The 12-person contingent from Hamilton’s Rehoboth United Reformed Church was traveling by road on the morning of Saturday, March 11, to New Jersey.
Erik Hoeksema, the church’s outreach director who was traveling with the group, said they intended to spend March break cleaning up and rehabilitating neighborhoods affected by Hurricane Sandy.
U.S. border law says Canadians do not require a visa to enter the country for volunteer work, as long as they can provide proof that their work will not be compensated.
Hoeksema says the group was told they had failed to have a letter sent from the host church “paroling” them into the country.
“So what ends up happening is the organization that you’re going to work with sends a letter to border patrol saying this is what they’re going to be doing. What our group did not do, is we did not send that ahead of time,” he admitted.
Hoeksema said the border patrol officer, who treated them cordially, told the group he would grant an exception and let them through if the host church managed to fax or email a letter right away.