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.
Two volunteers from Bridges Not Borders – Créons des ponts spent 6 hours at the Plattsburgh bus station, meeting with refugees who had been excluded from Canada and returned to the United States under Safe Third Country Agreement (STCA) rules. Here is their report:
We arrived at 2pm at the bus station which is in fact a convenience store with two small fast food stations, called Mountain Mart. A family of five people were sitting there: mother, father, baby and two girls aged about 4 and 8. We saw the tell-tale brown envelopes given to people by CBSA (Canadian Border Services Agency) at Lacolle just before they are sent back to the US. They were Kurdish, from Turkey. We began communicating using google translate, the father also spoke a bit of English. They told us they had lost their homes in the recent earthquakes, but they had been traveling for far longer and had come up through the US southern border. They had hoped to come to Canada where they have a cousin. The parents were stunned and in disbelief that Canada had turned them away. The mother kept repeating ‘earthquake victims’. We spoke with the cousin in Canada to explain the situation and STCA rules. Cousins are not “qualifying’’ family members as far as the exceptions to the STCA go. It took them a good while before the reality started to sink in. It was painful to watch. The mother was holding the baby (about 1 year old) in her arms as she spoke intently on the phone with various people. The two girls were often running around the store, certainly aware that something was very wrong. The parents had a few hundred dollars left. As time went on they decided to stay overnight in a cheap hotel nearby (the Rip Van Winkle). One of us drove them there and bought them food and diapers at the local store.
At the same time a single man from the Democratic Republic of Congo was brought to the MM by an American volunteer who asked us to translate into French for him. He had stayed overnight at a hotel and DSS (Plattsburgh Dept of Social Services) paid for him to buy food and a bus ticket. He was going to Texas where he has a brother. The man has a common law wife in Canada who is a permanent resident. He was hoping to join her. Their situation was complicated and it would be difficult to prove that they had lived together for one year as is required under STCA rules for comon-law spouses.
As the Turkish Kurdish family was being taken to the hotel, a family group of five people arrived. There was a family of three: father and a son about 9-10 years old, from Venezuela, the stepmother from the Dominican Republic. The mother’s cousin and her son (late teens), with no IDs, completed the group of 5. The father had lived in Panama for a few years. Hostility against ‘foreigners’ made him realize he was not safe there. The 5 of them entered the US through the Mexican border and made their way to Roxham Road. After having been turned back, they spent their last dollars on the taxi ride back to Plattsburgh bus station. They were waiting anxiously to hear from a friend or relative who might give them money to pay for bus tickets. As time went on and they had no news, they eventually let us buy them meals at the fast-food counter. DSS agreed to pay for two rooms at the hotel. One of us drove them there.
Next, a young Haitian man and a young woman from the DRC arrived from the border. They had met at CBSA Lacolle and both spoke French. Both were disoriented and in shock. There were no seats available on buses until 11 am the next day, so they needed to stay overnight. The Haitian man was intending to travel to Ohio where he had a brother and was trying to get his help to pay for bus tickets. The woman wanted to go to Texas where her brother lives. As they had some money left, enough for the hotel but not enough for the bus tickets, one of us took them to the hotel for the night.
As we were preparing to leave, after 7pm, another couple arrived in a taxi from the border, holding the brown envelopes from CBSA. We were able to speak with them as the man spoke some French and came from a francophone African country. They were hoping to be allowed into Canada because the man has a brother who is a Canadian citizen. They were in shock because they had not been allowed to enter. This time there was no explanation for their exclusion, as they should have qualified for an exception to the STCA. We spent some time talking with them, and took photos of their ID documents and all the papers that CBSA had given them. DSS gave them a room for the night in the hotel. The next day they were hoping to go to New Jersey where they have a friend who can house them temporarily. Later that evening, we spoke to the brother in Canada to explain what had happened, and to ask him to explain the legal details of the situation to his brother.
The next day three Plattsburgh volunteers took people to the DSS to see if they could get further help but not everyone qualified.
DSS did not provide bus tickets to the Venezuelan-Dominican Republic family group or to the couple from Africa. A Plattsburgh charity paid for their bus tickets to NYC and New Jersey at a cost of $700 USD. They traveled on the evening of April 7th. Bus ticket prices fluctuate widely depending on how far in advance tickets are purchased, and in this case they were purchased at peak prices (Easter weekend).
DSS accepted to provide the Turkish family with emergency housing until May, when they have an immigration appointment in NYC. The same Plattsburgh charity provided them with food and other needed items. There may be a possibility that the family could be allowed to enter Canada under recent measures announced for the Turkish and Syrian victims of the earthquakes. They are following this up with a Canadian immigration consultant.
The Plattsburgh volunteers had no news from DSS about the Haitian man and the woman from DRC so we don’t know about their subsequent journeys.
Plattsburgh authorities appear to be in the same situation as on March 30th. There is no clear and coherent policy to assist people, and the US federal government has not provided them with any emergency funds to do so. The Canadian government, which is equally responsible for the hardships these people are experiencing, has provided no emergency assistance whatsoever.
Man from DRC: we have spoken with his common law wife in Canada and asked that she provide us with the details of their relationship so that we might ask a lawyer to consider whether it is worthwhile appealing the decision.
Couple from francophone African country: a very good Canadian refugee lawyer has taken on their case pro-bono and will be requesting a Judicial Review of the decision to refuse them entry into Canada. We are hopeful that this will succeed. A small glimmer of hope in this ongoing sad situation of people being returned and mainly thrown to their own devices in the US. We do wonder how many other people have been wrongly excluded from Canada whose stories will never be heard.
We were contacted by the young couple from Venezuela (the woman is due to give birth in the next 2 weeks) that we met on March 30th and who had traveled to NYC where they found temporary shelter. However, they had not been given any funds or vouchers for food and were in a bad state. We forwarded money to them to buy food and were able to connect them up with someone in NYC who brought them to a church where they received food and also assistance with accessing medical care for the forthcoming birth.
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.