On this blog, we used to post information about our visits to the border at Roxham Road, USA side.
Since the closure of Roxham Road on Friday 24 March 2023, we're attempting to keep a log of the info we have about refugees who have been returned to the US.
Sur ce blogue, nous avons affiché des informations sur nos visites à la frontière, Roxham Road, États Unis. Depuis la fermeture de Roxham Road le vendredi 24 mars 2023, nous essayons de tenir un répertoire des informations que nous avons cueillies sur les réfugiés qui ont été renvoyés aux États-Unis.
I arrived at Roxham with a researcher from Toronto Metropolitan University around 3:25pm after being chastised by the border agent on the way who repeatedly said “that’s none of your business” after questioning our intentions. Shortly after we arrived a Borderline taxi driven by George arrived with 3 passengers: an obviously pregnant woman and a teenager who seemed to be her daughter and a lone young man.
The women had lots of luggage which George helped them with. They were African or Haitian who spoke only French and seemed nervous. The young man was a tall fellow who spoke English easily and thanked us for our well wishes. He looked about 30ish.
The RCMP officers were matter of fact in both languages and whisked them into the tent. George lingered a while chatting with us. He said he never leaves until they’re across. He also told us that they were the only 3 off the bus. He’s been doing this run for 6 years, first with his brother Chris. Now he works with his wife and his sister. He deplored people overcharging refugees and also spoke fondly of the dedication of the Plattsburgh Cares volunteer, saying everyone had a right to a decent life. He asked if we knew that politicians wanted to close Roxham. We talked a bit about Legault and he said ‘sounds like Trump’. He gave us his cards before leaving and invited the researcher to get in touch if she had questions.
It was pleasant enough even in the heat and I think the researcher had a good experience. I was grateful that the lineup to return was short.
It was a warm and sunny afternoon when we arrived at Roxham at 3pm.
Shortly after arriving we were accosted (across the border) by one of the RCMP officers who quite aggressively gave us a long lecture about not giving out hats, mitts etc and stuffed animals to children because of problems with bed bugs and COVID contamination. Stuffed animals that were not placed inside luggage before crossing would be taken from children and disposed of. Of course this would be upsetting for children. It did not make a lot of sense and we have since asked for clarification from the officer in charge of Roxham, as to whether this is official policy. Our friends from Plattsburgh Cares do give out stuffed animals and report that children respond very positively to this gesture.
Shortly thereafter a small family from Zimbabwe arrived – the woman was carrying a small baby on her shoulder. We explained that they would be arrested but this was temporary. The man looked alarmed and said they had had a very long and difficult journey to get there. This same officer spoke harshly to them at the border’s edge. The man looked back uncertainly and then they crossed over and were ushered into the tent. We were able to see the officer using a metal detector to check the family members.
We then waited until nearly 4.30 pm when three taxis arrived at once. One taxi brought a friendly Nigerian woman with a young child under 2 in a push chair. She was very fearful and seemed to appreciate the reassurances we gave her. We helped her bring her luggage to the borders edge. Two officers dealt with them in a quiet respectful way and helped her with her luggage.
Another taxi brought three individuals: a Turkish woman in her late 20s, a man from Columbia and a man from Yemen. The officer first mentioned above spoke harshly to them and they crossed over to wait outside the tent.
The last taxi brought three adults and two children: a couple with a toddler aged about 2 or 3 and a Haitian woman with a very small baby in a car seat. There was a certain amount of chaos by this time and they crossed over without incident.
Officers were taking people with children first inside the tent so those without children waited sometime outside before they were brought inside the tent.
In total we saw 13 people today - 9 adults and four children.
We arrived at about 3:10 pm and left at 4:30 pm without meeting anyone, nor did we encounter any taxis as we made our way back to Champlain Village.
We met the same American border guard as last week and he remembered us and waved us through. The Canadian agent asked us why we didn’t send money to refugees instead of crossing the border to wish them well 😳.
At about 4:00 pm a taxi brought a man from Haiti and a woman from Colombia. The woman seemed quite nervous but fortunately the RCMP officer addressed her politely in Spanish. Both crossed quickly.
Over half an hour later a private car with Maine licence plates delivered 3 adults, an adolescent and a young child, all from Congo. After being told that they would be arrested everyone crossed calmly. Between 4:00 and 4:45 pm a total of 7 people crossed.
We arrived at 3.15pm on a warm, sunny afternoon. A family, who had arrived before us, was being ‘processed’ in the tent outside the RCMP building. We noticed that two portable toilets had recently been installed outside the tent, presumably for people waiting to go inside.
There were also two technicians on the US side carrying out an upgrade to the surveillance equipment – video, lighting, radar etc. One of them told us that this new technology is the same as has been in use on the US- Mexico border and is now being installed on the northern border. He said it had paid ‘big dividends’ on the southern border, meaning it enabled Border Police to catch more desperate people trying to enter the US, to detain and then send many of them back to Mexico. It seems pointless to do this at Roxham Road, a place where people are openly crossing and presenting themselves to Canadian police! US border police are not looking to ‘capture’ them.
We met four taxis who arrived this afternoon. The first taxi brought five people: a family of three (with one small child) from Haiti, a Haitian woman and a Nigerian man. The RCMP officer spoke to them in an aggressive way asking “where are you from?’’ and getting angry because some people did not have masks. We gave them some masks. Asking where people come from is not part of the RCMP protocol and is not relevant since it does not in any way affect whether someone can cross at Roxham or not. It is however, intimidating to people who are seeking protection in Canada and may fear that their nationality might affect their ability to cross.
The second taxi brought a Nigerian woman and her little girl aged about 6 years old. They had four pieces of luggage, including two large heavy cases. The same officer spoke to her harshly and again asked ‘where are you from’ and made a fuss about masks (we gave her one). One of us brought one of her heavy cases to the edge of the border and the officer told us to stop since ‘she has to make up her mind (about crossing)’. The RCMP continue to give people the misleading information that ''If you want to cross ‘legally’ you can go to the official border crossing at Lacolle.” The police know there is a high likelihood, if they were to do so, that they will be excluded from Canada under the Safe Third Country Agreement. Since 2018 we have met several times with RCMP representatives and raised this issue amongst others. See information HERE that explains why none crossing at Roxham is illegal.
The third taxi brought three young men from Yemen, Haiti and Venezuela. A second officer spoke to them in a straightforward manner and waved them across. No unnecessary questions were asked.
The final taxi brought a family of four from Jordan (with two young children). The father was struggling with their luggage and again we helped to bring it to the edge of the border. The first RCMP officer spoke to them with the same harsh approach.
In total we greeted 14 people today – four children and ten adults.
The earlier border visit reports were written by the volunteers who were at the border on that day, the later updates about the situation in the US are an attempt to keep a log of what we find out through our own visits in the US, or through contacts in the US.