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Would-be Obama volunteer turned away at border

CBC News reported on its Web site Monday that a Winnipeg woman was turned away at the U.S. border crossing near Lancaster, Minn. while on her way to volunteer for Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama.

Regan Sarmatiuk told CBC News that she wanted to enter the U.S. to help encourage Americans to vote for Democratic presidential hopeful Barack Obama. The woman received an e-mail from the candidate's campaign saying it would welcome her volunteer efforts to help get the vote out in Minnesota, the Canadian news Web site said.

Sarmatiuk drove to the Tolstoi, Man.-Lancaster border crossing in eastern Manitoba on Sunday and told border agents the purpose of her visit was to volunteer for Obama's political campaign, CBC reported. The border guard asked her to pull over, made some phone calls and then told her she could not enter the U.S. to volunteer, Sarmatiuk told CBC News.

"The main issue at stake is that I was taking a ... potential work opportunity away from an American citizen. I said, 'Well, it's volunteering.' He said that didn't matter," she said.

"He came to the conclusion somehow that in order to get through, I needed a letter from ... the Democratic Party," she said. "The letter ... would have to have a tax-exempt charity number, would have to list what my duties were going to me and would have to ensure that I would not be soliciting."

Border officials advised her not to try to enter the U.S. at another crossing, Sarmatiuk told CBC News. Sarmatiuk eventually returned to Winnipeg.

"It's funny because I thought about it before I got to the border, and I thought, 'I don't really want to lie ... and say, you know, I'm just going to visit a friend,' or something. I thought I'll tell the truth," she said.

The representative from the Obama campaign told her many foreign residents -- including Italians, Australians and other Canadians -- are volunteering in the U.S., Sarmatiuk told CBC.