Customs Officials Protect America from Wealthy Canadian Who Wanted to Spend Money Here

Tuesday, November 2nd, 2010

Canadian poker pro Terrence Chan has twice been turned away at the U.S. border by customs officials. He describes the first time, a week ago Thursday:

After an hour of waiting, I made it to the front, where I was asked the usual questions. Where do I live? What do I do for work? What is the purpose of my trip? How long will I be there? I answered every question with what would turn out to be the worst possible answer — the truth. I told them that I am a professional poker player with rental property in Hong Kong and Vancouver, and that I was going down to train martial arts for two months, including participating in a major tournament. I made it very clear I had no plans to stay in the United States past December.

They told me to sit down.

About 30 minutes later, I was asked another round of questions. These questions from the same officer were much more accusatory. How could I prove I wasn’t trying to stay in the states indefinitely? What ties do I have to Canada? What ties do I have to Hong Kong? What assurances can you give that you will leave the US? I answered that I own property outside of the US that I have to manage, that all my family lives outside of Canada, that I have poker sponsorship opportunities awaiting me in the Asia-Pacific region.

“But none of these things prove that you will leave the U.S.”

I was told to sit back down, and waited for another 30 minutes. I was then called up again, taken to the back, fingerprinted, and told to sit back down.

They denied him entry. Yesterday Chan tried again, this time armed with a mountain of paperwork.

They went through every piece of paperwork I had and found something wrong with it in one way or another. I had last month’s internet bill in Vancouver and my electric bill in Hong Kong; they now told me I needed six months of bills. They said I needed credit card statements with activity to prove I was spending time in those places. They said I needed a job with pay stubs, and they said that that job had to be where I was physically present, such that it would not be possible for me to do it in the States. They didn’t like that my plane ticket from Vancouver to Hong Kong was only for two months, even though neither of those places is in the United States. He even tried to twist my words of “I’m going to train martial arts” as meaning that I was going to work illegally. “If you don’t have a visa for that, you can’t come in.”

Quite simply, they never had any intent of letting me in the country, no matter what I showed, said, or did. There is no conceivable way that I could have convinced them otherwise. I was fingerprinted again and once again shown the door…

I am a law-abiding, honest, wealthy and mobile Canadian who wanted to come for two months, rent a property, buy groceries, pay fees to a school, spend money on entertainment, and leave.

For this, I get treated like a criminal. Well, no more. I’m done with the United States.

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67 Responses to “Customs Officials Protect America from Wealthy Canadian Who Wanted to Spend Money Here”

  1. #1 |  Joey Maloney | 

    @22 “One of the worst parts of US policy is the tax code that makes it very difficult for US citizens to work overseas without also hitting them with US taxes ”

    I’m not sure what you mean. I’m working overseas right now so I’ve had to deal with this. If you are overseas, the first $80K of your income, no matter what its source, is tax-exempt. (So you get the exemption even if your employer is US-based.) That’s a pretty decent deal.

  2. #2 |  Joey Maloney | 

    …oops, that should be @13. I’m having a retarded day.

  3. #3 |  GregS | 

    For those of you arguing that Chan needs a work visa to participate in a poker tournament. Are you seriously suggesting that anyone coming to the United States to participate in a tournament, athletic event, or other contest, where prizes are involved, needs to apply for a work visa? Great way of ensuring that no world-class events are ever held in the United States again. And what about foreign tourists traveling to the United States to gamble in Las Vegas – do they need to apply for a work visa? If so, that’s insane. If not, what’s the difference between then and Chan – after all, he and they are traveling there to do the same thing and are hoping for the same result – to win money.

    For those of you questioning his “Canadianness” – Canada has many hundreds of thousands of immigrants from Hong Kong, and many of the maintain family and business ties in HK. This is particularly true in Vancouver. There’s nothing unusual about what Chan is doing at all.

  4. #4 |  Southern Man | 

    Don’t be “done” with the USA; we the people welcome you. Unfortunately, the idiots we’ve elected to run the place don’t. Look at yesterday’s elections as a step back towards sanity.

  5. #5 |  divadab | 

    I look at crossing the border as an object lesson in what a fascist police state feels like. Americans, better get used to it because these guys have already declared that the 14th amendment doesn’t apply within 100 miles of the border. They can stop, interrogate, and search anyone, according to the fascist fucks at the boondoggle “Dept of Homeland Security”, anywhere within this “border zone”.

    Incidentally, about 80% of the US population lives in this Federal Government-declared constitution-free zone.

    In a country where the average person watches 37 hours of teevee a week, all corporatist propaganda of the most sophisticated and powerful kind, what do you expect but brainwashed morons? Morons who will buy whatever shit the controllers are selling.

    If you don’t like it – your choice is leave or submit to a strip search daily from the thugs at Homeland Security Inc., wholly-owned subsidiary of Amerika, Inc., mortgaged by Goldman Sachs, armed by GE, and told what to do by Faux News.

  6. #6 |  JS | 

    Southern Man “Don’t be “done” with the USA; we the people welcome you. Unfortunately, the idiots we’ve elected to run the place don’t.”

    I share your sentiment but the truth is we the people don’t have any control or influence over the government than they did in the Soviet Union. It’s not just the idiots we elected that cause all the trouble but the unelected bureaucrats of the thousands of government agencies that exist to keep us safe at all costs. No, my advice for anyone outside the US is to stay as far from the US as possible

  7. #7 |  sailshonan | 


    Here’s the story on Chan’s “Candian-ness.” Back in 1997 when Hong Kong reverted back to Chinese rule, many HKers, fearing the communist Chinese gov’t, emigrated to other countries. Canada was selling citizenships to the Hkers for a couple hundred thousand dollars, and I believe the US was selling them for over half a mil each. So most of the HKers bought Canadian citizenships and moved to Vancouver, which is the closest Canadian city to HK. That’s why over fifty percent of Vancouver residents are now Asian. After the HKers came, other asians followed. I’m Japnese-American and I can go to Japanese restaurants, shops, and stores and speak nothing but Japanese. The signs around town are in Asian languages also. There are also may daily of non-stop flights from Vancouver to HK. I’ve been aboard severl and they are filled with the locals going back to HK. So there’s nothing unusual about Chan’s circumstance.

  8. #8 |  Marty | 

    #48 | TC |

    ‘TSA or Customs does not have on-site lawyers and those 8 buck an hour types will always enjoy farkin wit ya!’

    interesting thought with ‘on-site lawyers’- we have tons of store front law offices specializing in fixing traffic tickets in MO. I’m surprised a lawyer hasn’t opened a store front at or near an airport to specialize in travel issues- whether customers were fucked with by tsa goons or screwed over on their tickets by the airline. the lawyers could still fix traffic tickets, to boot.

  9. #9 |  fwb | 

    A constitutional truth: The feds have NO IMMIGRATION authority. Immigraion control was left to the States. EVERYTHING the feds do wrt immigration is unconstitutional.

    Again, understanding requires reading AND comprehension skills.

    Ever wonder why there was no federal immigration program until some time around 1906?

  10. #10 |  buzz | 

    This is nothing new. I traveled back and forth from Vancouver to Seattle back in the late 90’s and if you were of Chinese decent going to America you could have a lot of difficulty. I traveled off of my drivers license, but the people I worked with in Seattle who were of Chinese decent would either not go to Vancouver or make sure they had their (US) passports and birth certificates and anything else they could think of. Had no idea why until I read about the Hong Kong thing above. Odd, considering how easy it is to come across at other border crossings.

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  12. #12 |  Gene Stewart | 

    Reminds me of the Canadian science fiction writer Peter Watts, who was detained, beat up, and denied entry. When he sued over his treatment he was banned for life. He’s neither rich nor a gambler, unless you consider science fiction a gamble. According to him, it got physical simply because he got flippant with them when they asked impertinent questions, which is why he sued.

    What he and the gambler didn’t realize is, the USA they had in mind to visit does not exist any longer and hasn’t since the Cheney Junta. Visiting the USA now is like visiting Germany in the 1930s.

  13. #13 |  Gene Stewart | 

    Oops. Corrections follow, from a pal:

    Your facts are wrong, I’m sorry. He didn’t sue. He was TRIED, and he was found guilty of failing to comply with an order from a law enforcement (TSA) officer. According to US law, he’s now a felon. The guilty verdict stuck in several jurors’ craws and one in particular has done everything in her power – including traveling hundreds or thousands of miles to be interviewed on TV, etc, and patrolling web sites and setting the record straight every chance she gets. The judge who sentenced him gave him – basically – time served and I think a $500 fine plus court costs, and made it clear he thought it was all trumped up bullshit and the “law enforcement officers” maybe should have gone on trial themselves.

    He also wasn’t denied entry. When the incident occurred he was LEAVING the USA. He was allowed back in for the trial. After the guilty verdict then he became banned.

    It’s all in detail on his blog. It’s necessary to keep the facts straight, what with the mouth-breather, brainless Tea Party types shitting all over him on forums and news comments.

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  17. #17 |  Canadian | 

    For comparison, try going to New Zealand. The officials there are downright PLEASANT. One of the most mindbogglingly rational things that NZ does regards the many things they don’t want to allow in. As an island nation that does not have many common agricultural diseases, they are extremely picky about produce. For example, anything honeybee-related is a complete no-no.

    But if you, as a visiting tourist, happen to have something, they will keep it for you at the border. For free. They ask you to sign a form giving them permission to dispose of your goods if you don’t pick them up in a month and give you a claim ticket. My stuff had to be kept refrigerated. No problem. I heard (but did not take advantage of) they even have a system for getting your stuff to the port you’re leaving from if it’s not the same as the one you’re arriving at. I also expect that something could be arranged if you were staying longer than a month.

    The people were pleasant and intelligent enough that I could have talked my goods through (blood serum for biochemistry; it’s both sealed and essentially sterile), but why bother? Saved me the hassle of keeping it refrigerated in a hotel.

    The point is, they actually DON’T WANT THE STUFF IN THEIR COUNTRY. And so they try to make it as painless as possible to NOT bring it in. As opposed to the U.S., where they’re going to destroy all such “contraband” and so you might as well try to smuggle it. (And play dumb if they find it.)

    It’s a hell of a long flight to NZ from anywhere, but there’s not a lot to dread at the far end. (They actually have FREE coffee and tea in Auckland international arrivals. The woman staffing the booth said that she’s had per picture taken more times by tourists incredulous that anything would be free in an airport.)