More migrants seek asylum through reopened Canadian border

Jan 24, 2022, 9:35 AM | Updated: Jan 28, 2022, 11:02 am
Migrants line up on the border of the United States, foreground, and Canada, background, at a recep...

Migrants line up on the border of the United States, foreground, and Canada, background, at a reception center for irregular borders crossers, in Saint-Bernard-de-Lacolle, Quebec, Canada, Wednesday Jan. 12, 2022, in a photo taken from Champlain, N.Y. They are crossing the U.S.-Canadian border into Saint-Bernard-de-Lacolle, Quebec, where they are arrested by the Royal Canadian Mounted Police and then allowed to make asylum claims. The process was halted for most cases after the 2020 outbreak of COVID-19, but the Canadian government changed its policy in November, allowing the process to continue. (AP Photo/Wilson Ring)

(AP Photo/Wilson Ring)

CHAMPLAIN, N.Y. (AP) — Whenever a bus arrives at the Greyhound station in Plattsburgh, New York, a small band of taxi drivers waits to drive passengers on a half-hour trip to a snowy, dead-end road that turns to dirt near the Canadian border.

There, at the border, refugees pile out of taxis or vans several times a day, and Royal Canadian Mounted Police officers warn that they will be arrested for illegal entry if they cross, which they do. Most are soon released to pursue asylum, living and working freely while awaiting a decision.

“We have the hopes of everyone — be successful and have a change of life,” Alejandro Cortez, a 25-year-old Colombian man, said as he exited a taxi last week at the end of Roxham Road in Champlain, New York. The town of about 6,000 is directly across the border from Saint-Bernard-de-Lacolle, Quebec.

Cortez joins a renewed stream of migrants seeking refuge in Canada after a 20-month ban on asylum requests designed to prevent the spread of COVID-19. Families are once again lugging suitcases and carrying children across a remote, snow-covered ditch to the border.

Canada’s decision to lift the ban on Nov. 21 stands in marked contrast to the approach in the United States, where the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has extended indefinitely a similar restriction on the border with Mexico that will enter its third year in March.

On Wednesday, a Justice Department attorney vigorously defended the ban against sharp questioning from federal appeals court judges about the scientific basis for such a far-reaching move against asylum.

The U.S. expelled migrants nearly 1.5 million times from March 2020 through November under what is known as Title 42 authority, named for a 1944 public health law that the Trump and Biden administrations have used to deny migrants a chance to seek asylum on grounds that it will curb the spread of the coronavirus. That accounts for about two of three arrests or expulsions at the border, most involving single adults and some families. Unaccompanied children have been exempt under President Joe Biden.

Fully vaccinated travelers have been able to enter the U.S. and Canada since November, but Canada went a step farther by reinstating a path to asylum.

Cortez arrived in the United States on a tourist visa five months ago. He said he couldn’t go back to Colombia because of violence and the disappearance of thousands of young men.

“All of that hurts a lot,” he said. “We have to run from our country.”

Asylum-seekers on the Canadian border began appearing at Roxham Road around the time Trump became president. How it became the favored place to cross into Canada isn’t clear, but the migrants are taking advantage of a quirk in a 2002 agreement between the U.S. and Canada that says people seeking asylum must apply in the first country they arrive in.

Migrants who go to an official crossing — like the one where Interstate 87 ends just east of Roxham Road — are returned to the United States and told to apply there. But those who arrive in Canada at a location other than a port of entry, like Roxham Road, are allowed to stay and request protection.

Nearly 60,000 people sought asylum after illegally crossing the border into Canada from February 2017 through September, many at Roxham Road, about 30 miles (50 kilometers) south of Montreal, Canadian government statistics show.

Of those, more than 45,000 claims have been finalized, with almost 24,300 approved, or almost 54%. Another 17,000 claims were rejected while over 14,000 are still pending. Other claims were abandoned or withdrawn.

In December, the number of asylum-seekers at the border in Quebec jumped to nearly 2,800. That’s up from 832 in November and 96 in October, according to the statistics.

Canada lifted the asylum ban with little fanfare or public backlash, perhaps because the numbers are small compared with people crossing into the U.S. from Mexico.

Biden’s decision to keep the Trump-era ban in place has come under scathing criticism from the United Nations refugee agency, legal scholars and advocates.

Under the ban, people from Mexico, Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador, are bounced back to Mexico before being afforded rights under U.S. and international law to seek asylum. People from other countries are flown home without a chance at asylum.

Scientific arguments for Title 42 have met with skepticism from the start.

The Associated Press reported in 2020 that Vice President Mike Pence called CDC Director Dr. Robert Redfield in March of that year and told him to use the agency’s special legal authority to slash the number of asylum-seekers allowed into the country.

Pence made the request after a top agency doctor who oversees such orders refused to comply with the directive, saying there was no valid public health reason to issue it.

Dr. Anne Schuchat, the second-highest CDC official when she departed in May, told a congressional panel last year that “the bulk of the evidence at that time did not support this policy proposal.”

On Wednesday, Justice Department attorney Sharon Swingle insisted the ban is based on scientific expertise and prevents disease at crowded Border Patrol holding facilities. Facing persistent questioning from judges on a three-member panel in Washington, she acknowledged there were no affidavits in court records to explain the order’s scientific foundation.

Within hours of the November change by the Canadian government, immigrants started arriving in large numbers at Roxham Road, said Janet McFetridge, of Plattsburg Cares, a group that provides hats, mittens and scarves to people crossing the border in the dead of winter. She said people are eager to cross while they can.

“There definitely is a fear that it’s going to close suddenly,” she said while waiting on Roxham Road for the next group of migrants.

A Canadian officer said in French to a woman and her traveling companion, who was carrying a baby, that it was illegal to enter Canada there.

“If you cross here, you will be arrested,” he said.

“Yes, it’s not a problem. It’s not a problem,” the woman said as her companion started to pull a suitcase across the border.

___

Spagat reported from San Diego.

Copyright © The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


              Royal Canadian Mounted Police, left, search migrants after their arrival at a reception center for irregular borders crossers, in Saint-Bernard-de-Lacolle, Quebec, in Canada, Wednesday Jan. 12, 2022, in a photo taken from Champlain, N.Y. The process was halted for most cases after the 2020 outbreak of COVID-19, but the Canadian government changed its policy in November, allowing the process to resume. (AP Photo/Wilson Ring)
            
              Migrants, right, remove their luggage from a taxi, in Champlain, N.Y., as they prepare to cross the Canadian border to arrive at a reception center for irregular borders crossers, less than 100 feet (about 30 meters) away, in Saint-Bernard-de-Lacolle, Quebec, in Canada, Wednesday Jan. 12, 2022. The refugees are crossing the U.S.-Canadian border where they are arrested by the Royal Canadian Police in Saint-Bernard-de-Lacolle, Quebec, and then allowed to make asylum claims and remain in Canada while those claims are processed. The process was halted for most cases after the 2020 outbreak of COVID-19, but the Canadian government changed its policy in November, allowing the process to continue. (AP Photo/Wilson Ring)
            
              Migrants line up on the border of the United States, foreground, and Canada, background, at a reception center for irregular borders crossers, in Saint-Bernard-de-Lacolle, Quebec, Canada, Wednesday Jan. 12, 2022, in a photo taken from Champlain, N.Y. They are crossing the U.S.-Canadian border into Saint-Bernard-de-Lacolle, Quebec, where they are arrested by the Royal Canadian Mounted Police and then allowed to make asylum claims. The process was halted for most cases after the 2020 outbreak of COVID-19, but the Canadian government changed its policy in November, allowing the process to continue. (AP Photo/Wilson Ring)

AP

Activists hold up posters during a rally against Indonesia's new criminal law in Yogyakarta, Indone...
Associated Press

Indonesia’s Parliament votes to ban sex outside of marriage

JAKARTA, Indonesia (AP) — Indonesia’s Parliament unanimously voted on Tuesday to ban sex outside of marriage and insulting the president and state institutions. Once in force, the bans will affect foreign visitors as well as citizens. They’re part of an overhaul of the country’s criminal code that has been in the works for years. The […]
18 hours ago
FILE - A sign at the federal courthouse in Tacoma, Wash., is shown on April 6, 2016, to inform visi...
Associated Press

COVID’s lingering impact prompts Real ID deadline extension

The deadline for obtaining the Real ID needed to board a domestic flight has been pushed back again, with the Department of Homeland Security citing the lingering impact of the COVID-19 pandemic for the slower-than-expected rollout. The deadline to have a Real ID had been May 3, 2023, but DHS announced Monday that it was […]
18 hours ago
Attorney General Merrick Garland speaks at a news conference about a jury's verdict against members...
Associated Press

Garland: Justice Dept.’s civil rights work is key priority

WASHINGTON (AP) — The early work of the Justice Department’s civil rights division meant confronting white supremacists who were intimidating Black voters, and 65 years later, its work is just as urgent amid a surge of hate crimes in the U.S., Attorney General Merrick Garland said Tuesday. “Now more than ever, protecting civil rights is […]
18 hours ago
Associated Press

Mississippi grain company’s ex-CEO indicted on fraud charges

GREENVILLE, Miss. (AP) — The former leader of a Mississippi grain storage and processing company has been indicted on federal and state charges, more than a year after the company filed for bankruptcy, prosecutors said Tuesday. John R. Coleman, 46, of Greenwood, Mississippi, is the former CEO of Express Grain Terminals, LLC. A federal grand […]
18 hours ago
FILE - In this photo released by the Saudi Royal Palace, Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, ri...
Associated Press

US court dismisses suit against Saudi prince in killing

WASHINGTON (AP) — A U.S. federal judge on Tuesday dismissed a lawsuit against Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman in the killing of U.S.-based journalist Jamal Khashoggi, bowing to the Biden administration’s insistence that the prince was legally immune in the case. District of Columbia U.S. District Judge John D. Bates heeded the U.S. government’s […]
18 hours ago
A burned-out warehouse is seen, Tuesday, Dec. 6, 2022, in Baltimore. A man was found dead inside th...
Associated Press

Body of Baltimore fire victim went undiscovered for hours

BALTIMORE (AP) — Several hours after firefighters extinguished a warehouse fire in southwest Baltimore early Sunday, the scene was eerily quiet as Donte Craig stepped through the charred rubble, trying to remain hopeful. He was looking for his older brother James Craig Jr., who leased the warehouse for his demolition and hauling business. After hearing […]
18 hours ago

Sponsored Articles

...
Quantum Fiber

How high-speed fiber internet edges out cable for everyday use

In a world where technology drives so much of our daily lives, a lack of high-speed internet can be a major issue.
(Photo via MLB's Arizona Fall League / Twitter)...
Arizona Fall League

Top prospects to watch at this year’s Arizona Fall League

One of the most exciting elements of the MLB offseason is the Arizona Fall League, which began its 30th season Monday.
...
Day & Night Air Conditioning, Heating and Plumbing

Here are 4 signs the HVAC unit needs to be replaced

Pool renovations and kitchen upgrades may seem enticing, but at the forefront of these investments arguably should be what residents use the most. In a state where summertime is sweltering, access to a functioning HVAC unit can be critical.
More migrants seek asylum through reopened Canadian border