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Politics Former military captain detained for months in U.S. on decades-old marijuana charge in Canada

Demetry Furman with his wife Cynthia Furman.

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A former Canadian army captain who was in the United States and waiting to get a green card after marrying an American woman has spent the past 75 days detained in a U.S. jail as a result of a decades-old marijuana conviction for which he was pardoned in Canada.

Demetry Furman, 47, was arrested at a Bureau of Motor Vehicles (BMV) in Medina, Ohio, on Aug. 1. His wife, Cynthia Furman, who served in the U.S. military, says they expected he would be quickly released and, possibly, deported.

Instead, she said, Mr. Furman has been transferred multiple times and, on Monday, she had no idea where he was. “They keep moving him around,” Ms. Furman said. “Now he’s disappeared again, we don’t know where they took him.”

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Mr. Furman, who was born in Russia and immigrated to Canada at the age of 8, was a Canadian artillery captain who was deployed alongside American troops in Afghanistan. He obtained top secret clearance while working with the CIA, the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency and U.S. Military Intelligence.

That clearance came years after he was convicted on a drug-trafficking charge in Saskatoon at the age of 23. Mr. Furman was with a friend who tried to sell marijuana to a policeman. He was fined $80 and spent a month at an equestrian work camp for his crime. Then he was pardoned by Canada in 2002.

Mr. Furman, who was born in Russia and immigrated to Canada at the age of 8, was a Canadian artillery captain who was deployed alongside American troops in Afghanistan.

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Mr. Furman met his wife in 2011 when he was doing military training in the United States. They married in 2014, the same year he moved to the United States and began the process of obtaining a green card that would allow him to stay in the country permanently.

The U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services and the National Visa Centre “told us that as long as we were actively pursuing it and doing the paperwork, that he was able to stay here,” said Ms. Furman, who attributed multiple errors on the part of U.S. immigration authorities for the fact that he had not been approved by the time he was arrested. “We were told ‘do not leave’ by Immigration” or Mr. Furman would not be allowed back into the country, she said.

So it was a shock to the couple when he entered the motor vehicle bureau in the early summer to register a truck and was told that his name had been flagged in the system. The motor vehicle officials took his truck papers, his passport and his licence.

“A few weeks later, they called and said everything was fine, we could come get the documents,” Ms. Furman said. “So we went out there to pick up his stuff. And I waited in the car. And he went in to the BMV to pick it up and he never came out. An ICE [Immigration, Customs and Enforcement] agent came out and handed me his car keys and said, ‘We’ve arrested your husband.' They arrested him because they said he’s a drug trafficker.”

Court documents created by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security cite Mr. Furman’s conviction on the 1992 trafficking charge as the reason for his detention. The documents also said he did not have papers to be in the United States.

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Efforts by his lawyers to obtain his release have been fruitless.

Questions about Mr. Furman’s arrest and imprisonment that were put to ICE by The Globe and Mail on Monday received no reply.

Ms. Furman said she contacted the Canadian consulate in Detroit, which covers Ohio, but was told there is nothing the Canadian authorities can do. Global Affairs in Ottawa said Monday it is aware of a case involving a Canadian detained in Ohio and that consular officials are providing assistance and are in contact with local authorities to gather additional information.

Randall Emery, the president of a group called American Families United, which assists U.S. citizens who sponsor their spouses to join them in the United States, said Mr. Furman is just one of many people who have fallen victim to stringent new rules implemented by ICE under the Trump administration.

“If there is any inadmissibility with this new zero-tolerance policy, they are actively scooping people up, detaining them, and treating them this way,” Mr. Emery said. “Even though there has been a pardon in Canada, in the U.S. they don’t care.”

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