An Australian man has been handcuffed and locked up in a US detention centre after apparently breaching his visa conditions by just over one hour.
Sydney man Baxter Reid, 26, was in the US on a five-year visa and had travelled to Canada as part of a requirement for him to exit and re-enter America every six months to keep his visa valid.
But his American girlfriend Heather Kansco said Reid was arrested by US Border Patrol officers on 23 April after delays receiving clearance to cross into Canada meant he breached his visa conditions by just over an hour.
According to Kansco’s account, the couple were given “the runaround” for more than four hours at the US-Canada border. By the time Canadian authorities referred them back to US Border Patrol, Reid had “technically violated his visa requirements”.
“The US Border Patrol ended up taking Baxter away, because after waiting for hours with the Canadians, he … was illegally in the US for a SINGLE HOUR,” wrote Kansco.
“This is where all the real problems began: they threw Baxter in cuffs and escorted him to prison … This is going to make a criminal out of an innocent man.”
Reid had not been charged but was reportedly being held at the Buffalo federal detention centre.
Australia’s Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade said it was providing consular assistance to an Australian man detained in the US, but could not release any more details owing to privacy obligations.
Kansco said he was faced with the choice of returning to Australia (without a criminal record) or getting married so that he could remain in the US legally – “both of which we are not willing to comply with”, she wrote.
She was crowdfunding Reid’s legal fees online and as of Tuesday afternoon had raised A$5,750 towards her $8,000 goal in two days.
Reid’s brother, Alexander, told the ABC that Canadian officials had not wanted to let him across the border because his visa was close to expiring.
While Baxter intended to return to Australia eventually, “he wants to go of his own accord”.
“He doesn’t want to get deported – he still wants to go back to the US, because that’s where his girlfriend lives.”
Alexander Reid said his younger brother did not yet have a court date and his family feared he could be detained for up to six months – “only because his visa expired by 90 minutes”.
“He’s just an easygoing guy who has been travelling with his girlfriend and now he’s locked up and doesn’t know what’s happening,” he said. “It can be a bit distressful for everyone.”
Reid’s father, Tom Reid, said his son seemed “in good spirits”.
“He’s a kid with a sense of adventure, travelling overseas and living life so he doesn’t deserve this.”