Truth will take you across the Canada-U.S. border

by Daniel Joyce

Last month, I described how the INS can find a way to deny you entry to the U.S. even when the law is technically on your side. This is because the INS has broad discretion to make subjective decisions.

In the case I described, a driver wondered whether pending criminal charges prevented him from entering the U.S. Legally, they did not, but the INS officer found a way to deny him entry anyway, saying that she didn’t believe the driver was really coming in as a visitor.

Contrast that with the case of a driver who did everything by the book.

This driver had a recent criminal record because of a domestic matter. Tempers escalated and a gun had entered the picture. No shots were fired, but the circumstances were severe enough to lead to multiple assault charges and weapons possession charges.

The driver called me, distraught, believing that he would be forever barred from the U.S. I asked him for an exact summary of the charges against him and told him that simple assault was not a crime of moral turpitude. He shouldn’t be barred with one or more charges of simple assault, with no jail time. Neither is possessing a weapon a crime of moral turpitude.

On the other hand, assault with a weapon would probably close the border to him. But since no jail time was imposed in the case, the sheer number of offenses did not matter as long as the crimes did not fall under the “moral turpitude” category.

About a month later, he called the office in disbelief. He went to the border and was immediately pulled over into secondary inspection. An inspector began to search the vehicle and he feared for the worst.

When asked if he had ever been arrested, he said that he had, offering information about the charges and producing a written explanation I had provided. After a short review, the inspector told him he was free to go. To the driver’s surprise, the inspector thanked him also for being so well prepared and forthright.

If you know you are legally admissible, go about your entry in a way that shows that you are telling the whole story. n

– Daniel Joyce can be reached at Hirsch and Joyce, Attorneys at Law, at 716-564-2727.

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