Twelve members of a Canadian church group were supposed to travel to the United States for volunteer work in March.
However, their plans have now been crushed after they were denied entry into the country over fears that they would “steal jobs” from Americans.
The Rehoboth United Reformed church in Hamilton, Ontario, planned to carry out relief work in New Jersey to help a church rebuild homes destroyed in Hurricane Sandy. But the trip was canceled after U.S. border officials told the churchgoers they weren’t allowed into the country since they hadn’t provided proper documentation specifying what their activities in America would be.
Canadians are generally not required to have a visa to enter the U.S., given they can prove they won’t receive pay for their work.
The group, which was stopped at the border, was told they would be allowed into the U.S. if a representative at the church could send in an email or fax right away, stating exactly the purpose of the visit.
"In general, mission teams do team-building, tour mercy ministries of the church (food pantries, re-entry programs, thrift shops, etc) and assist with neighborhood cleanup projects," read the letter. Apparently, the last line became a matter of concern for the U.S. officials at the border who interpreted it as “work for hire.”
“This trip falls in the ‘love your neighbor’ category. We typically send groups down every two or three years to do similar projects,” said Erik Hoeksema, a member of the group.
Interestingly, other members of the church have previously been involved in similar volunteer work in Kentucky and Pennsylvania. But despite, spending two hours at the border, the Canadian volunteers were denied entry into the U.S.