PLATTSBURGH, New York | The migrants who crossed the border via Roxham Road over the weekend spent three days in detention before being turned away, frustrated and empty-handed, in the US.
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“Everything has to start from scratch,” said Carmen, a Venezuelan who crossed the border via Roxham at dawn on Saturday.
When we met her, she had just been officially removed from Canada, under a new agreement that went into effect just hours before her visit.
The Safe Third Country Agreement now applies to the entire border, which de facto bans migrants from passing through the famous Roxham route unless there are exceptions. The news was announced during President Joe Biden’s visit last week.
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Late yesterday afternoon, about two dozen asylum seekers, among the first to be denied, were waiting for a bus in Plattsburgh under the neon lights of a convenience store.
A mixture of despair and resignation hung in the air.
“I’m so confused right now,” said Steven, the 24-year-old Venezuelan who still had his neon green identification bracelet on his wrist.
Photo by Nora T. Lamontagne
Peruvian Alan Rivas hoped to find his wife, who lived in Terrebonne, but was sent back to the United States after three days.
“I don’t know what to do. I have to call my family so they can transfer me,” says Alan Rivas, who has already spent more than $4,000 to get there.
The 38-year-old had been considering returning to Peru, his native country, despite the risks to his life there.
Short stay in Canada
Since midnight on Saturday, asylum-seekers arrested on Roxham Road have been taken to a place where they are being screened, and then to a detention center near the Lacolle border crossing in Monterjee.
Those we spoke to say at least 100 people are staying there in bunk beds awaiting a decision.
“I was so nervous, I could hardly sleep,” said Nicole, a young Colombian who was hoping to join her cousins in Montreal.
Three days and three nights later, it was the Border Police who instead announced his fateful dismissal.
After that, they took his fingerprints and forced him to sign the documents.
The young woman also received an appointment to appear in the United States, at the end of April.
Nicole then had to make her own way out of the border, paying about $45 for a taxi to the Plattsburgh bus station.
“I’ve been wearing the same shirt for four days, and we didn’t have access to our luggage,” she apologized, sitting down in front of a sandwich of white bread.
The disappointment was particularly great for some immigrants who thought they could be admitted thanks to an exception for the immediate family of someone already in Canada.
However, Brahim (not his real name), a Chadian who maintains that his wife is Canadian, was sent back to the United States on Tuesday.
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The 30-year-old scrolled through photos of his young family on his phone, copies of his and his wife’s passports and their cute little boy born in Quebec a few months ago…
This he showed to the customs officials, in addition to giving the phone number of his wife, who is in Cameroon, and his relatives in Montreal.
But nothing works.
I never thought of taking another passport. “Now we cry over that,” said the man who fled persecution after pro-democracy demonstrations in Chad.
“At least I can work in the States. Some are here illegally with their children.” He added, looking out of the corner of his eye at a small family sitting nearby.
At about 7:25 p.m., a Greyhound bus bound for New York pulled into the parking lot of the American Gas Station.
“The same thing we took to get here,” Venezuelan Carmen said bitterly.
Compatriot Stephen hesitated until the last minute before buying his ticket. Was he back in New Jersey? Was he going to Boston instead? in New York? The driver’s patience ran out.
The young man finally boarded.
The bus left as soon as it arrived, and the migrants were put back on track.
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