Connor Simpson is a former staff writer for The Wire. His work has appeared in Business Insider and City Lab.
Blame the weed. And the crack.
The chances Rob Ford will ever successfully visit the U.S. now that Customs knows he smokes crack are slim.
Toronto mayor Rob Ford is a huge sports fan. This has been well-established by now. (He was wearing a 15-year-old NFL tie when he admitted smoking crack for pete's sake.) His sports fandom, while probably his purest quality, brought a whole new problem to the forefront over the last two days.
Ford's favorite hockey team, the Toronto Maple Leafs, play in the National Hockey League's annual New Year's Day outdoor extravaganza, the Winter Classic, against the Detroit Red Wings, in front of approximately 107,000 people at Michigan's Big House football stadium, this year. Ford told the Toronto Sun he "definitely" wants to attend the game, which means crossing the Canada-U.S. border. Thing is, people who admit smoking crack usually run into trouble at Customs. So the question presented itself: will Ford be allowed into the U.S.?
Considering the story involved Rob Ford, the Toronto Maple Leafs and American validation, Canadian media did a full court press to get the answer. "Under the law, (immigration officers) are supposed to bar, or at least ask him, because they're now aware of it," Henry Chang, an immigration lawyer at Blaney McMurtry, explained to the Toronto Sun. "My advice to Rob Ford would be, 'Don’t leave town.' The short version of a long story is yes, he has a border problem," Joel Sandaluk, a lawyer with the Toronto firm Mamann, Sandaluk & Kingwell LLP, told the Toronto Star.
A Customs spokesperson very patiently confirmed Ford will have trouble crossing the border to the Toronto Star:
In an email exchange, Customs and Border Protection public affairs officer Mike Milne quoted from the controlled substances section of the U.S. Immigration and Nationality Act, which says someone is "inadmissible" to the U.S. if he has either been “convicted of” or "admits having committed" a violation of drug laws in the U.S. or elsewhere.
When pressed to clarify, Milne highlighted the words “admits having committed” and "inadmissible" in bright yellow. Translation: the admission of crack use is itself grounds for refusing a foreigner entry.
But border guards are given some wiggle room, Michael Niren, an expert in both Canadian and U.S. immigration issues, told Yahoo Canada News. So there could be, seemingly, some hope for Ford, right? Wrong. "There is discretion for border officials to 'parole' him on humanitarian grounds, but that happens usually only in extreme cases," Nirren said. "Not sure the Winter Classic event would cut it."
The border guards probably won't care the Winter Classic is the biggest game ever.
Ford's best hope is to apply for a "waiver of inadmissibility" that will assure him safe passage. But the form takes up to a year to process and costs over $500.
Of course, other admitted drug users pass over the border all the time. Another Canadian politician, federal Liberal party leader Justin Trudeau, visited Washington recently a few weeks after admitting he smoked weed once after getting elected. Snoop Dogg, a well-known fan of the chronic, loves Canada, and passes through the border quite regularly.
Realistically, another legal expert explained, Ford sealed his fate long ago during his many infamous press conferences. "Even people who flippantly mention to a U.S. customs agent that they smoked a bit of weed in their life can have problems," Sandaluk said the Star. "And I believe in Ford's case, he said 'a lot' of weed. And then (he) spoke about smoking crack." The spotlight, which Ford clearly enjoys, as he and and his brother are negotiating a reality show, will likely keep him from his beloved Maple Leafs. But in a year or two, if he files the right papers — files, not rolls— his problems may go away.
This post originally appeared on The Wire, an Atlantic partner site.