On this blog page, we are posting information about our visits to the border at Roxham Road, USA side.
For more information about the purpose of these visits go to the news page.
We have also started to post our newsletters on the blog.
Sur ce blogue, nous affichons des informations sur nos visites à la frontière, Roxham Road, États Unis.
Pour plus d'info sur le but de ces visites allez sur la page nouvelles.Aussi, nous avons commencé à poster nos infolettres sur le blogue.
We spent a good few minutes talking with the US Customs officer who had never heard of people going to Roxham Road to give out mittens. He was polite and curious and did not show any signs of wanting to take us in for further questioning (as has happened in the past). He also did not want to see our proof of vaccination. He said that people could self-confirm that they were vaccinated and, only if he had doubts about their truthfulness, would he ask to see their proof.
We arrived at Roxham at 3.30 pm and spoke for quite a while with a very friendly RCMP officer who told us that since midnight, some 95 people had already crossed. He also told us he was on his first rotation at Roxham and that his parents were from Haiti. We hung around, chatted in the car and picked up garbage (someone has actually put garbage bags inside the big blue garbage cans). The bus was due to arrive in Plattsburgh at 3.25 pm so we were beginning to think that no one had arrived on the bus, when at 4.30 pm, a mini van drove along Roxham but stopped a good 100 or so yards up the road. The van sat there for about 10 minutes with its lights on and then drove off. In the dusk, we could see a group of people walking towards us - it was a bit surreal as they emerged from the darkness. We walked up to meet them. They were a family of 7 from Angola and the father spoke some Spanish and a bit of English. They were mother, father, two small children and three teenage girls.
They took some hats and scarves and then went to the edge to listen to the RCMP. I don't think they understood what the officer said, but they crossed and were led into the big tent that is attached to the building. At the same time another taxi arrived with a woman and her small son, from Columbia. She was stressed but calmly listened to the RCMP and crossed confidently. So in total, we saw 9 people.
I wish we had asked the Angolan family who had driven them and how much they had paid for the taxi/Uber. It felt suspicious that the driver had let them off up the road rather than coming right to the border. I wondered if the person did not want to be identified.
While this was happening we noticed on the Canadian side, a woman with a man who was filming the arrivals. We chatted with her for a bit. Turns out she is Emilie Beaulieu Guérette, a documentary film maker in Montreal who was waiting for some friends to arrive at Roxham: a family from Angola who had been staying briefly in Maine. Prior to that they had spent a long period in Brazil and had made the dangerous journey up to Mexico where eventually they had been allowed to enter into the US in Texas. From there they had flown to Maine where they had friends. She is someone who is very involved with refugees. http://www.emiliebg.com/
When we returned to Canada, it was smooth going. We did not need to show our ArriveCan receipts to the customs officer at Hemmingford, because he already had them in his system.
Sunday, March 8th 2020. Afternoon at Roxham Road, US.
A warm March day. It was busy at the border. When we arrived at 3.15 pm, the RCMP officer said that 25 people had crossed after 2pm that day. While we were there 19 people also crossed: 11 adults (6 women and 5 men) and 8 children (6 boys and two girls).
The first taxi came with two men in their late 30's - one man from Pakistan and the other from Nigeria. Both accepted gloves, hats and scarves. They crossed without incident into Canada. Next came a taxi with a family from Columbia - mother, father and a boy about 14 years old. All of them looked stressed and since they only spoke Spanish they were at a disadvantage. One of us was able to communicate in basic Spanish with them and they crossed over without difficulty.
Almost immediately another taxi brought a tall Sudanese woman with three small boys aged about 4 to 8 years old. They were all wearing surgical masks. The little boys looked very tired and it seemed they had been travelling along time. The boys took mittens and some hats. Speaking with the mother, we could see she was very scared and when one of us asked if she wanted a hug she nodded and burst into tears during the hug. After she calmed down she was able to go to the border with her children and cross over. We helped with the luggage.
Next up came a taxi with a single Sudanese woman and her baby ( two and a half months old) and a man from Sri Lanka. Because there was no room in the taxi for her baby's stroller, she had to wait for the next taxi to arrive with it. We talked for a bit. She told us she was from Khartoum and had travelled a long way to get here. The man from Sri Lanka spoke very little English, but he waited for the taxi to arrive with the stroller so he could help the Sudanese woman with her luggage and baby.
A taxi then arrived bringing a Haitian family: mother, father, grandmother and a one year old girl who was carried by the grandmother. They had a lot of luggage that we were able to help them with.
They accepted some warm things. Everyone crossed over without incident.
The last taxi came with a Haitian woman and her two boys. They also took some warm things and entered Canada without difficulty.
The RCMP officers respected the protocol. Some but not all of the officers were wearing surgical masks.
Sunday March 1st, 2020. Afternoon at Roxham Road, US.
A sunny afternoon but on the cool side. 14 people crossed while we were there: 7 adults and 7 children from four different countries. We arrived at 3:45 after being delayed at the border by visa paperwork (one of us is a permanent resident and needs a visa for the US).
At 4 pm two taxis arrived from two different companies with two families from Afghanistan who knew each other. Altogether there were 4 adults and 7 children of all ages (from toddler to teenager). The first family had 3 daughters and the second 2 daughters and 2 sons. The men spoke English and one of them did most of the talking with the RCMP officer. One of the men said to a volunteer that he recognized her because he had seen her on Youtube - probably a media interview.
As the families were crossing the shuttle bus taxi arrived with a lone passenger: a young woman with short green hair from Sierra Leone who was bare-legged wearing a sweater dress, running shoes and a light jacket. We gave her a hat and gloves and scarf which she accepted gladly. Right behind her another taxi arrived with a young man from Uganda who was warmly dressed.
Finally, just before 5 a taxi arrived with a man from Yemen who refused gloves and rsuhed over the border without hesitation. The RCMP officer had to repeat 'Stop' a few times so he could say his piece, which included 'You have the right to remain silent.'
Sunday, February 23rd 2020. Afternoon at Roxham Road, US.
Only two people crossed while we were there - a mother and daughter. A member of Caring for Social Justice, a Valleyfield area group, joined us at the border today. We had a slight delay at the border due to being quizzed at US customs. It was 6 degrees and sunny so we were outside the car chatting when our guest noticed the overflowing garbage bin and checked it out. He found an email flight booking with Turkish Airlines, an international drivers license and a reusable shopping bag containing gloves, scarf, toiletries, a pair of ladies boots and and empty purse. Maybe someone overloaded with baggage decided to leave this behind.
At 4pm a taxi driver we know well arrived with a woman and a small girl - about three years old - who looked scared, unlike other children we've seen looked carefree. They were Haitian but had lived in Columbia in South America. The RCMP officer gave the usual talk, respecting the protocol.
The taxi driver said that there weren't likely to be other taxis on the way as there were people planning to come the next day because they believed that a Monday would be better than a Sunday.
Sunday, February 16th, 2020. Afternoon at Roxham Road, USA.
A mild, grey and damp winter's day. Only two people crossed into Canada during the time we were there (over 2 hours). One of us arrived early and spoke with the RCMP officer who said to her - '' You know it is illegal to help refugees.'' This is the first time an officer has said this. We presume he meant - to help people cross irregularly, not to greet people and give out warm things.
A taxi arrived at about 3.45 pm bringing a young couple from Nicaragua who spoke a bit of English. The taxi driver told us they had been very scared during the taxi ride and he hoped he had helped them feel calmer.
The young woman did not show her fear and seemed quite upbeat. Both she and her male companion accepted warm things and hugs. The woman went first to the border followed by her partner. The RCMP officer (four officers were present) spoke to them in Spanish and she simply said OK and went bravely across.
The RCMP behaved appropriately although it seemed to us that the officer had said to her
in Spanish ''You cannot cross here to claim asylum.'' Under other circumstances (e.g. no witnesses present) this might have prevented someone from crossing. It is also not true since clearly people do cross here to claim asylum.
Sunday, February 9th, 2020. Afternoon at Roxham Road, USA.
We arrived at about 3:30 . Roxham Road had been well ploughed after the big storm on Friday. In total 10 people crossed into Canada while we were there (5 adults and 5 children).
Just after 4pm two taxis arrive one after the other. One taxi might have come from the airport. The first taxi brought a family from Haiti. The parents were in their 30s and their three children were aged about 6, 11 and 18 years old. All very happy to receive warm mitts and scarves. They spoke French and were very appreciative of our presence .
The second taxi had another young family also from Haiti but they only spoke English suggesting they had been in the US for some time. The parents were also in their early 30s and had two young children, about 5 and 2 years old.
The last taxi arrived about 15 minutes later. It brought , a young woman - aged about 20 years old from South Africa. She was happy to take a scarf from us.
The RCMP behaved appropriately and kept to their protocol.
Sunday February 2nd, 2020. Afternoon at Roxham Road, USA.
A fairly mild winter day. Today a total of 11 people crossed into Canada: 8 adults (5 men and three women) and three children.
At 4pm a taxi brought a mother and child (about 6 years old) who spoke French and gratefully took gloves and hats.
Then within about 15 minutes, four taxis arrived one after the other. The first taxi brought a man from Sri Lanka who took gloves and a hat and two English speaking men who did not want to talk with us or take anything.
The second taxi brought a mother and daughter from Lebanon. They had been able to speak with the taxi driver in Arabic and so were prepared and relaxed. They took gloves. Next a taxi brought a man who spoke neither French nor English and did not need anything from us. Finally, the last taxi arrived with a Spanish speaking family (from Latin America) comprised of a mother, father and an older son. They were friendly but did not need any warm things.
The RCMP officers behaved appropriately and also allowed taxi drivers to help passengers with their suitcases.
We now have the complete information for the year 2019.
Sunday, January 26th 2020. Afternoon at Roxham Road, USA.
A mild January day. We arrived about 3.25pm to find a photo-documentalist at the border talking with the RCMP officer. She had driven four hours to visit Roxham Road. We stayed until 5.30 pm and only two people arrived at the border.
The first person to arrive was driven by an Uber driver. She was a tall woman from Rwanda probably in her late 30's and not that warmly dressed. She was very afraid and had difficulty speaking. She accepted mits and a scarf and some hugs. We explained to her she would be arrested and that it would be a temporary measure and she did not need to be afraid of that process. She was clearly alarmed to hear this and we did our best to reassure her. She seemed to understand and made her way tentatively to the edge of the border. The RCMP officer repeated the standard protocol and at the end said it was her choice to cross or not. She seemed to freeze on the spot and was clearly distressed to hear the suggestion she ''could enter Canada legally at the Port of Entry and it was her choice''. (This is untrue as the Safe Third Country Agreement means she may very well be refused entry and returned to the USA). She spoke in a very soft voice. The officer told her that he could not tell her what to do and that it was her choice. She turned and looked back at us and we indicated that it was ok to go ahead and cross. She remained frozen in place for several more minutes and turned to us again. We repeated our encouragement and she finally and very tentatively took those few steps over the border. We felt so badly that she had to go through what feels like a kind of game, but for her was clearly a terrifying step to take on her own.
After a while a taxi pulled up bringing a man on his own with very little baggage. The taxi driver told us he had been driven by a taxi from New York City. He was a man in his 30's who said he was from Turkey. He accepted a hat, scarf and mittens and in response to a hug from one of us gave each of us a hug . He stepped up to the border and put his hands up in the air. He told the RCMP officer he was Kurdish (from Turkey) and needed to seek asylum. He crossed quickly after hearing the officer's words and all went smoothly. In both instances the officers behaved appropriately and stuck to the protocol.
The border visit reports are written by the volunteers who were at the border on that day. There are about 15 active volunteers in our border visit committee.