[FONT=Arial,Helvetica]HUNT FOR DAUGHTER BLOCKED AT BORDER
Mother's Trip Stopped Over Old Conviction
Glendene Grant should have been in Las Vegas last week, meeting with investigators about her missing daughter, whom she fears fell prey to human traffickers.
Instead, she's at home in Kamloops after being denied entry to the U.S. over a 21-year-old drug conviction.
"I haven't unpacked my bags. I have to get back down there," Grant said through tears on Friday.
Since Grant's daughter, Jessie Foster, went missing in Las Vegas more than a year ago, the Kamloops mother has made three trips to the city to search for her daughter.
Grant never had any problems until Tuesday, when U.S. customs officers at Vancouver airport barred her entry over a 1986 conviction for possession of marijuana and cocaine.
Grant said she wasn't a user, and the drugs belonged to a visiting friend. She said she was convicted after police came looking for her friend and found drugs in his belongings inside her home.
Tuesday, the 49-year-old mother pleaded with officials to allow her into the U.S., explaining that she had meetings scheduled with police, including an event arranged by CrimeStoppers to speak to local media about her missing daughter.
Grant says she spoke with U.S. Customs and Border Protection Chief Patricia Lundy, to no avail.
She says Lundy told her that her daughter went to Las Vegas by choice, and that when Grant asked to file a complaint about being barred, she was told to leave the building.
When she insisted on filing a complaint, Lundy called the RCMP, she says. Before she left the airport, she says, another U.S. customs officer told her she was being denied entry because she was going to the U.S. to work.
Lundy did not return a call from The Province.
Cherise Miles, a U.S. Customs and Border Protection spokeswoman in Chicago, said she was looking into the case but still had no answers by deadline. Miles confirmed that a criminal conviction -- no matter how old -- is grounds to bar entry.
But she said that Grant's case sounded more complex, considering she'd been travelling to the U.S. without problems in recent months.
Grant says she has been told her only hope is to apply for a waiver -- a time-consuming process that would cost a minimum of hundreds of dollars and require a letter from the RCMP about her criminal background and submission of her fingerprints.
Foster has been missing since March 28, 2006.
The 23-year-old former Boston Pizza waitress arrived in Las Vegas in May 2005 after travelling with a friend. She phoned home to say she liked the city and was staying.
It wasn't long before Foster also told her family she'd fallen in love with a rich man, 39-year-old Peter Todd, and was moving in with him.
Grant said she only discovered her daughter had been working as a prostitute for an escort agency after she went missing.
Todd has been interviewed twice by North Las Vegas police. He denies any knowledge of Foster's disappearance, Grant said.
After North Las Vegas police declared the case cold, a U.S. reporter called Grant and suggested she get in contact with the newly-formed Anti-Trafficking League Against Slavery, which came into full operation in February.
ATLAS investigators are now looking into the case to see if they can take it over.
Terri Miller, ATLAS program director, said she suspects Foster was sold as a sex slave because the case has "many human-trafficking indicators." [/FONT]