A 19-year-old Canadian of Moroccan descent was turned away at the U.S. border on Thursday, less than a week after four other Moroccan-Canadians were also rejected by customs officials.
Their refusals come amid a court battle over President Donald Trump’s executive order that would ban refugees and visitors from seven predominantly Muslim countries, which does not include Morocco. And on Monday, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is expected to push Trump to respect the open borders between the two countries during the pair’s first official meeting in Washington.
Yassine Aber, a kinesiology student in Sherbrooke, Quebec, attempted to cross the border into Vermont to attend a university track meet in Boston with four teammates and their coach. Aber was born in Canada to Moroccan parents and was traveling with his Canadian passport, according to CBC News.
Aber told reporters that U.S. border agents held him for five hours, questioned him in detail about his parents, and forced him to hand over his phone and provide the password to unlock it. Eventually, they told him he was denied entry, but his teammates and coach could go through.
“It’s just sad that I couldn’t compete with my colleagues, my friends,” Aber told the news outlet. “We trained for a long time to show what we’re able to do.”
Last Saturday, a Montreal woman born in Morocco was denied entry while traveling with her children and cousin to go shopping in Burlington, Vermont.
Fadwa Alaoui told CBC that she was questioned for four hours and asked about her Muslim faith and her opinion of President Trump. Like Aber, she says she too was asked for the password to her cell phone, which the officials examined for an hour.
“I felt humiliated, treated as if I was less than nothing,” she told reporters. “It’s as if I wasn’t Canadian.” Alaoui’s cousin, Fadela Boutaleb, said she was also questioned by an agent for hours.
“He asked if Moroccans like Americans,” she said. “He asked if I wear the niqab and if I do the Hajj, the pilgrimage.”
In all cases, the U.S. Customs and Border Protection agency has discretion over who it lets in or not, and does not disclose their reasoning. People can submit complaints to the agency if they feel they have been mistreated or turned away arbitrarily.
Canada’s Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale encouraged Canadians to go through the appeal process and, in the case of the Montreal woman and her family, pledged to take their case to the U.S. government.
Goodale also faced heat this week as 200 people in Canada say they have been denied entry with the Nexus cards since Trump’s executive order was issued. The cards allow travellers with special clearance to cross into the U.S. with greater ease than those without the cards.
Even before Trump issued his immigration ban, a number of Canadians were denied entry to the U.S. in the lead up to the Presidential inauguration and the Women’s March on Washington last month.
In a statement to reporters at the time, Goodale’s spokesperson said that “Every country is sovereign and able to make its own rules to admit people and goods to manage its immigration framework, health and safety.”