More Migrants Seeking Asylum Through Reopened Canadian Border | Politics

CHAMPLAIN, NY (AP) – Each time a bus arrives at Greyhound Station in Plattsburgh, New York, a small group of taxi drivers waits to lead passengers on a half-hour trip to a path of snow-covered and dead-end land.

There, at the border with Canada, refugees pile into taxis or vans several times a day, and Royal Canadian Mounted Police officers warn that they will be arrested for illegal entry if they cross, which ‘they do. Most are quickly released to seek asylum, living and working freely while awaiting a decision.

“We have everyone’s hopes – to succeed and change their lives,” Alejandro Cortez, a 25-year-old Colombian, said as he got out of a taxi last week at the end of Roxham Road in Champlain, New York. The town of about 6,000 people sits directly across the border from Saint-Bernard-de-Lacolle, Quebec.

Cortez joins a new stream of migrants seeking refuge in Canada after a 20-month ban on asylum claims aimed at preventing the spread of COVID-19. Families again drag suitcases and carry children across a remote, snow-covered ditch to the border.

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

On Wednesday, a Justice Department attorney strenuously defended a ban on harsh questions of federal appeals court judges on the scientific basis of such a sweeping asylum ruling.

The United States deported migrants nearly 1.5 million times from March 2020 through November under what is known as the Title 42 authority, named after a 1944 public health law that the Trump and Biden administrations are used to deny migrants the possibility of applying for asylum on the grounds that it will curb the spread of the coronavirus. This represents about two out of three arrests or deportations at the border, most involving single adults and some families. Unaccompanied children were exempted under President Joe Biden.

Fully vaccinated travelers were able to enter the United States and Canada since novemberbut Canada went further by restoring a pathway to asylum.

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

“It all hurts a lot,” he said. “We must flee our country.”

Asylum seekers at the Canadian border started showing up on Roxham Road around the time Trump became president. It’s unclear exactly how it became the preferred place to enter Canada, but migrants are taking advantage of a quirk in a 2002 agreement between the United States and Canada that says people seeking asylum must do their application in the first country where they arrive.

Migrants who go to an official crossing – like the one where Interstate 87 ends just east of Roxham Road – are sent back to the United States and invited to apply there. But those who arrive in Canada at a location other than a port of entry, such as Roxham Road, are allowed to stay and seek protection.

Nearly 60,000 people have sought asylum after illegally crossing the Canadian border from February 2017 to September, many of them at Roxham Road, about 30 miles (50 kilometers) south of Montreal, Canadian government statistics Pin up.

Of these, more than 45,000 requests were finalized, of which nearly 24,300 were approved, or nearly 54%. Another 17,000 applications have been rejected while more than 14,000 are still pending. Other claims have been abandoned or withdrawn.

In December, the number of asylum seekers at the Quebec border jumped to nearly 2,800. That’s up from 832 in November and 96 in October, according to the statistics.

Canada lifted the asylum ban with little fanfare or public backlash, perhaps because the numbers are small compared to people crossing into the United States from Mexico.

Biden’s decision keeping the Trump-era ban in place has to be the subject of fierce criticism of the United Nations refugee agency, jurists and lawyers.

Under the ban, people from Mexico, Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador are being returned to Mexico before being granted the right under US and international law to seek asylum. People from other countries are sent home without the possibility of asylum.

The scientific arguments for Title 42 were met with skepticism from the start.

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

Under make the request after a top doctor who oversees such orders refused to comply with the directive, saying there was no valid public health reason to issue it.

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

On Wednesday, Justice Department lawyer Sharon Swingle insisted the ban was based on scientific expertise and prevented disease in crowded Border Patrol detention facilities. Facing persistent questioning from judges on a three-member panel in Washington, she acknowledged there were no affidavits in court records to explain the scientific basis for the order.

Within hours of the November change made by the Canadian government, immigrants began arriving in Roxham Road in large numbers, said Janet McFetridge, of Plattsburg Cares, a group that provides toques, mittens and scarves to people crossing the border in the dead of winter. She said people are eager to cross while they can.

“There is certainly a fear that it will suddenly close,” she said as she waited on Roxham Road for the next group of migrants.

A Canadian officer told a woman and her traveling companion, who was carrying a baby, in French that it was illegal to enter Canada there.

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

“Yeah, that’s no problem. That’s no problem,” the woman said as her companion began to drag a suitcase across the border.

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Spagat reported from San Diego.

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