Article by Perrin Grauer, Star Vancouver
An American law firm is suing U.S. Customs and Border Protection over its refusal to disclose documents detailing its authority for handing out lifetime bans on entry to the U.S. to Canadian cannabis workers.
While U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) has broad discretion to question travellers to the United States on any number of subjects, the legal mandate by which its officers are empowered to permanently ban Canadians who work in the cannabis industry is unclear, said John McKay, a former U.S. attorney with the Department of Justice.
“I want to know what their authority is to ban people or to threaten to ban people and to cause fear among law-abiding Canadians who want to enter the United States,” McKay, now a partner with the plaintiff in the suit, Davis Wright Tremaine LLP, said in an interview.
Citing a July 2018 article in The Star that first reported the practice of border bans for Canadian cannabis workers, the suit alleges CBP has improperly withheld documents requested by McKay’s law firm under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA).
The suit, filed last week in a Washington federal district court, claims the CBP ran out the clock on its window to respond to the firm’s FOIA request and failed to give any notice of an application for an extension. McKay said the lawsuit’s aim is to force the release of the requested documents, which would reveal the legal basis behind CBP’s banning of cannabis workers, and to obtain an award for attorney’s fees and costs related to the suit.
In doing so, he added, he hopes to uncover whether the enforcement of such a policy is actually legal under U.S. law. A central federal agency such as Homeland Security could be providing CBP officers with direction to implement border bans, he noted. If that is indeed the case, “we may or may not have a basis for legal action because of the way they’re treating folks who want to enter the United States,” he said.