B.C. actor banned from U.S. wins surprise reprieve
A 31-year-old Vancouver actor who was banned from entering the U.S. for five years – putting the brakes on his budding Hollywood career – has won an unexpected reprieve after a year-long social media campaign fueled by his fans.
Chad Rook was the victim of "expedited removal" – a sometimes-abused provision where U.S. border guards can turn Canadians away and refuse them entry for five years or more, with little justification and virtually no chance of reversal.
The actor who has appeared in the TV series Supernatural was headed to Los Angeles last January to seek film industry parts when border officers at the Peace Arch crossing decided he hadn't been clear enough about his aim of working in the U.S. and slapped him with the ban after a nine-hour interrogation.
Rook insists he told them the trip was a mix of business and pleasure and he had no intention of working in the States illegally – he already had an L.A. lawyer to prepare his work visa but couldn't formally apply until he secured a job.
Banned from crossing the border, he spent most of 2013 considering whether to submit a costly waiver application that his lawyers warned had little chance of success.
Then, on Dec. 30, Rook got a letter telling him the ban was rescinded, on the authority of the director of U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) in Seattle.
"Thank you so much to everyone for all the support during this fight," Rook tweeted.
Blaine lawyer Len Saunders, one of the attorneys who aided Rook, said it's extremely rare for U.S. authorities to review and rescind border bans.
"As an actor it would have killed his career," Saunders said. "It should never have happened. He may have lost out on a whole bunch of opportunities over the last year."
He said CBP officials deserve credit for the reversal, but added the publicity was likely a factor.
"There has to be a mechanism to get these rescinded other than going to the press."
Rook isn't the only B.C. resident fighting an expedited removal order.
A retired Abbotsford church minister represented by Saunders is still battling a five-year ban imposed after he temporarily filled in for a pastor at a Lynden church without properly declaring his purpose for visiting the U.S.
So far the minister is out $1,200 in filing fees but is no closer to securing a waiver to re-enter the U.S. again.
Such treatment would be incomprehensible to Americans, Saunders said.
"Can you imagine a U.S. minister going somewhere and getting a five-year bar? Freedom of religion? People would just be up in arms."
The B.C. Chamber of Commerce is among several groups that are part of a U.S. lawsuit aiming to quash the expedited removal process, on the basis it's too arbitrary and easily abused.
B.C. business leaders say it creates too much uncertainty for vital cross-border enterprise, potentially throwing a company's affairs into chaos if a key manager or the CEO was barred from travel to the U.S.
Bellingham immigration lawyer Greg Boos is spearheading the legal challenge and said a decision could come soon.
The likeliest outcome, he said, is not a final decision by the U.S. ninth circuit court of appeals considering the case, but a referral of it back for a full hearing.