Sunday, September 19, 2010

Kidnapped Canadian: "I'm Just Looking for a Way Home"

On April 30, 2010 I received the first of dozens of email messages with the subject heading "Kidnapped Canadian." They were from Rachel and Kenneth Murray Danard (he goes by his middle name), Canadian citizens who reside in Alberta. On occasion I changed the message headings to reflect the specific topic, e.g., "FOIA waiver form," but inevitably it was changed back. After receiving Mr. Danard's alien file from the immigration court and reviewing the hearing recordings, I understood why. What started out as a family vacation to Mexico turned into a nightmarish two months of Arizona prison life.

Their documents provide insight not only into Mr. Danard's own case, but shed light on systemic problems that pervade the immigration courts and jails. The moral and legal indignities visited on Mr. Danard include Border Patrol agents arresting him in violation of the policies for arriving tourists, not providing him a copy of his immigration charges, and then lying about this (a federal crime); Department of Homeland Security prosecutors abusing the procedures for filing a Motion to Reopen in order to extort a "win" for the government (Robert Barthlemay was the Florence DHS prosecutor who pursued this); an immigration adjudicator (Bruce Taylor) looking the other way and rubber-stamping the coerced agreement; and, especially upsetting, Immigration and Customs Enforcement Deportation Officers keeping Mr. Danard in confinement for weeks after Mr. Taylor had authorized Mr. Danard's return and a plane ticket home had been procured.


In mid-October, 2008 Rachel and Murray, a field machinist, flew to Mexico for a long-awaited vacation. At some point they encountered these two dogs, then emaciated stray puppies, and decided to rescue them. To save money they decided to return home by car, and bought a used VW.

Border Patrol in El Paso waved them through on November 11, and the Danards entered Canada on November 20. However, the car, which was good enough to enter the United States, was not up to Canadian standards. They decided to turn around and sell the car in Montana.

That's when their lives changed. Instead of allowing them back into the U.S. after confirming their Canadian citizenship, a U.S. border patrol agent instructed Murray, but not Rachel, to fill out a visa form. "I am convinced that my choice to wear my hair long and never shave led to a type of discrimination others must suffer constantly," Mr. Danard told me later.

In filling out the visa form he honestly admitted to a 1984 burglary conviction, a crime that occurred when he was 17. This could possibly be construed as a Crime Involving Moral Turpitude, and thus grounds for inadmissibility (although an immigration adjudicator later ruled that absent government evidence to the contrary this was a "petty offense exception" and hence Mr. Danard was actually admissible).

In the event, the Customs procedures advise agents not to arrest Canadians in this circumstance but only to prevent their entry.

Instead of turning him around or allowing him in, the Border Patrol agents at Sweetgrass Montana, including Officer Larry Allen, arranged for him to be arrested and sent to an immigration jail.

Rachel described a wrenching scene of her being pushed out of the Montana office with the puppies, and watching her husband being kidnapped, sent first to solitary confinement in a local jail and then to a private prison in Florence, Arizona, where he was held through the Christmas holidays and not released until January 20, 2009.

[More later, on how Mr. Danard's initial court victory circumventing ICE's custody of him actually led to weeks more in ICE custody.]

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