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.
We arrived at Roxham shortly after 3:00 PM. After waiting in the car for about 15 minutes, several RCMP officers came out of their building and gestured for us to come forward. Addressing us in a very aggressive tone, the older officer wondered what we were doing. I said we were waiting for refugees to arrive. He continued to quiz us about our nationality, our intentions etc.. I explained that we were Canadian volunteers with Bridges not Borders who were only there to observe and offer best wishes to the asylum seekers. He expressed total ignorance of our group. His tone and demeanor changed considerably when I mentioned that we had recently met with the Staff Sargent in charge of Roxham Road installation. There were no further questions and we returned to our car. While we waited we wondered what authority the RCMP has over people sitting quietly on the US side of the border.
At 3:40 a private car carrying a young Haitian couple arrived. Six RCMP exited the building but they stuck to protocol and were polite.
A couple minutes later a taxi arrived with a man and woman, their two children about ages 8 and 3 and another young couple in their twenties, all from Haiti. They crossed without any trouble.
Finally, shortly before 4:00, a large taxi bearing several Colombian families pulled up. We greeted a young woman with her two young children, a man and woman in their 30's, a teenage girl and another woman with 2 young children. They spoke very little English and were uncertain of what they should do at the border. Fortunately one of us had enough Spanish vocabulary to explain that they would be arrested and to wait until the officer addressed them before crossing. One of the six RCMP was able to speak some Spanish. They had a lot of baggage and we were afraid that they might not be able to manage in one trip. We explained that they would not be able to return for their bags. It was a bit of a struggle but all crossed calmly and the RCMP were not aggressive.
It was a very hot day. One of us had the foresight to bring some bottled water to offer. As much as we try to avoid using bottled water, it was appreciated by several people.
Upon our return to Canada the border guard obliged us to pull up to the building for further scrutiny. The trunk and back seat were searched and we were asked if we ever transported items or documents for refugee claimants. We don't, and said so, and expressed once again the purpose of our visit to Roxham. Had the RCMP called Border Services to check up on us? I guess we'll never know.
3:20 1 Taxi.
1 Nigerian woman heavily loaded with bags, 6 RCMP officers , seemed excessive.
Woman said that a Canadian lawyer had paid her taxi fare. She spoke English,
said she had been through a lot.
Warning by RCMP made in standard fashion, but all people crossing today had a body search, which I had not seen previously.
FYI Taxi driver said he charged $70 for one person and $90 per family. Warned us about the unmarked white van , insinuating he charged more.
3:50 1 white van, unmarked , driver seemed concerned for his passengers.
He said he had charged $60 for the two men together.
2 young men from Libya, in their 20s. They spoke English, carrying few bags.
4:35 1 Taxi.
One young man , in early 20s, carrying very little with him, had paperwork. Not sure where he was from , he spoke broken English, hesitating to cross...
" I just want to be safe!"
The taxi driver said that he had seen some pretty rough behavior by the RCMP during the week, including that of a large officer with tattoos on both arms who had made a family with kids cry.
All three drivers got out of their cars to see their passengers across which was nice.
I arrived at Roxham Road shortly after 3pm on Sunday, July 31st, a hot sunny day. I spoke with one of the officers present and picked up garbage in the area. Just before 3.30 pm a private car arrived bringing a young Cuban man with a very friendly manner. We spoke briefly and he seemed excited to enter Canada. He had had a very long dangerous journey up from South America, through Central America, Mexico and the US. Unfortunately his proof of vaccination had been lost on the journey which means he will have to quarantine. One of the police officers spoke to him in Spanish and he crossed without incident. After crossing I heard the officer say to him that ''Anything you say will be taken down and can be used in evidence against you.'' Otherwise he was treated respectfully. He had been brought to Roxham by a friend and he was hoping to join his girlfriend in Ontario.
At about 4.40 pm, a taxi arrived with a middle aged couple from Haiti. We spoke briefly and I explained they would be arrested but it was temporary. They seemed nervous but ok, but after the officer spoke to them, they seemed to freeze on the spot and made no move to cross. At one point the man said to the officers simply ''we are refugees'' in French. They were afraid and confused and seemed to be waiting for permission to cross. I explained to them that the officer had told them it was their choice to cross. There were five officers on the Canadian side which might have increased their fear. At one point a female officer said to them in an aggressive tone a couple of times "Why don't you apply for asylum in the United States?'' They did not know what to say. This comment was intimidating, unprofessional and certainly not part of the protocol.
They continued to stand there hardly speaking to each other. Finally after more than half an hour, another taxi arrived bringing a Haitian family of mother, father and a tiny 3 month old baby. We spoke and they seemed aware of what would happen to them. But on hearing what the officer told them, they too hesitated. The man said, ''We have no choice. We cannot go back to Haiti. It is not safe there." After a few minutes they made a move to cross and seeing this, the first couple also crossed over.
As they were being dealt with outside the tent, the same female officer (as above) yelled at the Haitian woman from the first couple, in a very angry aggressive tone: ''Why are you laughing?? You've just committed a criminal act entering illegally into Canada. I could put handcuffs on you.'' She appeared to shake the plastic ties they use to handcuff people. The Haitian woman looked frightened and put her head down. It seems likely she was "laughing'' from nervousness over a nerve wracking situation.
These are vulnerable people who are taking a scary and extremely brave decision to come to Canada knowing that if they are not successful with their asylum claim they may be deported back to Haiti, a country mired in gang violence, terrible poverty and a dysfunctional state where political killings, kidnapping, torture and illegal imprisonment are common. Just last year the Haitian president Moise was assassinated. Haiti, the poorest country in the hemisphere, has never recovered from the massive earthquake of 2010 that killed 310,000 people and caused widespread destruction, the devastation of Hurricane Mathew in 2016 and another deadly earthquake in 2021. This couple may have made a long and perilous journey to get here. This is not how they should be treated.
We arrived shortly after 3:00 pm. The first taxi arrived at 3:35 bringing a young couple from Zimbabwe. They had quite a lot of luggage but the taxi driver didn’t leave the car or open the trunk of the car for them. The RCMP officer was polite and to the point, telling them that they would be arrested if they crossed. They proceeded calmly.
We waited for an hour before another taxi arrived with a young Haitian man. He was quite nervous and didn’t seem to understand that he could cross after the RCMP had finished explaining that he would be arrested. He looked back towards us and the taxi driver. We said it was okay to proceed if he understood what the officer had said. Then he crossed.
A warm sunny afternoon. We arrived shortly after 3pm. The police officers did not come out to check who we were. It was a long wait until 4.10pm when the first taxi arrived. The driver brought five people, all from Haiti. They included a man in his 40s, a man in his late 20's and a family of three with a little girl about 1.5 years old. Some accepted the offer of a glass of water to drink. The refugees spoke mainly Kreyol and we had a limited exchanges in French. The RCMP officer gave his speech in French without intimidation and everyone crossed into Canada without incident. At one point we saw the officer holding the hand of the little girl who seemed to be making friends with him.
At about 4.25pm the second taxi arrived. He brought three friendlyTurkish men, two in their 20's and the other aged about 40. None of them spoke English or French. None of them had any luggage aside from two small plastic bags. Two men took a glass of water. There was a fourth man in the taxi from Haiti. He was very anxious and we were not really able to speak with him in French. He told us he spoke Kreyol and said the same to the police officer. He crossed first. Clearly the Turkish men did not understand what the police officer told them but they crossed into Canada without difficulty. The officer spent quite a bit of time using gestures to convey to them what he wanted them to do such as removing the contents of their pockets etc. The two officers behaved respectfully with the refugees. We waited until 5 pm and no more taxis arrived: a total of nine people crossed during our visit.
It was a quiet afternoon at Roxham. Only two men crossed. They were from Colombia. The RCMP spoke to them in Spanish.
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.
The border visit reports are written by the volunteers who were at the border on that day.