Sunday, October 2, 2022

More migrants seek asylum as Canada’s border reopens

More migrants seek asylum as Canada's border reopens

by Wilson Ring and Elliot Spaget

CHAMPLAIN, NY (AP) — Whenever a bus arrives at Greyhound Station in Plattsburgh, New York, a small band of taxi drivers wait to take passengers on a half-hour journey down a snowy, dead-end dirt road Is.

There, on the border with Canada, refugees get out of taxis or vans several times a day, and Royal Canadian Mounted Police officers have warned that if they cross they will be arrested for illegal entry, which they would do. Huh. Most are soon released to seek asylum, living and working independently while awaiting judgment.

“We have everyone’s hopes – to be successful and make a difference in life,” said Alejandro Cortez, a 25-year-old Colombian man as he exited a taxi last week at the end of Roxham Road in Champlain, New York. Saint-Bernard-de-Lacole, a town of about 6,000, is directly across the border from Quebec.

Cortez joins a renewed stream of migrants seeking asylum in Canada after a 20-month ban on asylum requests designed to curb the spread of COVID-19. Families are once again loading suitcases and carrying children across a remote, snow-covered gorge to the border.

Canada’s decision to lift the ban on November 21 contrasts with the approach of the United States, where the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has indefinitely extended a similar ban along the border with Mexico that will enter its third year in March.

On Wednesday, a Justice Department attorney strongly defended the ban against scathing inquiries from federal appeals court judges about the scientific basis for such a far-reaching move against Asylum.

The US expelled migrants nearly 1.5 million times from March 2020 to November, using what is known as a Title 42 authority, named for a 1944 public health law that the Trump and Biden administrations used to deport migrants. To deny the opportunity to seek asylum on the grounds that it would stop the spread of the coronavirus. It is responsible for two out of three arrests or expulsions at the border, mostly single adults and some families. Unaccompanied children are exempt under President Joe Biden.

Fully vaccinated travelers have been able to enter the US and Canada since November, but Canada went a step further by restoring a path to asylum.

Cortez arrived in the US five months ago on a tourist visa. He said he could not return to Colombia because of the violence and the disappearance of thousands of youths.

“It all hurts a lot,” he said. “We have to run away from our country.”

Asylum seekers on the Canadian border began appearing on Roxham Road around the time Trump became president. How it became the preferred place to cross into Canada is unclear, but migrants are taking advantage of a quirk in a 2002 agreement between the US and Canada that mandated asylum seekers to be first in the country. have to apply.

Migrants who visit an official crossing – such as where Interstate 87 ends east of Roxham Road – return to the United States and are asked to apply there. But those arriving at a location other than a port of entry into Canada, such as Roxham Road, are allowed to stay and request security.

Canadian government data shows that from February 2017 to September, about 60,000 people sought asylum after illegally crossing the border into Canada, many on Roxham Road, about 30 miles (50 kilometers) south of Montreal.

Of them, more than 45,000 claims have been finalised, with around 24,300 accepted or about 54%. Another 17,000 claims were rejected while more than 14,000 are still pending. Other claims were dropped or withdrawn.

In December, the number of asylum seekers at the border in Quebec rose to about 2,800. According to the data, this is more than 832 in November and 96 in October.

Canada lifted the asylum ban with little fanfare or public backlash, perhaps because the number of people arriving in the US from Mexico is small.

Biden’s decision to keep the Trump-era ban in place has drawn sharp criticism from the United Nations refugee agency, legal scholars and advocates.

Under the embargo, people from Mexico, Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador are deported back to Mexico before being granted asylum rights under US and international law. People from other countries are sent home without giving them a chance of asylum.

The scientific reasoning of Title 42 has been met with skepticism from the very beginning.

The Associated Press reported in 2020 that Vice President Mike Pence called CDC Director Dr. Robert Redfield in March of the same year and asked him to use the agency’s special legal authority to reduce the number of asylum seekers in the country.

Pence made the request after a top agency doctor overseeing such orders refused to comply with the directive, saying there was no valid public health reason for issuing it.

Dr. Anne Schuchat, the second-highest CDC official when she left in May, told a congressional panel last year that “most of the evidence at the time did not support this policy proposal.”

On Wednesday, Justice Department attorney Sharon Swingle stressed that the ban is based on scientific expertise and prevents disease in crowded Border Patrol facilities. Facing constant questioning from judges on a three-member panel in Washington, she admitted that there was no affidavit in court records to explain the order’s scientific foundations.

Within hours of changes in November by the Canadian government, immigrants began arriving on Roxham Road in large numbers, said Janet McFetridge of Plattsburgh Cares, a group providing hats, mittens and scarves to people crossing the border in the dead of winter. does. She said people are eager to cross while they can.

“There’s definitely a fear that it’s going to shut down suddenly,” she said while waiting on Roxham Road for the next group of migrants.

A Canadian official told a French woman and her accomplice, who were carrying a child, that it was illegal to enter Canada.

“If you pass through here, you will be arrested,” he said.

“Yeah, it’s not a problem. It’s not a problem,” said the woman as her partner began pulling a suitcase across the border.

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Spaget reported from San Diego.

Nation World News Desk
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