A Canadian woman was denied entry into the United States when a U.S. Customs and Border Protection agent cited her hospitalization for clinical depression in 2012.
The woman, well-known author Ellen Richardson, was on her way to New York City to spend the holidays with a charity when she was told she needed “special medical clearance” to enter the U.S.
The hospitalization in 2012 was voluntary and involved no police or ambulance. Yet the private medical records from the event were given to U.S. Homeland Security as part of an apparently routine sharing of supposedly private information with the agency, which then screens them for “potential threats” and uses those to deny or give special security scrutiny to travelers.
Discrimination against mental illness
The Canadian woman’s story is just one of many involving mental illnesses and the prejudicial treatment given to them by those who many would say shouldn’t have access to medical records to begin with. The stories of discrimination only compound both the stigma of mental illness and the likelihood that those who need help will not seek it out for fear of reprisals like this.
The agent cited the Immigration and Nationality Act, Section 212, which denies entry to people who have had a physical or mental disorder that may pose a “threat to the property, safety or welfare” of themselves or others.
The agent gave her a signed document, which stated that system checks had found she “had a medical episode in June 2012” and that because of the “mental illness episode” she would need a medical evaluation before being accepted. Those evaluations can only be conducted by one of three doctors in the Toronto area, who are usually booked months in advance.
Richardson has hired an attorney who is investigating and plans to pursue civil action against both the Canadian and American governments.