Tales from the border: Desperate asylum seekers cross at all costs
Published Friday, February 17, 2017 1:03PM EST
Last Updated Friday, February 17, 2017 9:32PM EST
An increasing number of asylum seekers from the United States are crossing the border illegally into Canada, some resorting to desperate measures to do so.
On Friday morning a young man who was not dressed adequately for sub-zero temperatures walked at least 20 minutes in the cold to get to the border crossing at Roxham Rd. in Champlain, New York.
"It's so cold," said Abdullah from Yemen, wearing a hooded sweatshirt and a thin jacket.
Like many other illegal immigrants, he took a bus to Plattsburgh, New York, then took a taxi to the border.
The student said he feels he can no longer stay in the United States.
"I have problems now, and I can't study," he said.
He then walked into Canada across a snow-filled ditch on Roxham Rd., in the waiting arms of RCMP officers who handcuffed him and took him away.
Canada closed the Roxham Rd. border checkpoint in the 1950s. People are supposed to cross at Lacolle, five km to the east, or Hemmingford, six km west.
But in recent months, RCMP officers and the U.S. Border Patrol have routinely been waiting near this dead-end road.
U.S. Border Patrol officers have broad powers anywhere within 100 miles of the border, including checking people's immigration status.
On Friday morinng an agent was waiting when another taxi arrived at the dead end road -- this one with a family seeking to leave the U.S.
That group, originally from Sudan, said they had been living in Delaware for two years. Some of them had visa papers permitting them to live in the United States, but one man did not.
The U.S. border agent warned everyone that if they entered Canada at this point, they would be arrested by the RCMP.
He also told the man, who did not have legal permission to be in the United States that if he left and returned, he would be arrested on U.S. soil.
Despite the warnings, the four children and three adults all crossed the border and were taken into custody.
One man said because of President Donald Trump, he felt he was no longer safe in the United States.
"Because you're hearing about that list, the Sudan, and Iran and also because I am Muslim," said Mugtaba Mukhtar.
Crossing illegally is a strategic move on the part of those seeking asylum in Canada.
It takes advantage of provisions in the Safe Third Country Agreement, a treaty between Canada and the United States.
Under the terms of the treaty any refugees seeking asylum in either nation must claim protection in the country in which they first arrived.
In essence, asylum seekers who attempt to cross at a border entry point are told by CBSA officers to turn around and ask for refuge in the United States.
However, those who cross into Canada illegally are detained by the RCMP and then begin the process of filing for refugee status in Canada.