A government attorney told an immigration judge on Friday that a native Canadian man claiming indigenous treaty rights to the U.S. lacks sufficient Indian blood...
BLAINE, Whatcom County — A government attorney told an immigration judge on Friday that a native Canadian man claiming indigenous treaty rights to the U.S. lacks sufficient Indian blood to qualify for those rights.
Peter Roberts, a 54-year-old dentist from Tsawwassen, B.C., claims he is 50 percent Campbell River Indian — the son of a full-blooded Indian father and a white mother — and is thus entitled to live and work in the U.S. and pass freely across its borders under what’s known as the Jay Treaty.
But in court Friday, an attorney for U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement told Judge Kenneth Josephson that a document Roberts’ paternal grandmother submitted to immigration officials decades ago indicates that her own father was 100 percent Irish, meaning Roberts’ father could be only 50 percent native.
Roberts’ attorney, Len Saunders, said it was not uncommon for some Indians decades ago to deny their lineage to avoid discrimination and that Campbell River band documents issued to Roberts show he is in fact 50 percent native Canadian.
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A full hearing in the case was set for March 28.
The Jay Treaty of 1794 allowed native North Americans free trade and travel between the U.S. and Canada, then a territory of Great Britain. Their rights were later restated in U.S. immigration laws and include the right to live and work in the U.S.
Because they are not immigrants, Jay Treaty natives don’t need a U.S. green card, but they qualify for one, and many, like Roberts, get one to make it easier to invoke their treaty rights.
In November, U.S. Customs and Border officials, apparently not believing Roberts had enough Indian blood to qualify for it, seized his green card.
Roberts said he believes the border agents were responding to the way he looks; his fair complexion comes from his mother, he said.