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Back Road to Hope: Anxious Migrants Stream Into Canada at Remote Outpost

Migrants seek asylum in Canada searching for the security that the U.S. political climate doesn't give them.

They have come from all over the United States, piling out of taxis, pushing strollers and pulling luggage, to the end of a country road in the north woods.

Where the pavement stops, they pick up small children and lead older ones wearing Mickey Mouse backpacks around a "road closed" sign, threading bushes, crossing a ditch, and filing past another sign in French and English that says "No pedestrians." Then they are arrested.

Seven days a week, 24 hours a day, migrants who came to the U.S. from across the globe — Syria, Congo, Haiti, elsewhere — arrive here where Roxham Road dead-ends so they can walk into Canada, hoping its policies will give them the security they believe the political climate in the United States does not.

Above: Multinational women pay their taxi fare as they arrive at an unofficial border station across from Saint-Bernard-de-Lacolle, Quebec on Aug. 8, 2017.

Charles Krupa / AP

Dulne Brutus, of Haiti, tows his luggage while heading to an unofficial border station across from Saint-Bernard-de-Lacolle, Quebec, on Aug. 7.

It's a mystery how this spot, not even an official border crossing, became the favored place to cross into Canada. But, once migrants started to go there, word quickly spread on social media.

Charles Krupa / AP

A Haitian boy holds onto his father as they approach an illegal crossing point at the border from Champlain, N.Y., to Saint-Bernard-de-Lacolle, Quebec on Aug. 7.

Charles Krupa / AP

A Royal Canadian Mounted Police officer advises migrants that they are about to illegally cross the border and will be arrested on Aug. 7.

The passage has become so crowded this summer that Canadian police set up a reception center on their side of the border in the Quebec community of Saint-Bernard-de-Lacolle, about 30 miles south of Montreal, or almost 300 miles north of New York City.

Charles Krupa / AP

A group of people who said they were from Haiti walk down Roxham Road in Champlain, New York as they prepare to cross the border.

The migrants say they are driven by the perception that the age of Republican President Donald Trump, with his ban on travelers from certain majority-Muslim countries, means the United States is no longer the destination of the world's dispossessed.

Geoff Robins / AFP - Getty Images

Refugees wait as they board a bus after crossing the border in Hemmingford, Quebec, on Aug. 3.

Under the 2002 Safe Country Agreement between the United States and Canada, migrants seeking asylum must apply to the first country they arrive in. If they were to go to a legal port of entry, they would be returned to the United States and told to apply there.

But, in a quirk in the application of the law, if migrants arrive in Canada at a location other than a port of entry, such as Roxham Road, they are allowed to request refugee status there.

Christinne Muschi / Reuters

An asylum seeker unloads a suitcase from a truck at a processing center near the U.S-Canada border in Lacolle, Quebec, Aug. 9

Graham Hughes / AP

Asylum seekers near Champlain, New York, make their way towards the border on Aug. 6.

Small numbers continue to cross into Canada elsewhere, but the vast majority take Roxham Road. U.S. officials said they began to notice that more people were crossing there last fall, around the time of the U.S. presidential election.

Geoff Robins / AFP - Getty Images

A young girl whose family identified themselves as from Syria gathers her belongings in Champlain, New York on Aug. 7.

Christinne Muschi / Reuters

A police officer frisks a woman as she is processed before being turned over to the Canada Border Services Agency at a tent in Saint-Bernard-de-Lacolle, Quebec at an unofficial border station in Champlain, N.Y. on Aug. 8.

Charles Krupa / AP

A girl who crossed the U.S.-Canada border with her family looks through a fence at a temporary detention center in Blackpool, Quebec, Aug. 5.

Geoff Robins / AFP - Getty Images

Members of the Canadian Armed Forces rest after erecting tents to house asylum seekers in Lacolle, Quebec on Aug. 9.

Christinne Muschi / Reuters

Refugees stand outside one of the tents set up to house the influx of asylum seekers by the Canadian Armed Forces near the border in Lacolle, Quebec, Aug. 10.

Christinne Muschi / Reuters

A Haitian refugee sticks his head out of the window of a tent near the border set up by Canadian Armed Forces in Lacolle, Quebec on Aug. 10.

Most of the people now making the crossing are originally from Haiti. The Trump administration said this year that it planned to end a special humanitarian program in January that was enacted after the 2010 earthquake that gave about 58,000 Haitians permission to temporarily stay in the U.S.

Christinne Muschi / Reuters

A pregnant woman walks through a tent after being processed by police on Aug. 5.

Geoff Robins / AFP - Getty Images

Asylum seekers wait to be transported to a processing center after entering Canada in Hemmingford, Quebec on Aug. 9.

Graham Hughes / AP