A 30-year-old Canadian man from Vancouver was denied entry into the United States after immigration officers searched his laptop and social media accounts, including Scruff and BBRT.
André, a 30-year-old Vancouver set decorator who declined to give his full name for fear of retaliation from US Customs, describes the experience as “humiliating.”
André says he was planning to visit his boyfriend, who was working in New Orleans. But when he was going through Customs preclearance at Vancouver airport last October, he was selected for secondary inspection, where an officer took his phone, computer and other possessions, and demanded the passwords for his devices.
“I didn’t know what to do. I was scared, so I gave them the password and then I sat there for at least an hour or two. I missed my flight,” André says. “He came back and just started grilling me. ‘Is this your email?’ and it was an email attached to a Craigslist account for sex ads. He asked me, ‘Is this your account on Scruff? Is this you on BBRT?’ I was like, ‘Yes, this is me.’”
When the officer asked him what he meant by “looking for loads,” André says he tried to explain, but the officer kept grilling him.
“I could tell just by his nature that he had no intentions of letting me through. They were just going to keep asking me questions looking for something,” he says. “So I asked for the interrogation to stop. I asked if I go back to Canada am I barred for life? He said no, so I accepted that offer.”
André attempted to visit his boyfriend again a month later, but this time he brought several pieces of documentation (bills, apartment lease, pay stubs) to indicate that he had every intention of returning to Vancouver. He even deleted the social media apps to avoid any confusion. But that only made the officers more suspicious.
“They said, ‘Next time you come through, don’t have a cleared phone,’ and that was it. I wasn’t let through. He said I’m a suspected escort. You can’t really argue with them because you’re trapped,” he says.
André says between the two airline tickets (non-refundable) and hotel reservations, he lost over $1,200.