When Sasha Dyck crossed the Canadian border in 2009 to attend Barack Obama’s first inauguration, he said border agents high-fived him on the way in.
But when the Montrealer tried this week to enter the United States for the Women’s March on Washington, he said he was denied entry.
Dyck and his seven traveling companions arrived at the border connecting Quebec with Champlain, New York Thursday afternoon. The group, divided between two cars, had six Canadians and two French nationals, Dyck said.
Members of the group were mostly strangers who had found each other online to travel together to Washington, he said.
When the U.S. border agents checked their passports and asked them about their plans, Dyck said they told them they intended to march. They asked if they planned to disrupt the inauguration, to which they said, “no.” Agents then made them pull over and searched their cars. They held the group for two hours, Dyck said, checking their mobile phones and taking their finger prints.
In an interview Saturday, Dyck, a 34-year-old father of two young daughters, said the message from the agents was clear: “You’re not welcome this weekend.”
They were also told, “If you try and cross again this weekend, you’ll be arrested.”
Dyck, a nurse who went to Goshen College in Indiana for his undergradate degree, said he was saddened by America’s election of Donald Trump and wanted to join the march to show his solidarity. He said he had tentative plans to stand along the parade route Friday and turn his back when Trump passed.
“All I know is I got high-fived in 2009, everyone was so happy, it was one giant party, and now it seems very different,” he said. “Perhaps the whole country is more on edge.”
Dyck’s group apparently was not the only one sent away at the Canadian border. Joseph Decunha told the CBC that when he tried to cross Thursday night a border agent asked him: “Are you anti-or pro-Trump?” He said he was told protesting was not a valid reason to be allowed entry into the United States.
In an emailed statement, the U.S. Customs and Border Protection said it could not discuss individual cases, but that it “strives to treat all travelers with respect and in a professional manner, while maintaining the focus of our mission to protect all citizens and visitors in the United States.”
The agency also noted that it can deny entry for many reasons, but that of the 1 million individuals that come to the U.S. internationally each day, on average only 600 are denied.
Dyck was disappointed that he wasn’t able to be in Washington, but instead he took his two daughters to the sister march in Montreal, where he said they are having a great time. A sister march was also held in Toronto headed for the U.S. consulate there.
And, he reasoned, speaking out about being turned away might be a more powerful action than actually being in Washington.