Baxter Reid says his only offense was being an hour and a half late.
By the Australian's estimates, that's the amount of time he overstayed his visa and why he's now in custody at the Federal Detention Center in Batavia.
Reid, 26, in jail since his arrest at the Peace Bridge two weeks ago, is at the center of a story attracting headlines here and in Australia and casting yet another spotlight on U.S. immigration practices his family and girlfriend suggest are heavy-handed.
"We were trying to do the right thing," said Heather Kancso, Reid's American girlfriend. "At this point, our goal is to get him out of detention. He did nothing wrong."
Reid, who has no criminal record, is accused of overstaying a visa that allowed him to be in the United States for six months at a time and for a total of five years.
Kancso says the couple was heading to Canada from New York City to see a friend of hers and, at the same time, fulfill the six-month requirement on Reid's visa by leaving the country and then returning.
On the way there, their car broke down and it was close to 10 p.m. on the day of his visa deadline before they finally reached the Peace Bridge. Kancso said Canadian Customs officials were pleasant but kept them for hours.
In the end, the couple was turned away by Canadian officials, which left them in the position of re-entering the United States about 90 minutes after Reid's visa deadline expired.
A few hours later, Reid was in shackles and on his way to the detention center in Batavia, according to Kancso.
"That's when I finally lost it and broke down," she said. "Granted, it doesn't look good that we waited so long, but to put shackles around his ankles and detain him?"
U.S. Customs and Border Protection officials would not comment on Reid's immigration case but indicated he may have violated the procedure on requesting a visa stay extension.
"CBP’s primary responsibility is to uphold the laws of the U.S. and protect its borders," the agency said in a written statement. "The proper procedure for requesting an extension of stay while in the U.S. is to file an application with U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services before the individual’s authorized stay expires."
Julie Kruger, Reid's lawyer, acknowledges he was technically late in meeting his six-month deadline, but says his legal problems stem almost entirely from Canada's decision not to admit him that night two weeks ago.
Reid's brother, Alexander, told ABC News in Australia that Canadian officials were reluctant to welcome Reid because of his visa deadline.
Kancso told the Sydney Morning Herald that Canada didn't want Reid to be its “problem.”
Kruger says Reid, at the time of his arrest, had a plane ticket to return to Australia in September, and she wonders why U.S. Customs officials wouldn't allow him to stay until then under his current visa.
"He basically left U.S. soil and they decided not to readmit him," she said of U.S. Customs officials. "I think they could have readmitted him on his visa."
Kruger said her client, who will appear in immigration court on May 10, is now faced with two options – deportation or challenging the allegations against him, a process that could take months and keep him detained at Batavia.
"He's very frustrated by what's happening to him," she said."He's upset and thinks he's being treated unfairly."
Kancso says her boyfriend has been buoyed by the support he's getting from people across the world, including those who have contributed to his GoFundMe effort.
So far, the campaign has raised over $9,800 to help cover Reid's legal expenses.
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