An Australian man was detained at the US-Canada border for overstaying his visa by 90 minutes, according to his American girlfriend.
The couple intended to cross into Canada in order to comply with the conditions of Baxter Reid’s visa, which required him to leave the US every six months. They were delayed first because their car kept breaking down on their way up to the border, where they arrived at 10pm on April 23, and then because Canadian officials kept them waiting for hours. By the time they decided to turn Reid over to US border patrol, it was 1:30 am, and his visa had expired at midnight.
Kansco says that Canadian officials were afraid that Reid’s American visa would get rejected and that he would then become Canada’s problem, the Sydney Morning Herald reported.
After he was turned over to the US side, he was detained.
“This is where all the real problems began: they threw Baxter in cuffs and escorted him to prison … This is going to make a criminal out of an innocent man,” she said, according to The Guardian.
Reid has reportedly been held in a detention center in Buffalo, New York, and Kansco started a crowdfunding campaign to cover his legal fees. The Australian consulate is also seeking answers.
GoFundMe, which hosted the crowdfunding campaign, froze the account on Wednesday (May 3), after questions were raised about Kansco’s account. Experts that say no visa requirement to leave the country every six months exists, The New York Times reported. They said that exiting and re-entering the country right away does not make the visa valid, and that the couple risked getting caught. This falls in line with what Customs and Border Patrol (CBP) told Quartz in a May 2 statement.
CBP said that Reid could have avoided the situation. “The proper procedure for requesting an extension of stay while in the US is to file an application with US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) before the individual’s authorized stay expires.” They also added that if CBP encounters an individual without valid travel or immigration documents, they are “detained and held by U.S. Immigration and Custom Enforcement’s Enforcement and Removal Operations until they appear before an immigration judge.”
The US-Canadian border has become a hotspot amid the Trump administration’s immigration crackdown. Asylum seekers — which Reid is not — are trying to illegally cross over en masse from the United States, increasingly so as the weather warms up. In March, Canadian authorities caught nearly 900 people trying to come into the country, triple the number from January. The number of asylum seekers is on track to be the highest in six years, Reuters reported in April.
This story was updated on May 4 with news about the GoFundMe account and the views of experts.