Controversial “Pre-Clearance Act” Expands Power of American Border Guards on Canadian Soil


A controversial Canadian bill that expands the powers of U.S. border officers working in pre-clearance zones on Canadian soil was recently given Royal Assent and is set to become law. Championed by Canada’s centrist Liberal Party, Bill C-23—commonly referred to as the Pre-Clearance Act—has been criticized as overly broad, with the potential to open the door to human rights violations.

In May 2017, a national coalition of 43 Canadian civil society organizations called the International Civil Liberties Monitoring Group voiced their concerns about Bill C-23 to Parliament. They questioned the purpose of the bill, noting that no evidence has been presented to the public that security measures need to be increased. The ICLMG’s brief and recommendations can be found here.

Broadly speaking, C-23 increases the powers afforded to American border officers working in Canadian pre-clearance zones and eliminates crucial existing restrictions. Key concerns raised by Canadian immigration attorneys include:

  • U.S. border guards will be authorized to conduct strip searches and internal cavity searches when Canadian officers are “unable or unwilling” to do so. The broad language used appears to authorize U.S. border officials to conduct these searches even when Canadian officers deem them unnecessary or inappropriate.

  • U.S. border guards will be allowed to carry firearms. They have not been permitted to do so in pre-clearance zones under previous legislation.

  • Should a Canadian traveler attempt to enter the U.S. but change their mind for any reason, including feelings of discomfort or concern about their interactions with border officials, U.S. officials will be permitted to detain and interrogate them. Previously, the traveler would have been able to withdraw and return to Canada at any time. C-23 also eliminates a provision that barred U.S. border officials from using a citizen’s withdrawal from pre-clearance procedures as “reasonable grounds for suspicion” to detain them or work with Canadian officials to take steps like arresting the traveler.

The above issues are particularly concerning because, although the bill states that U.S. officials must still act in accordance with Canadian laws, it provides no clear legal remedy to travelers whose rights have been violated. Instead, according to the Canadian Muslim Lawyers Association, the bill “provides explicit blanket immunity” to pre-clearance officers, and only allows travelers to hold the U.S. government responsible in cases of property damage, injury, or death. Notably, there is no legal mechanism through which Canadians can hold U.S. officers responsible for discrimination, despite a recent rise in allegations of discrimination at the border. Under Bill C-23, U.S. officers in pre-clearance zones would be “virtually unaccountable,” said Vance Langford, chair of the National Immigration Law Section of the Canadian Bar Association.

The full text of the finalized bill is available on the Canadian Parliament’s website.

If you have questions about the provisions or implications of Bill C-23, including how it may affect your ability to enter the U.S. temporarily or permanently, please reach out to us. We look forward to assisting you with your immigration matter.

SRW Border Lawyers Successfully Guides Client Through Removal Proceedings & I-192 Waiver Process

Background: Client, a naturalized Canadian citizen, initially approached SRW after she was placed in removal proceedings. CBP Officials placed Client in removal proceedings because she had attempted to enter the U.S. without a waiver after CBP Officials had previously advised her that she was inadmissible pursuant to INA § 212(a)(2)(A)(i)(I) and INA § 212(a)(6)(C)(i) and required a waiver. Notably, Client had initially been informed of her inadmissibility when she was only a permanent resident of Canada and mistakenly believed that she no longer required a waiver to enter the U.S. since she was now a Canadian citizen.

With the assistance of SRW, Client admitted to the factual allegations of her Notice to Appear and conceded her removability. SRW also prepared a Motion to Withdraw Application for Admission on Client’s behalf, which ultimately was granted by the Immigration Judge.

Following the conclusion of Client’s removal proceedings, Client retained SRW to assist her with obtaining a nonimmigrant waiver to overcome her inadmissibility to the U.S.

Grounds of Inadmissibility: INA § 212(a)(2)(A)(i)(I) – Two (2) Theft Convictions that occurred over nineteen (19) years ago; and INA § 212(a)(6)(C)(i) – Misrepresentation stemming from her failure to disclose her criminal convictions on a B1/B2 visa application over ten (10) years ago.

SRW Waiver Strategy: Evidence of Rehabilitation (no criminal issues since 1997, no immigration issues since being placed in removal proceedings in 2010, demonstrated remorse, productive member of community); Compelling reasons for entry (many family members living in the U.S. including her only living parent, siblings and extended family members).

Application Type: I-192, Application for Advance Permission to Enter as Nonimmigrant

Adjudicating Agency: Admissibility Review Office (Filed @ Peace Bridge Port of Entry in Buffalo, New York)

Purpose of Entry into U.S.: Business and Pleasure Visits [B-1/B-2]

Adjudication Time: 240 Days

Canadian Citizen With Another I-192 Waiver Approval

Application Type: I-192, Application for Advance Permission to Enter as Nonimmigrant

Adjudication Time: 129 Days

Adjudicating Agency: Admissibility Review Office (Filed @ Edmonton International Airport in Edmonton, Alberta)

Grounds of Inadmissibility: INA §212(a)(2)(A)(i)(I) – (3) Convictions for Crimes Involving Moral Turpitude (Three (3) Breaking & Entering Offenses from the mid-1980s)

Purpose of Entry into U.S.: Business & Pleasure Visits [B1/B2] – Attend business meetings and trainings in the U.S. and vacation to the U.S.; Employment in H-1B, O-1 or TN

SRW Strategy: Evidence of Rehabilitation (no encounters with the law in over twenty-five (25) years, received a pardon for all criminal offenses in 2013, compliance with terms of previous waiver approvals, record of success in personal and professional lives)

Approval Period: Five (5) Years

Another I-192 Waiver Approved For Max Five Years

Application Type: I-192, Application for Advance Permission to Enter as Nonimmigrant

Adjudication Time: 102 Days

Adjudicating Agency: Admissibility Review Office (Filed @ Peace Bridge Port of Entry in Buffalo, New York)

Grounds of Inadmissibility: INA §212(a)(2)(A)(i)(I) – Conviction for Crime Involving Moral Turpitude (2000 Conviction for Theft Over $5,000)

Purpose of Entry into U.S.: Business & Pleasure Visits [B1/B2] – Visit with family and friends in the U.S., vacation to the U.S., attend tradeshows that are held in the U.S., and travel with clients to the U.S.; Employment in H-1B, L-1 or TN

SRW Strategy: Evidence of Rehabilitation (no criminal issues since 2000, on-going compliance with U.S. immigration laws – complied with all terms and conditions of previous waiver approvals and parole authorizations, respected businessperson, active member of community)

Approval Period: Five (5) Years