“This trip falls in the ‘love your neighbour’ category,” said Erik Hoeksema of the group. “We typically send groups down every two or three years to do similar projects.”The 12-member group set off on Saturday. But their road trip came to an abrupt halt at the US border, after officials told them the host church in the US should have provided documentation in advance outlining exactly what they would be doing while in the US.“This was a bit of mistake on our part, and the reason why we got ‘red-flagged’ to start with,” said Hoeksema. “But in the end, I was told that this was not the reason for us being denied entry.”Members of the church had volunteered south of the border before, taking part in projects in Kentucky and Pennsylvania. Canadians do not need a visa if they are volunteering in the US, as long as they are able to show that they will not be compensated for their work.The Reformed Church of Highland Park in central New Jersey responded immediately, sending over a letter that explained that the group was going to join the 3,000 volunteers who have so far helped 200 families get back into homes damaged by Hurricane Sandy.AdvertisementBorder officials said the letter was not specific enough. Hoeksema asked the host church to send another letter, this time specifying the types of duties that the group would be carrying out.A second letter soon arrived, explaining that mission groups who travel to New Jersey carry out team building, tour programs that range from food pantries and thrift shops and assist with neighbourhood cleanup projects.It was this last line that border officials seemingly took issue with, said Hoeksema. “This was interpreted as ‘work for hire’ and since we are foreigners, this would be stealing American jobs.”Some five years after Hurricane Sandy hit the region, the need to carry out relief work was also questioned. “We were told that when there is an immediate need, volunteer groups usually are granted entrance,” said Hoeksema.After more than two hours spent at the border, the group – all of whom were carrying Canadian passports and who had travelled to the US before with no incident – was denied entry.