By Beeber, Al on October 21, 2020.
Members of southern Alberta and Montana Hutterite colonies are crying foul about treatment by U.S. Customs officers at the Coutts/Sweetgrass border crossing.
Several colonies have reported difficulties trying to cross back into the United States after visiting family members in Alberta during the COVID-19 pandemic.
One woman, a 58-year-old from a colony near Sweetgrass, Mont., told The Herald she was returning from visiting her daughter near Lethbridge in June when she had difficulties trying to enter the U.S.
She and another woman were chastised by a U.S. border guard for having two bags of luggage each, telling them they could only return with one.
The woman who spoke to The Herald said she brought both anyway and was forced to walk past the Duty Free on the U.S. side toward a waiting colony vehicle south of that store.
The colony vehicle wasn’t allowed to pick them up at U.S. Customs, she said.
“He said ‘follow the road to Duty Free and pray it doesn’t rain,'” she said.
“I’m 58 years old and it was quite a walk. I can’t see why they say the border is open to immediate family” when American citizens are treated like that, she said.
“They were real shysters, just real a–holes that day,” said the woman, who never before had trouble returning home before COVID border restrictions were implemented.
The Montana woman said entering at Alberta wasn’t problematic, though.
“They were excellent; we had to go into Immigration and just provide a name and a phone number for quarantine.”
Under rules established by Canada and the U.S., non-essential travel at shared land ports of entry has been limited due to COVID.
Essential travellers, by U.S. standards, include “citizens and lawful permanent residents returning to the United States.”
Canada allows entry to people visiting family members who are citizens or permanent residents of this country. Those visitors must demonstrate they plan on staying in Canada for at least 15 days.
While in Canada, the woman was called twice to make sure she was following the 14-day quarantine and wonders if she would have been treated the same at U.S. Customs if she wasn’t a Hutterite since returning home had never been problematic before COVID.
The stress of her treatment, the woman said, gave her a severe migraine.
“The one at the window was the rudest of them all.”
Details of several incidents were brought to The Herald by a Welling woman who is neighbours with Hutterites.
In a June incident, a 34-year-old Hutterite woman returning to the U.S. from a colony reported walking multiple times from a truck in Canada to one in the U.S., carrying luggage while being accompanied by her four children.
In another case involving a different colony, an American man on Sept. 24 was allowed to drive to his wife’s birth colony in Alberta where she self-isolated in an empty suite next to her parents’ home.
On Oct. 24, when returning to the U.S. at the Sweetgrass crossing, she allegedly had difficulties with four border guards over documentation she carried.
After being cleared, the woman – who was seven-and-a-half months pregnant, had to walk to her husband’s vehicle, again parked a distance from the border, making two trips with baby gifts because U.S. Customs wouldn’t let her brother on the Alberta side assist her.
The limitations on travel on non-essential travel between Canada and the U.S. was extended on Sept. 18 at land ports of entry until at least Nov. 21.
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