United States

More Asylum-seekers Leaving U.S. for Canada

Canadian officials report an uptick in illegal crossings from the United States into Quebec

Law enforcement officials along the nation's northern border are reporting a surge in illegal crossings from the United States into Canada.

Normally-quiet Roxham Road in the northern New York community of Champlain has been unusually busy lately, residents and police have said.

People who have already fled their overseas homes are apparently continuing their quests for new or better lives by crossing into Canada.

"Because we are not from here," an unidentified man said as he walked from Champlain into Quebec, responding to a question from NBC Boston about why he is leaving the United States.

NBC Boston was not able to ask the man any details of his immigration status during the very brief encounter before he left the United States.

The man and another man with him told officers they were originally from Yemen. That Mideast country is in crisis, torn apart by violence.

"You will be arrested," a Canadian law enforcement official warned the pair, telling them they should go to an official port of entry to access Quebec.

However, the two men walked illegally over a creek and across the border into Canada, and were taken into the custody of police there.

The men could be overheard telling the authorities they were asylum-seekers.

"Ever since Trump got in office, then they started booking it, it seems like," observed taxi driver Chris Crowningshiele, who brought the Yemeni men to Champlain.

Crowningshiele said he has recently been dropping off between two and five groups a day at this spot in Champlain.

The cabbie said the foreign-born passengers take the bus up from bigger cities, then ask him to get them as close to Canada as he can.

"They're afraid that they're going to get sent back to their country, or something," Crowningshiele said, recounting some of the conversations he has had with passengers.

"They will be given whatever court appearances," said Sgt. Brian Byrne of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police in an interview conducted from the U.S. side of the border as he stood at the edge of Canada.

The Canadian authorities now keep regular watch at the border with Roxham Road after seeing an uptick in crossings like the one NBC Boston witnessed Tuesday.

Canadian authorities reported more than 450 people made refugee asylum requests in Quebec in January, a more than threefold jump from a year prior.

The Yemeni men will be vetted for security or criminal risks, Byrne explained, and if they come up clean, they're likely to be released into the community.

"We can only hope for the best for everybody who comes here," Byrne said. "If these people join our community, the hope is they will help us grow and do their fair share in the community like everyone else."

U.S. Border Patrol would only detain people like the Yemeni men if an agent suspects they may be in the States illegally. However, if an interrogation reveals they have a valid immigration status, they would be free to continue their travels, even if it means venturing to Canada and getting arrested as part of their search for asylum.

In response to an NBC Boston inquiry about the uptick in crossings, U.S. Customs and Border Protection issued the following statement:

“U.S. Customs and Border Protection works closely with our partners in Canada including the Royal Canadian Mounted Police and the Canada Border Services Agency to ensure all crossing is conducted lawfully and orderly through official ports on entry on both sides of the border. Consequences for crossing illegally can include incarceration, civil monetary penalties and deportation with a ban on re-entry.”

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