Trudeaus open arms program is backfiring. Getting there wouldn’t necessarily guarantee that they get to stay, despite Trudeau’s invitation.
The Royal Canadian Mounted Police are reporting surges in illegal crossings in Canada in recent months. Officials say Quebec has seen the highest influx of people seeking asylum, with many crossing in remote, snowy areas west of Lake Champlain.
One illegal border crossing area has become so popular among immigrants seeking asylum that all taxis in Champlain, New York, know it by name: Roxham Road.
It’s so well-known that, according to people who live on the road, the Canadian police stay parked on their side of the border most days. In New York state, taxi drivers follow a protocol where they contact U.S. Border Patrol if someone requests drop-off there — the person is still granted their ride, but U.S. officials often stop the cab to check the person’s paperwork.
Wednesday, an officer in a U.S. Border Patrol car parked at the end of Roxham Road said that by 11 a.m. already two families had walked across illegally. They knowingly walked into arrest by the Canadian police waiting on the other side.
Refugee advocates say the reason so many are crossing illegally is because of the Safe Third Country Agreement signed by the U.S. and Canada in 2002. The pact is meant to prevent “shopping for asylum” in both countries; it requires refugees seeking asylum to do so in the country they reach first.
Choosing Police Arrest
Roxham Road is a quiet pastoral road about 20 miles north of Plattsburgh, New York. There are a smattering of trailer homes, and a picturesque barn with curious horses outside, their breath fogging the chilly air.
The road itself dead-ends with little fanfare; there’s a sign saying “Road Closed” at the end, then a long ditch running east-west that marks the U.S.-Canada border. The only indication that it’s an official border is a small 3-foot plastic marker that says “U.S. and Canada.”
There are several well-worn paths up and over the snow bank and through the ditch, where many people have walked between the two countries.
U.S. Border Patrol has the authority to stop people near the border who officers suspect to be non-citizens, but they cannot detain them if their passport and visa are in order. That’s why even refuge-seekers who are clearly intending to walk into Canada can only be arrested on the other side, after they commit the crime of crossing the border not at a port of entry.
Just before noon on Wednesday, a blue Honda minivan cab rounds the corner on Roxham Road. It’s stopped by the U.S. border patrol, and the officer opens the sliding door and speaks with the woman. Moments later, the taxi is allowed to continue on.
The cab drives about a half a mile to the dead end. Dressed in a knee-length black coat and a white knit hat and scarf, a woman passenger gets out. All she has with her is a diaper bag, a black suitcase on wheels — and an infant bundled in a fleece onesie.
She doesn’t want to speak with journalists, but she seems to understand some English.
She hugs the baby to her chest and with her free hand pulls behind the suitcase. As she moves toward the ditch, several Canadian police officers approach on their side, and speak to her.
“You have to go through the custom, ah, border, but if you do cross here, you’ll be arrested, and then we’ll take you in charge. OK?”
The woman nods, seeming to understand that she will be arrested, and she steps towards them. The Canadian policeman offers to carry her baby as she makes her way through the slippery snow path. She hands him the child, and then takes the hand of the other officer who helps her to the road on the Canadian side.
The police bring out a child car seat, and place it into the vehicle.