Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale says the government is trying to seek assurances that dual nationals can still use their Nexus cards at the U.S. border, after some Canadians had their trusted-traveller passes revoked since the Trump immigration ban was signed last week.
The Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) said it is aware of some Nexus members having their cards removed or denied, but did not link those cases to President Donald Trump's directive ordering a 90-day ban on the entry of people from seven Muslim-majority countries: Iran, Iraq, Syria, Sudan, Libya, Yemen and Somalia. Speaking during the daily Question Period Friday, Mr. Goodale said Canada will urge the United States to apply the Nexus rules fairly.
"Obviously, at a governmental level, we will be working with our American counterparts to make sure that the rules are properly and fairly administered, and that Canadians have the access that they are entitled to with a Canadian passport," Mr. Goodale told the House of Commons.
"We want to make sure that Canadians entitled to a Nexus card, which is discretionary on both sides of the border, are in fact treated properly and fairly."
Mr. Goodale's office also reminded Canadians that their passport is their official travel document, adding that a Nexus card is just a "discretionary tool."
Nexus cards give "low-risk, preapproved travellers" preclearance at designated ports of entry when travelling between Canada and the United States, allowing them to avoid long lineups and waiting times.
In order to become a Nexus member, applicants must go through a rigorous screening process, including an application form, where they provide information about their work, travel and residence history, and an in-person interview with a CBSA or U.S. Customs and Border Protection officer. Applicants pay a $50 processing fee for a five-year membership; for children under the age of 18, it's free. As of December, 2016, there were 1.49 million members in the Nexus program – the majority of which are Canadians, according to the CBSA.
Toronto lawyer Cyndee Todgham Cherniak said she has heard from six or seven Canadians who have had their Nexus cards revoked since the Trump directive was signed last week. She said some of the individuals have dual citizenship with one of the seven countries named in Mr. Trump's immigration ban while others only have Canadian citizenship, with no ties to any of the affected countries.
Ms. Todgham Cherniak said each of the individuals received a letter from U.S. Customs and Border Protection telling them they were no longer eligible for Nexus membership, with no further details provided. Because none of them have broken customs or immigration laws, provided false information or been convicted of any crimes, she said she can only assume that they have been deemed by the United States to not be of "good character," a determination that can be made by U.S. officials to strip an individual's Nexus membership.
"The U.S. must be taking the position that if you come from one of these seven countries, then you're no longer a good character," Ms. Todgham Cherniak said. "It's nothing that they've done, an action that they've taken – it's based on where they were born."
U.S. Customs and Border Protection did not respond to a request for comment regarding the impacts of the immigration ban on Nexus card holders.
Mr. Goodale said Friday that there is an appeal process in place for people who feel they have been treated unfairly in having their Nexus cards revoked. However, Ms. Todgham Cherniak said that process is not simple for Canadians, as it often takes months for the U.S. ombudsman to respond to complaints and little transparency is provided. She called on Mr. Goodale to intervene directly.
"What would be preferable would be to have Minister Goodale work with the U.S. Department of Homeland Security to have a fair, transparent [appeal] process."
The minister's response also wasn't good enough for Conservative immigration critic Michelle Rempel, who said the government needs to be more transparent and vocal in its efforts to protect Canadians' interests as the Trump administration makes decisions. "I think that the government has to do a lot better than what they did in the House of Commons today because there's going to be a lot of people who may be affected by this who simply want clarity," Ms. Rempel told reporters.
Last weekend, Immigration Minister Ahmed Hussen said the government received assurances from the United States that Canadian dual citizens and permanent residents in Canada who are citizens of one of the seven countries named in the ban will still be allowed to cross the border. However, a State Department official added Friday that permanent residents of Canada who hold passports of a restricted country must obtain a visa to enter the U.S. and can only do so through a Canadian land border or port of entry with preclearance services.