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.
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.
We got to the border around 3:00 pm. We picked up garbage and took a few poignant photos of things left behind (see photos)... Cell phone, torn up documents, food containers, a baby sandal, a juice box, next to the orange cone.
At 3:30 pm, three taxis pulled up. The taxi driver told us they were all French-speaking, from DR Congo, and possibly other African countries. There were 3 women, 3 children (all children seemed to be in one family, including an infant), and 9 men.
They were recited the usual 'welcome' of "Do not cross here it is an Illegal crossing. If you cross here, you will be put under arrest....You can go cross at the legal port of entry a few miles East of here....". They were made to stand outside and processed small group by small group, going into the plastic tent. (It must be very hot there in the summer heat?) Luckily the group with kids went first. They were asked to put their cell phones in their suitcase, and they could put money (bills and necessary medication in their pockets). Cards were to be put in their suitcases.
At 3:45 pm, a fourth taxi pulled up with three men in it, also French-speaking, dressed in winter coats. There was only one RCMP officer watching the first outside group at that time, so the newcomers were not greeted, nor given the "welcome spiel". They just crossed and joined the other group, so RCMP protocol was not followed.
It was 4:15 pm when the last person went into the tent. It was very buggy, and at 4:05 pm the guard watching the group outside went in to get some bug spray, leaving the group unattended for a short while.
A total of 18 people crossed during the time we were there. We left around 4:45 pm.
A very warm and sunny afternoon. We arrived before 3.30pm and stayed until 5pm. We spend the waiting time picking up garbage.
After awhile, a taxi arrived with two people from the Democratic Republic of Congo - a man and woman who are not a couple. They both seem ok and seem to be well informed about what will happen. The RCMP officer explains the situation and says that if they want to cross "legally'' they can go to Lacolle port of entry. He says 'it's your choice'. They cross without incident.
Very soon after that a family from Columbia arrives - mother, father and a boy about 8 years old. They speak only Spanish and we are able to offer a simple greeting. They seem apprehensive about what will happen. I doubt they understood what the RCMP officer told them, but they crossed quickly into Canada.
Both the taxi drivers were very friendly. No one else arrived while we were there. A total of 5 people crossed- 4 adults and one child.
I had quite a long wait at the small Lacolle border (Route 221). There were 2 cars ahead of me that both took a long time. It seems that the border guard on duty was in quite a chatty mood. When it was finally my turn, the guard, a fellow in his late 30's or early 40's, didn't so much interrogate me as "inform" me of his opinions on refugees. After I told him that I was a member of a volunteer group concerned with the welfare of refugees entering Canada at Roxham Road, his first comment was something like "don't you know those people are at the bottom of the barrel? They have no education, no job skills and all they want is a free ride from the government. Most of them are criminals and pedophiles. If they can't get what they want in Canada they'll just come back here." Stunned by what he was saying and aware that I'd better not start a fight with him, I gently reminded him that anyone not deemed acceptable by the Canadian refugee revue board would be returned to their home country. He said, "I prefer the word 'deportation'. That sounds right to me. They all say they're leaving some kind of war. There's no war. You and I, we work for our living. Why should those people expect us to support them?". Then he told me of a case he knew about where an Olympic athlete had raped a child. I was getting anxious to leave, so I agreed that it was a horrible thing (relevance not withstanding). There was more to his rant but that's about the gist of it. Finally he handed me my passport and cheerfully wished me a good afternoon.
I got a little bit lost in Champlain village which delayed me again but I did make it to the border by 4:00. Unfortunately the bus had arrived early in Plattsburgh so I just missed the arrivals of people who wanted to cross. Paula, a freelance journalist was there as well as 2 Radio Canada journalists who are preparing a piece for Enquête. They told me that there were only about half a dozen people who crossed -- a Haitian, 2 Colombians and several people from different African countries. No children. A volunteer from Plattsburgh Cares arrived just as I was getting ready to leave so I had a nice chat with her.
Next time I will leave earlier to allow for early buses and obnoxious border guards. At least I know the route now!!
On my way back, the young Canadian border guard was very interested in what was going on at Roxham. He wondered what nationalities were coming through. He surely had a different take on refugees than the American guard did!
We arrived at the American side of Roxham at around 3:45 on a beautiful afternoon.
We noticed a masked woman on the Canadian side of the road and at first thought she was an RCMP officer and wondered why she was standing on the road and not by the facilities. We spoke with her and discovered that she was a journalist photographer for Reuters (from Montreal) who'd come to observe and take photos and had been there since 9:30 am. She had only seen three refugees crossing since that time. In 2019 or so she'd participated in a story about the Plattsburgh taxi drivers delivering refugee claimants to Roxham. We explained to her about Bridges not Borders' and Plattsburgh Cares' involvement over the past few years. She asked if we minded being photographed and we said ok.
At 4:05 pm a van arrived with a man and woman with a baby, another couple with no children and 2 other men. Some (or perhaps all) were from Haiti. They accepted some gloves and hats and the baby had 2 finger puppets. We were able to watch the couple with the baby being checked out as they were brought into a tented area attached to the RCMP building. Afterwards an RCMP officer told us that they had to take the hand-held items away from the family who were Covid positive. He acknowledged the helpful gesture but said that it only slowed down their process and was not useful, especially if there were longer lineups. He thought that we were American volunteers.
At 4:45 pm a black car with tinted windows swooped in and left, leaving a man wearing a t-shirt and jeans and carrying a small backpack. He barely looked at us and presented himself to an officer who asked him if he spoke English or French. He said Kurdish and Turkey and stepped towards the officer who arrested him. So while we were there, only 8 people crossed: 2 women, 5 men and one baby.
Before leaving I asked the photographer if an article would be published sometime and she said that Anna Maher of Reuters would be writing something that could be found on Tuesday (April 26th). It was a pleasant afternoon for us but I don't think the arriving refugees noticed!
Between 4:00 and 4:30 pm four groups arrived. It was a cold, blustery day with no sun to provide a little cheer but everyone smiled as we greeted them and most were glad to accept a hat and some took mittens.
The first taxi brought a Haitian family of 4, closely followed by a Colombian couple with 2 young children. A couple from Sierra Leone arrived soon after. Finally a family from Turkey, 2 adults and 2 adolescents were brought by a Turkish speaking driver.
Eight adults, four young children and two teenagers crossed while we were present.
The RCMP officer was heard telling the first family that they should go to the legal port of entry. When they didn’t budge he continued to tell them that they would be arrested and then waved them forward. The other groups were only asked if they understood that they were police and not immigration officers. Everyone crossed calmly and were taken inside without incident.
It was a relatively quiet day, all things considered. Around 4:00 pm the first taxi arrived with a young Haitian couple, soon to be new parents. The sun was shining when they arrived so they declined our offer of hats and gloves. They seemed to be quite relaxed and crossed without any trouble.
Soon a second taxi pulled up with a young Honduran father, and his six year old son. It was only when the taxi driver opened the trunk to give him his luggage that he realized that he had taken the wrong suitcase from the bus when they got off in Plattsburgh. He was remarkably calm about it and his son was in a very cheery mood. While we tried to figure out what we could do about the suitcase mix-up, the last group of the afternoon arrived. An Angolan couple and their three children also seemed very calm and crossed easily.
After doing our best to reassure our new Honduran friend that we would do our best to try to locate his suitcase, he finally crossed empty-handed except for a hat for the boy and mittens for himself that they had accepted from us.
The RCMP were telling people that 'anything they said could be used against them'. Prior to the Covid 19 border closure this had not been part of the RCMP protocol. Officers did not say this last week so it seems probable it is not. Otherwise nothing in the RCMP behavior was problematic. A total of 9 people crossed while we were there - 5 adults and 4 children.
Our trip across the border was very smooth both ways.
Update: On April 11th the Honduran man's bag was located and should be brought to him by our contact in Montreal.
This was our first visit to Roxham Road on the US side since the lifting of the testing requirements to return to Canada.
It was a grey, damp and cold day. When we arrived two taxis were already at the border bringing two families. The first had already crossed and we could see them in the tent. The second family was likely from Haiti: mother, father and three children under 10 years of age. They took a few warm items and then entered Canada without incident. The RCMP officer did insist on directing them to the "official border crossing'' at Lacolle but no one showed any signs of being deterred to cross at Roxham Road. He also told them as he did subsequent people that they had a right to the services of a lawyer. This information is not part of the RCMP protocol and it is not clear why he told them this.
After a few minutes a taxi arrived bringing a young woman with her two daughters aged about 3 and 7 years. She spoke French and it turned out she was from Djibouti in east Africa. She took some things for the little girls and then crossed into Canada without incident.
We then spotted someone walking down Roxham Road towards us. They had obviously been dropped off further up the road. As he approached we saw a tall young man in his mid-20s. We spoke briefly. He was very polite and very nervous and just wanted to get across. He didn't take anything. He listened to the officer and then crossed over.
Finally a private car arrived with three men in their late 20's or early 30's. They told us they were from Turkey but they spoke virtually no English. We persuaded them to take some gloves and hats and they went to the border, crossing immediately as the RCMP officer did not tell them to stop to listen to his speech. One of the men had his hands in his pockets and the officer told him in an angry tone to take his hands out of his pockets. He repeated it as the young man did not understand. We were concerned that something might happen, but he seems to have taken his hands out of his pockets and they were ushered inside the tent.
Including the first family that we did not interact with, a total of some 15 people crossed into Canada this afternoon.
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.
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.