On this blog, 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.
No one arrived today! We were all ready with a big box of warm hats, gloves and scarves but no one arrived on the 3pm bus or via private car.
It was a bitterly cold, windy day at Roxham. Quite quickly the first taxi arrived bringing a young man from the Democratic Republic of Congo. He did not need any clothes and moved quickly to the border and crossed without incident.
Not long after this a tax brought five people from Nicaragua : a single man and a family of four (parents with two children). The family took some clothes. A Spanish speaking RCMP officer spoke to them and they entered Canada quickly. Almost immediately another taxi brought five people from Columbia: a mother with two children -a girl about 2 years old and a teenage son - and a couple. We were able to give out quite a few things. The Spanish speaking officer again spoke with them and they crossed over.
Quickly after this, a taxi brought two single men in their late 20's, one from Afghanistan who spoke some English and one from Senegal who spoke French. We gave the Afghani man a hat and scarf. Things went smoothly.
Two taxis then arrived, one with a woman likely from Haiti and the other was a man of African origin. They moved quickly to go to the border and we did not have a chance to speak with them.
After 4 pm a family from Columbia arrived - a young couple and a 3 month old baby boy - bringing only two carrier bags and dressed very skimpily. The woman was holding the baby wrapped in a blanket. It looked like they might have arrived from the southern border and were wearing donated jackets too big for them. They were very friendly and grateful for what we could offer them including a warm hat the the baby. They crossed over without incident.
Just as we were preparing to leave, an Uber brought another family from Columbia: a couple with an 8 year old daughter. The man jumped out and shook our hands introducing himself in English. We were able to speak a bit with the mother and daughter too. He said he was afraid that the Canadian police would treat them as did the border guards in the southern USA. He also mentioned they had been shot at four times, which we -perhaps wrongfully- assumed had happened in Columbia. Again thing went smoothly at the border.
Today the RCMP officers behaved appropriately, and were not attempting unduly to discourage people from crossing. One officer was quite friendly.
Shortly after we got to Roxham Rd. at about 3:30 a taxi arrived with a Venezuelan family of four. They had been picked up at the Plattsburgh airport. Only the mother chose a hat. The dad, a little girl of about 6 years of age and her older brother declined our offer. They seemed to understand what the RCMP officer was telling them and they crossed without incident.
About fifteen minutes later another taxi brought two young men from Zimbabwe. They also crossed without incident but we noticed that they were told to put something in the garbage can on the Canadian side. One of them had his luggage searched while they were still outdoors.
Finally, a woman from Nigeria arrived by taxi. She told us that she was hoping to join her daughter who would probably be coming on a student’s visa. When the RCMP officer asked her if she had understood that she would be arrested she said "yes, no problem". He replied that in fact it was kind of a problem. He asked her if she had any food and she said "no, nothing". Then she crossed. Before they went inside it was established that she had been living in the USA for six years.
In total five adults and two children crossed. It was a chilly day but only one hat was accepted. Everyone seemed to be adequately dressed.
The two later taxis had come from the bus stop.
As far as our crossing into the US goes, we had been warned by last Sunday's volunteer that she’d had to deal with a surly American border guard. I just wanted to report that we were practically waved through by a pleasant gentleman. Toss of the dice I guess.
There was a line up to cross into the USA from Hemmingford. The US Border Patrol asked a lot of questions and wanted to make sure I knew that 'interfering with Border Patrol was a criminal offense.'
I only arrived at Roxham at 3:40. The RCMP officers told me one woman and child had crossed a few minutes earlier.
At 3:45 a taxi van came with a family (woman, man and two small children), a couple and one single man. They all spoke Spanish. They refused to make eye contact with me and hurried to line up at the border. When the RCMP officer said it was illegal to cross, they looked back at the taxi driver who nodded and they crossed.
At 4:10 another taxi came. Two young men were quickly dropped off and the taxi sped away. All they carried was one small backpack each. They spoke neither English or French. Once they crossed the RCMP managed to determine they spoke Persian.
Sunday, October 9th, 2022.
A cold day with rain showers. The first taxi arrived at about 3.40 pm and brought three people: two young men in their late 20’s from Afghanistan, each carrying only small back packs. One of them put his hand on his heart acknowledging our welcome. They spoke a little English. Along with them was a woman of African origin wearing a hijab. She was very nervous and shy and it was not clear if she understood us. She took her suitcase and went to stand behind the two men at the edge of the border.
The RCMP officer gave the standard speech but unfortunately added a strong statement - NOT part of the protocol - that were they to cross into Canada they would be “committing a crime”. He stated this forcefully. Uncertain, they did not move ahead and looked at the officer. He said ''I cannot invite you into Canada.'' and repeated “you’re committing a crime’’ (see our comments below). They looked back at us. We smiled and said OK. Then the woman pushed forward between the two men to cross over and they followed.
Shortly thereafter a second taxi brought six people – three men and two women from Columbia and a man from Afghanistan. We were able to explain a bit in Spanish to the Colombians. The same officer repeated the same phrase about committing a crime. The group crossed quickly.
The last taxi brought a very young woman from Turkey who may have been under 18. She brought only a small backpack and a carrier bag. She was scared but responded warmly to our welcome and to the Turkish sign of welcome on our bibs. We were able to communicate a bit with her. A different officer addressed her at the border. He was wearing a tuque pulled down low, glasses and a dark mask. He looked intimidating, as was his body language, and it was impossible to see his face. He spoke in a harsh tone but said very little. She looked confused and looked back at us. We smiled and she crossed quickly.
In total, 10 people crossed while we were there.
Comment: No one is committing a crime; refugees are openly presenting themselves to the RCMP officers and asking for protection in Canada. Afterwards, no one is charged. Canadian immigration law is in accordance with Article 31 of the 1951 Refugee Convention that recognizes refugees must sometimes use irregular means to enter a country where they seek asylum. The RCMP informed us, at a meeting in 2018, that they arrest people under the Customs Act because - according to them - they need to have some grounds for touching people, searching them etc and then transporting them to Canadian immigration at Lacolle. The Customs Act is ‘'concerned with the regulation of imported goods, not refugee entry’'. The Canadian Association of Refugee Lawyers argues that this use of the Customs Act to apply to asylum seekers is inappropriate and leads to the damning use of the word “illegal’’ being wrongfully applied to them. See the document from the Canadian Association of Refugee Lawyers HERE at at footnote # ii.
We arrived at Roxham at about 3:15.
An RCMP officer came out of the building to speak to us but was polite and satisfied with our explanation. We noticed that two large suitcases had been abandoned on the New York side by someone probably unable to carry all their luggage.
At about 3:45 two taxis and an Uber arrived in quick succession. With so many people on the ground at once it was impossible to speak to everyone. We counted 17 people including a family from Afghanistan with 3 small children, a young man from Haiti, a couple from Nicaragua with a baby, a young Guyanese man who told us at first that he was from the United States. Several men from the Democratic Republic of the Congo had traveled via South Africa. Everyone lined up in a very orderly fashion and waited to hear what the officer said, then everyone crossed.
Finally, the officer asked us to bring the 2 abandoned suitcases over as they knew who they belonged to and would make sure they were reunited with their owner.
It was a short but busy visit. Within 20 minutes five taxis arrived.
A young man jumped out of the first taxi, kept his head down and crossed. He did not stop despite being asked several times by the RCMP. He was ’strongly guided’ by two officers and taken into the building.
The four other taxis brought 3 young men, a group of 5 (2 men, 2 women and one girl about aged 5), a family with 3 children aged approximately 4-12, and a group of 3 (2 young men and a woman).
I was only able to speak briefly with the last group. They were not family but had been traveling together and spoke Arabic.
I spoke with each taxi driver about the need to tell people to stop when the police tell them to.
The RCMP followed their protocol.
The only other observation was that one of the men in the third taxi apparently paid the driver $20 saying he had no more money. He had been told the cost before boarding at the bus station. The taxi drivers said this happens occasionally. They were not clearly not pleased but did not stay to argue with the man.
There was a very friendly RCMP agent who came out to tell us that there had been 90 people who crossed in the morning.
At 3:20 pm one taxi brought seven people (ages are approximate):
3 men between 20 and 30, none of the men spoke.
2 young women, one with a girl (10) and young child (3). The women spoke Spanish and were crossing by themselves with the children.
Not sure of the country they came from.
At 3:30 pm an unmarked taxi (had a number on it? The taxi did not come right up to the border and the driver did not get out of the car.)
1 man from Nicaragua (25) who spoke only Spanish, with just a small bag. He hesitated a little before crossing.
At 4:00 pm one taxi
1 woman (25) + two children girl (4 ) and baby (1)
1 woman (35)
Both women were from Haiti and French speaking
4:20 pm big yellow van, taxi
1 man (20) from Jamaica
1 family from Pakistan consisting of a woman (35), a man (35)
+ girl (10) + boy (7) + boy (4) who spoke English
1 man (35) with two children, a girl (7) and a baby in stroller (1), from Columbia
1 man from Haiti (20), who spoke French
(12 people in the van including 2 drivers)
RCMP were polite, not intimidating. One officer spoke Spanish, one let a woman go back for a large suitcase. They were quite patient on the whole and spoke calmly but clearly.
I brought water bottles with me (6) and gave them all out. I was glad to have something with me to give to them. The water was appreciated. In total 21 adults and children arrived while we were there.
A warm late summer’s day. Some 26 people crossed during our visit.
At 3.20 pm a yellow taxi brought a small family from Haiti: a couple with a little girl about 6 years old. The woman was very friendly and seemed to appreciate the welcome. The little girl smiled. At that time there were five officers on the Canadian side but one left. They behaved appropriately and neutrally. The family hesitated briefly and then crossed over. After we heard the officer ask them where they were from. They said that the couple were Haitian nationals but the little girl was a Chilean national indicating that this couple had made the long journey to Canada via South America, Central America, Mexico and the US.
About 30 minutes later three taxis, including two vans, brought about 20 people including five children, four women (one was pregnant) and the rest were men of different ages, mostly in their 20s and 30s. One of the taxi drivers told us that 13 people out of this group had come from Vive Shelter in Buffalo. Most of the people spoke Spanish and came from Columbia and Venezuela, and a few were African francophones, likely from West Africa and/or the Democratic Republic of Congo. The police officers behaved professionally and one young officer in particular was considerate as he checked IDs etc outside the tent.
Shortly after this group entered Canada, a taxi brought a young Hispanic couple who crossed quickly. Finally at 4.20pm a last taxi arrived bringing a young woman from Zimbabwe. She too crossed without incident.
The border visit reports are written by the volunteers who were at the border on that day.