Canada, U.S. to make it harder for Haitians and other migrants to use popular border crossing


A popular unofficial crossing point that has allowed thousands of undocumented migrants, including fleeing Haitians, to cross into Canada from the United States will have tighter scrutiny as of 12:01 a.m. Saturday.

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and President Joe Biden, who met in Ottawa Friday to discuss, among other things, the crisis in Haiti, announced that they have reached a deal to apply the terms of the “Safe Third Country Agreement” to irregular asylum seekers at unofficial border crossings.

Under the agreement, migrants must apply for asylum at their first port of entries. However, Haitians and other migrants have long used a loophole in the agreement to get into Canada and then apply for asylum.

“When the agreement comes into force as of midnight tonight, border officers will return people crossing the border to the closest Canada-U.S. border crossing,” Trudeau said Friday at a press conference with Biden after their meeting. “Our teams have worked hard to achieve this agreement. All of the work will make it possible to deter irregular immigration at our borders.”

Trudeau said Canada and the U.S. share the longest land border in the world and that keeping people safe means “keeping asylum seekers safe, keeping our borders secure and keeping our immigration system strong.”

“Both of our countries believe in secure and safe, fair and orderly migration, refugee protection, border security,” he said. “This is why we will now apply the Safe Third Country Agreement to asylum seekers who cross between official points of entry.”

Biden said the agreement is part of the U.S. effort to address “historic levels of migration.” He noted that the number of migrants arriving at the U.S.-Mexico border “has dropped precipitously” since his administration in early January announced new border rules. The new regulations require asylum seekers to use a mobile app to either apply for an appointment at the border or to get travel authorization to come to the United States once they qualify under a humanitarian program for Cubans, Haitians, Nicaraguans and Venezuelans.

“I commend Canada for stepping up with a similar program, opening new legal pathways for the 50,000 migrants that come to Canada, from countries in the Western Hemisphere,” Biden said.

Canada, as part of the agreement, has agreed to welcome an additional 15,000 migrants on a humanitarian basis from the Western Hemisphere over the course of the year.

The crossing at Roxham Road, a dirt path between New York and Quebec, has for years been popular among migrants from Haiti, Nigeria and Latin American countries who believe that getting asylum in Canada is easier than in the United States. In 2017, scores of Haitians fled to the crossing after President Donald Trump announced he was ending Temporary Protected Status for Haitians.

In recent years, as the security climate in Haiti has worsened, Haitian police officers and other professionals have also used the crossing, flying to Miami and New York and then traveling by bus or car to upstate New York to step across a low bridge over a creek to arrive in Champlain-Saint-Bernard-de-Lacolle in Quebec in hopes of finding residency in Canada.