Some Nexus cards revoked on both sides of border following U.S. executive order
Border agencies in Canada and U.S. won't confirm travel ban on majority-Muslim countries to blame
Less than one week after U.S. President Donald Trump's travel ban against citizens of seven predominantly Muslim countries, two men — one a Canadian resident and another an American resident — suddenly had their Nexus cards revoked, both on the same day.
The surprise revocations came Wednesday and have both men raising questions about whether their countries of origin are the reason.
One of the men is a Syrian man with permanent resident status who has lived in Toronto since 2012 and regularly travels to the United States on business. Like many with roots in Syria, Iran, Iraq, Sudan, Somalia, Yemen and Libya, he was relieved to learn that he would not be among those barred from the U.S. by an executive order signed last Friday against passport-holders of those countries.
At least, that's what he thought.
"I knew for a fact that carrying a Syrian passport would eventually be a burden on my shoulders as a professional, as a human," the man told CBC Toronto, unsurprised.
- U.S. won't ban Canadian permanent residents, immigration minister says
- Canadian dual citizens can travel freely to the U.S. despite Trump travel ban
- Some countries won't be removed from U.S. travel ban, official says
But less than a week after the order was signed, the man who did not want to be identified for fear of repercussions, received a notice from U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) letting him know his Nexus card — not set to expire until 2021 — had suddenly been revoked.
'Under the microscope'
"I am a national of Syria and have a very obvious Muslim name," he said, adding that even with his card, he is regularly subjected to secondary screening. "Nothing but being under the microscope every time we travel."
The Toronto man isn't alone. CBC Toronto also spoke to a Seattle-area man of Iranian origin, who received the same notice on Wednesday saying he did not meet the eligibility criteria.
"I just want the world to consider us as regular human beings… Whether we're Mohammed, Ahmed or whatever, we're not a threat to the world."- Syrian Canadian permanent resident
"How come I met the requirements in November?" the 33-year-old asked after receiving the notice.
He told CBC Toronto that he and his wife cross the border virtually every other weekend so his in-laws in Canada can see their 18-month old baby.
"Do they think we will be extra dangerous next time?"
The notice states that their Nexus memberships have been revoked because they do not meet the eligibility requirements for programs under the U.S. Trusted Traveler umbrella.
Becoming a Nexus member involves extensive in-person screening — as well as travel, employment and criminal history — and gives pre-clearance to those approved, letting them avoid long wait times at designated ports of entry when travelling between Canada and the United States.
Both memberships were revoked just days after the federal government reassured Canadian citizens and permanent residents they would be able to travel to the U.S., amid widespread confusion around the impact of the executive order.
Nexus criteria completely discretionary, says lawyer
Immigration Minister Ahmed Hussen said Sunday that the White House has given assurances that permanent residents of Canada can enter the U.S. provided they have a valid Canadian permanent resident card and passport from one of the seven affected countries. He didn't mention the possible impact on Nexus memberships.
In order to have a Nexus membership cancelled or revoked, a person would have to violate immigration or customs laws, provide false information or be unable to satisfy either CBP or its Canadian counterpart that they are "low-risk."
That's something Toronto-based lawyer Cyndee Todgham Cherniak says is completely up to the agent.
"Quite frankly the Americans take away Nexus cards for very discretionary reasons at times," Todgham Cherniak said, adding that she once had a client whose card was revoked because his wife had a muffin in her purse.
But she suspects the reason for these revocations is far less trivial, saying it is likely Trump's executive order is being used to revisit the Nexus vetting process. Meaning individuals from the seven countries will need to go through the screening again or simply won't be approved.
"All this is creating a bottleneck in the system based on nationality," Todgham Cherniak said. "But you won't see much in writing that that was the reason."
'They're not going to change their attitudes'
Asked if the executive order will impact Nexus members, the Canadian Border Services Agency could not provide a response.
U.S. Customs and Border Protection would also not confirm a connection between the travel ban and the Nexus card revocations, or whether the Department of Homeland Security is reviewing the vetting process, or if having a passport from one of the listed restricted countries means they are no longer eligible for the program.
It would also not answer how many Nexus holders' memberships have been revoked following the order.
For his part, the Seattle man says he likely won't appeal the revocation.
"My hopes are very minute about this that anything will change because they're doing much worse things to other people... They're not going to change their attitudes because of me."
The Toronto man agrees.
"Enough is enough," he said. "I just want to live in peace. I just want the world to consider us as regular human beings… Whether we're Mohammed, Ahmed or whatever, we're not a threat to the world."
See a copy of the revocation below: