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.
When we arrived at the Mountain Mart, we found a young Nicaraguan man sitting in a booth of the burger joint with a Canadian woman. He had been excluded from Canada, and they were at a loss as to what to do next. The Canadian woman had met him in Plattsburgh in order to support him on his journey to Canada, but had not realized that he would be sent back. We arranged for a legal consultation at the Office of New Americans in Spanish for him for the next day to advise him about applying for asylum in the US, and a member of Plattsburgh Cares organized a hotel room for them to tide them over to the next day.
Then a Kurdish man of around 50 from Iraq arrived, probably on the 3pm bus from NYC. He had been traveling since November, through Brazil, Central America and Mexico. After crossing into the US, he was detained for 50 days in a prison. He was hoping to join his wife, whose refugee claim had been granted recently, and who has been living in Canada for just over a year. When ICE prepared to deport him back to Iraq, he contested the deportation order on the grounds that his life was in danger in Iraq. It was not clear whether this constitutes an asylum claim in the US or not. If he has made a bonafide asylum claim in the US and his bio-metrics are in the US system, it means that he won’t be eligible for the full refugee process in Canada. He will be given a Pre-Removal Risk Assessment instead. We suggested to him that he ask the immigration consultant who had presented his wife’s asylum claim to also represent him. But he was reluctant to do so.
We discussed his situation for a long time. It looked like he had all the necessary documents to prove his relationship to his wife. He also told us that his brother in law (his wife’s brother), who had crossed into the US with him, had already been admitted into Canada. His brother in law had only been detained for 5 days and had traveled to the Canadian border after his release. Since he had a sister in Canada, he was allowed to enter and was now living with his sister in Toronto. After long and anxious deliberations, and rejecting the possibility of staying in Plattsburgh for a night to make more inquiries and thinking over his options, the man finally decided to take a taxi to the border.
The next people to arrive were 4 people from Peru: a young family with a 4 or 5 year-old son, and a single slightly older woman. By the time we met them, they were sitting at a table outside the Mountain Mart. They had been sent back from the border and were waiting for the 8pm bus back to NYC. The single woman was going to stay with friends in NYC, the family was going to travel on to Miami, where they had family and/or friends. Communication with them was difficult even with google translate, as their Spanish had an accent which was not easily recognized by google translate and came out very garbled and nonsensical (it might also have been the wrong google translate settings on the phone). We spoke with the very friendly young woman while the father looked after their son.
We offered to buy them some food and drinks and suggested they stay in the Mountain Mart building during their wait for the bus instead of outside, as it was getting chilly outside. The older woman, who had been very closed off to start with, not wanting to talk with us, lit up when we offered to buy her a hot drink and a sandwich. Coffee, she said with a big smile. Some words don’t need translation! We sat with the four for a while around two tables in the Mountain Mart, even managing to have some laughs across the linguistic divide. By the time we took our leave, they seemed a little more comfortable.
The last person to arrive back from the border was a single young man from Afghanistan. He was also waiting for the 8 pm bus, and from there traveling on to Buffalo where he had friends. Not being able to claim asylum in Canada, he was going to claim asylum in the US. He was able to speak to the Iraqi man, who knew his language, so they talked for a while.
Towards the end of our stay, we asked a very friendly employee at the bus counter how many people they had become aware of over the last few weeks. She said after the initial rush of the period after the Roxham Road closure, with $3000 worth of bus tickets sold during one day only, there were a lot less people traveling back to NYC now. She wasn’t able to say there was a downward trend, as the numbers were very up and down. When we asked about the numbers, she told us that during the week of our visit, there had been two people on Monday, nobody on Tuesday and Wednesday, and five people on Thursday, the day of our visit.
We hadn’t intended to stay for over four hours, but there was no rushing our time with the people we met. We left tired, and touched by the people whose lives had taken such difficult turns.
Comment from the person who accompanied the Bridges not Borders volunteer:
As this was my first time at the bus station in Plattsburgh, I experienced many thoughts and emotions, but two were overwhelming. The first was experiencing the courage, persistence and resourcefulness of the refugees. To meet the people, and not just to read their stories, who travel north through South America, Central America (through the infamous Darien Gap), across the Mexico-US border and up to Canada, reinforced my second thought about the horror of OUR federal government’s position on refugees. The Safe Third Country Agreement is cruel and inhumane, as we all know. People who survive the journey are resilient, those who don’t survive we don’t hear from. People are tired of hardships, tired of being resilient. Money and cars can cross borders freely. Let people do the same!
We heard from one of our contacts in Plattsburgh that she met 2 persons on Friday and Saturday of the same week.
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.