m in.

    1. Wait, your point is that “all” my border hassle stories involve rich poker players?

      1. I think he means they are all the same in that someone is getting hassled by the man.

        1. Nothing to see here. Move along now. Move along.

        2. Other than finding a box of kittens, it would probably be very difficult for Balko to write a border-hassle story that didn’t involve The Man.

  6. I remember reading the Branden Rand biography, and her description of a similar interrogation undertaken by Soviet officials when a young Rosenbaum wanted to leave their country.

    I remember thinking, “What authoritarian dicks! I’m glad she tricked them.”

    So now I wish there was a second chapter of this story where this guy entered the US illegally and broke all kinds of laws, and got away with it. Is that part of the story being posted tomorrow? Please?

  7. Customs is bullshit. That is all.

  8. I agree that Chan should have been admitted, but he should come up with a “respectable” profession that he can claim is his primary line of work (even if he really does earn substantially all of his income from poker playing). I’m pretty sure that telling any sort of LEO that you are a professional gambler raises every red flag in the book.

    1. Yeah. You really should lie to custioms (a felony IIANM) if your legal profession might cause some bluenose to get their tits in a flutter.

      1. What? The Independent Insurance Agents of New Mexico are in on it??

        http://www.iiaba.net/nm/defaul…..veState=NM

    2. Oh, you bet your sweet ass is does! Speaking from my time wearing a badge, the following things are immediate red flags and how LEO’s usually perceive them:

      -Gambler: all in with the fucking Mob except for little old ladies playing bingo or slots.
      -Driving a neon colored import or having ANY kind of after-factory mods: that’s how we look for street racers and all the wannabees.
      -Dressing like a rapper: we’re told to think that you have guns or weed and we need to meet our arrest quota.
      -Dressing like a cowboy/redneck outside of the south: pretty sure there’s a gun in your truck.
      -NRA or Libertarian bumper sticker: We KNOW there’s guns in your vehicle!
      -Turban or headscarf: fuck if your a Hindu or Muslim, the only time your not a terrorist is if your wearing a 7-11 apron.
      -Wearing a heavy metal shirt: fucking teenage white boys are all just Columbines waiting to happen.
      -Weird hair color: daddy didn’t hug you enough so now your Sherwin-Williams hair means you’re probably a fucking junkie.
      -Man who teaches elementary school: child predator that hasn’t got caught yet.
      -Adult wearing video game shirt: pothead who shops at Hot Topic/Spencers.
      -College Student: alcohol related arrest waiting to happen unless your Ivy league then you’re just a kid having fun.

      I could go on all day but take this tip from an ex-LEO:

      “The more you look and act like you belong in Mayberry, the more you stay off the radar!”

      1. Surprise, surprise, surprise!

        1. SHAZAAM, motherfucker!

      2. I am no expert, but that stuff sounds like profiling.

    3. but he should come up with a “respectable” profession that he can claim is his primary line of work

      The red flag (commie!) was an Asian guy who admitted to having business interests in Hong Kong coming to the U.S. for martial arts training. He couldn’t get that in Hong Kong? Sounds fishy. Fishy enough for a racist border patrol agent anyway.

      1. You are probably joking, but the second officer actually said, “you live in Hong Kong? Didn’t like, martial arts start in that part of the world? Why would you go to California to study it?”

  9. Oh, by the way, if any of you kids have ever traveled in to Canada (and come back into the US, natch), the American Customs officials are supreme pricks. And I seriously mean that.

    They’re the most rude, officious, prickish public servants I’ve ever had the displeasure of talking to.

    If I were elected president, I’d be the fuck all over the head of that agency to straighten that shit out. Seriously.

    1. I’ve gone back and forth dozens of times and never encountered one who behaved worse than the average DMV clerk.

      1. Not my experience, but even if they were, the DMV clerk can’t kick you out of the country, search your car, or detain you for hours on end.

      2. The DMV clerks in Vermont are little old ladies who offer you cookies and kiss your ass.

        It’s the weirdest thing.

        The first time I went to the DMV in Vermont I thought they were putting me on and I was on a secret camera somewhere.

        1. I thought they were putting me on and I was on a secret camera somewhere.

          You were.

    2. I’ve actually been searched going into Canada (Thousand Islands Bridge). I’m talking opening up my shaving kit and everything. Thank Bob I wasn’t holding.

      But I’ve never gotten more than a couple questions coming back into the states.

      1. As long as you don’t say you’re a professional poker player, they might not have a problem.

    3. Travel with my kids. When we get off the plane from asia, they go into super-hyper-giga-snotnosed-punk mode.

      The customs geeks can’t get us out of there fast enough. They don’t even try to threaten me with the threat of barring them from entering the country because they realize I’d leave them there in a second.

    4. I went to Canada a few years ago by bus and had the opposite experience Entered through Detroit/Windsor and came back through Buffalo. There was like 10 people on the bus going into Canada and I was the only one questioned and searched. They even took my wallet and cellphone into some back room for about 10 minutes or so to do who-knows-what.

      Although it did take quite a while to get back into the US since the bus was full of Asian tourists or something. But I had all my stuff in order and was back on the bus in about 5 minutes. Didn’t even search my stuff!

  10. Same thing happened to our company president, in reverse. Canada turned him back at border because he said he was going to Canada to show our vendor how a new product needed to be fabricated. Oops, can’t do that without a work visa. The delay cost the Canadian vendor about two months shipments to us – half a million loonies. Next time he went up, he was advised he was going to attend a meeting and listen to a lecture.

    1. Except the Canadian customs officials are polite when they kick you out of their country.

      I’ve been jacked up by Canadian customs at least twice, but they were very polite and professional about it.

      Although I do admit while I was being jacked up, they were jacking up a nice brown skinned man and they didn’t seem to be as nice to him…. he was actually getting searched and double teamed by two armed Canadian customs guys. The nice urban man was getting frustrated because he was trying to comply with their stupid questions but they never seemed to be happy.

      I’ve never been jacked up at the American border, but they’re fucking rude about it anyway.

      1. I got shaken down by Canadian customs; the old “have you ever been arrested” routine. Since I have, multiple times, and I didn’t know what info they had, I said “one time”. They then said they were supposed to deny me entry, but for $200, I could come in this one time on some sort of bullshit temporary visa. Complete scam.

        My lesson: you can never lie enough to government officials. If I had said “no, never been arrested”, I guarantee they would never have been the wiser. Always lie 100%; even 90% doesn’t cut it.

        1. They’ve started this new bit in their stand-up routine where they ask me when the last time I was in Canada. The fuck should I know… I don’t remember what I had for dinner last night. Except now with the passports and the RFID chip, I can foresee a time when you say, “November 2009, no, December! I think…” and they’ll say “Pull over to the right, sir”.

        2. Be careful. I know of several people who were going to Canada to hunt or fish who lied about DUI arrests and they all were caught when the mounties checked.

          Big time fun and games for them.

          Basically, getting into Canada to hunt with a DUI on your record is getting to be nigh impossible.

          1. I’m not going back to Canada any time soon because of this, so it won’t be an issue. If I want to hunt I’ll do it here.

          2. I know a comely young lady who likes to date travelin’ men with a penchant for DUIs. None of her BFs can ever go to Canada.

    2. half a million loonies

      So, about $36 US?

      1. Other way around now.

        1. I just ballparked the amount f’n banks and their service fees

  11. Thank God. At least somebody is thinking about the children.

  12. Sounds like France. WE get this every time we renew our resident cards here, even though we are retirees from the US govt. We think they just don’t believe that anyone from the US has a decent pension and healthcare coverage – it just doesn’t compute.

  13. “I am a law-abiding, honest, wealthy and mobile Canadian[.]” I would have let him into the country on the basis of his rarity alone.

  14. retirees from the US govt. We think they just don’t believe that anyone from the US has a decent pension and healthcare coverage – it just doesn’t compute.

    Just reiterate that you’re retirees from the US government, say it forcefully, then they’ll realize you have the best pension and guaranteed healthcare in the country.

  15. He just doesn’t know how to cross the border without getting hassled. If he just came through the southern border, somewhere between California and Texas, he could have just walked across.

    1. Seriously, you’ve got to love it. They can stop this menace to society, but securing the Mexican border is impossible.

    2. I’m probably missing some great joke here, but its a hell of a lot easier to just walk across the Canadian border, and there are a lot more convenient places to do it than there are on the Mexican border. This guy’s problem was that he tried to follow the rules and do things by the book (silly Canadians).

  16. I am a law-abiding, honest, wealthy and mobile Canadian who wanted to come for two months, rent a property, buy groceries, pay fees to a school, spend money on entertainment, and leave.

    For this, I get treated like a criminal. Well, no more. I’m done with the United States.

    Not to worry, Harry Reid’s Travel Promotion Act of 2009 (signed into law on March 4, 2010) will more than make up the difference by taxing visitors to promote tourism.

    1. Oops! SugarFreed the link.
      Try this.

    1. Eight inches of laser-guided MAN JUSTICE

      And they say poetry is dead

  17. Sounds like every single one of my visits to the worthless Department of Motor Vehicles in Virginia. The Department of Homeland Security is a jobs program. That’s the reality of security theatre.

    1. I though the Virginia DMV was paradise after moving from DC ten years ago!

  18. I told them that I am a professional poker player with rental property in Hong Kong…

    Well, there’s the problem.

    Every CBP lackey knows Hong Kong is full of LaRouchians, or whatever those freedom-loving people are called.

  19. Is this your bar of soap?

    1. Is this your towel?

      We thought so.

      … Hobbit

  20. All you need to understand our country’s customs policy is that there are currently ~5.7 billion people on this planet who are guilty of wanting to immigrate illegally to the U.S.–until they can prove themselves innocent, of course.

  21. It’s about time Reason started covering MassiveImmigration from the NorthernBorder. Of course, leave it to Balko to turn a story about protecting America into a sob story about the PastyWhiteMenace not being able to get a job.

    Of course, I was already all over this with my blog two weeks before it happened.

    P.S. In case anyone replies to this, their responses will almost assuredly be ad homs, thereby conceding my points and showing the childish, anti-intellectual nature of libertarians. Dozens of comments here have shown that the phrase “fascist libertarian” isn’t an oxymoron.

  22. It’s about time that Reason covered the problem of MassiveImmgration on our NorthernBorder. Of course, leave it to Balko to turn a story about border guards heroically protecting America into a sob story about the PastyWhiteMenace not being able to steal our jobs.

    Of course, I was all over this on my blog two weeks before it happened.

    P.S. In case anyone replies to this, their responses will almost assuredly be ad homs, thereby conceding my points and showing the childish, anti-intellectual nature of libertarians. Dozens of comments here have shown that the phrase “fascist libertarian” isn’t an oxymoron.

    1. ad homs

    2. Kill the white man.

    3. Shut the fuck up, Hugh Akston.

    4. Shut the fuck up… oh, never mind.

    5. The post at 3:47 pm was not by me. I suggest you get some LegalCounsel, because you’re going to need it. BHO’s federal court system may not take the consequences of ImmigrationChaos seriously, but they still enforce slander laws.

  23. In the future this won’t be a problem, as no one in their right mind will want to come to the USA anymore.

  24. Government officials never tell the truth, so why should you?

  25. The unfortunate reality is that the laws obliglate most people intending to immigrate to the US legally to lie when asked these questions anyway.

    The H1-B being a notorious example. It’s technically a non-immigrant visa, but just about everyone on it intends to become a US resident.

    Also, the TN visa is supposed to be a non-immigrant visa, it’s supposed to be indefinitely renewable, but if they think you’re actually planning to indefinitely rewnew it they will turn it down.

    1. And as i am now a US resident, I will openly state that yes, I in fact, blatantly lied to INS officials when asked these questions every time I entered the US.

      I spent 10 years on a variety of F-1 H1-B and TN visas, all the while with a family sponsorship visa awaiting approval.

    2. What’s so unfortunate about this reality? Lying is fun.

  26. It’s pretty obvious that Chan was denied entry because the racist border guards decided that he was a Chinese immigrant who was just pretending to be Canadian. After all, if we let in every Chinese guy who wanted to move to the USA, we might experience economic growth or something!

    -jcr

    1. They were afraid he would use his poker winnings to stimulate the economy. Stimulating the economy is the government’s job. 😉

  27. Starchild is running again this year!

    1. oh ffs… wrong article

  28. I made Reason’s blog! This was totally worth it!

    1. now you have a new moniker: Terrence “the terrorist” Chan.

  29. I recall in my yoot (late ’50s, 60’s) that the US bragged about the “3000 miles of unguarded border with our friends in Canada” How quickly things change.

    FWIW, the two times that I crossed the Canadian border (once pre-9/11, once post) I was treated courteously and professionally.

    Coming back from Juarez in late ’01, tho, was hell!

    … Hobbit

    1. Not “unguarded,” “undefended.” There’s always been border control, but neither side has an active military presence at the border, and I believe that is what is (still?) unique about the US border.

      This story is all about the frankly bizarre mechanisms of border control (and the US is not unique in this matter). I’ve never been denied entry, but the US does appear to be getting weirder and more capricious about its entry rules. It’s not even strictly a 9/11 thing: I think it’s worse now than it was five years ago.

      The loss, of course, is not just denying Terrence entry (which is a pure economic loss to the US, albeit a small one). The real loss is that as entry becomes more problematic, people with money to spend will not even try.

Please to post comments

Comments are closed.