A young woman from Gatineau, Que., says she was strip-searched and stranded in Windsor, Ont., in the middle of the night by U.S. border officials.
"It was a horrible experience," said Nina Vroemen, 20, who was on her way to volunteer at a California organic farm. "There was no need for that humiliation and mistreatment of a young female Canadian volunteer."
As of Wednesday morning, U.S. immigration officials had not returned calls about the case.
Vroemen, who studies theatre at Concordia University, set off from Montreal on May 5 on a Greyhound bus. She had found the volunteer job in California through World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms, and thought she would explore the U.S. by bus on the way there. She had previously volunteered through WWOOF in Europe.
"You can go to a farm anywhere in the world and help out," she told CBC's Ottawa Morning Wednesday. "You gain friends and experience…you travel, it's low cost and you feel good."
The bus arrived at the Windsor-Detroit border at 2 a.m., and Vroemen was interviewed about her plans by a U.S. border guard.
"He was trying to make it seem like … because I was getting room and board, that was considered being paid," Vroemen. "He told me that I was taking jobs from American citizens because I was going to help out on this community workshop."
'I watched the bus leave'
The guard asked for official documentation. She provided her WWOOF membership and password, but he said it wasn't enough, and denied her entry.
"They told me to take off all my stuff from the bus and I watched the bus leave," she recalled. "Two women came with blue latex gloves … I was just in a panic."
She was told to take off everything except her jumper and was patted down. Then she was fingerprinted and photographed.
"This photograph is me in tears," she recalled.
With that image on record, Vroemen said she is afraid to cross the border again.
Border officials ordered a taxi to send her to the Windsor bus station, even though Vroemen said it was probably closed and she had no Canadian money.
When she arrived at the station, the doors were locked, but a security guard directed her to a women's shelter. The beds were full, but she spent the night on the couch. The next morning, she managed to buy a new bus ticket and return home.
She said she doesn't think she will make another attempt to get to the volunteer job in California.
That's just despicable.... if they put their brain cells together, looked up the information to confirm her situation and story to be true (Google it jeez, it takes like 10 seconds of their time) they'd know she was telling the truth.
Instead, it sounds like some boarder guard acting on their own paranoid prejudice and power trip.