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In Quebec, A Summer Surge Of Asylum-Seekers Fleeing U.S.

Canadian police are using moving trucks to transport the myriad suitcases of so many asylum-seekers crossing into Canada along a rural road in New York state.
Kathleen Masterson
Canadian police are using moving trucks to transport the myriad suitcases of asylum-seekers crossing into Canada along a rural road in New York state.

The number of asylum-seekers fleeing the U.S. into Canada is rising precipitously this summer; July saw nearly four times as many people crossing the border as the previous month. 

Royal Mounted Police say they intercepted nearly 3,000 people crossing into Quebec along rural back roads in July alone, a monthly high for 2017.

Still, the number of border crossings in August far exceeded July's massive surge: more than 5,500 asylum-seekers were stopped by Canadian police in August. The vast majority of those people crossed in Champlain, New York.  

Of the nearly 10,000 people who have fled the U.S. to Quebec so far in 2017, most are crossing the border in rural areas between legal border checkpoints. That's because the Safe Third Country Agreement prevents asylum-seekers from requesting asylum at a border checkpoint between the U.S. and Canada.

For the first six months of 2017, the top five countries of origin of the asylum seekers are (in order): Haiti, Sudan, Turkey, Eritrea, and the United States.

Canadian authorities say most of the U.S. citizens are children born to foreign nationals who were living in the U.S. Canadian officials say they don't refuse children who are U.S. citizens, because their priority is to keep families together.

Many of those who flee the U.S. are residing here legally; some have temporary protected status, some have temporary work permits and some are on tourist visas.

In recent months there has been a surge of Haitians heading north. Some have cited fear that the Trump administration will end the temporary protected status program in January.

Still, there's no guarantee that Haitians will be allowed to stay in Canada. 

Back in 2014, the Canadian government ended a temporary protection policy for Haiti, and resumed deportations in March.  Now the Canadian government is working to get the message out that there is currently no new immigration program for Haitians coming to Canada.

For all the foreign nationals seeking asylum in Canada, it may be months before their requests will be evaluated. According to immigration attorneys, the Canadian review board that determines asylum cases is significantly backlogged due to the flood of requests.

Update: 10:38 a.m. 9/29/2017 This story was updated to include newly released data on the number of illegal crossings in August.

Roxham Road has become so well known as a crossing point for those seeking asylum that people are coming from all over the U.S. to cross into Canada on this quiet rural road.
Credit Kathleen Masterson / VPR
People are coming to this popular crossing point in Champlain, New York, from all over the United States.

Kathleen Masterson as VPR's New England News Collaborative reporter. She covered energy, environment, infrastructure and labor issues for VPR and the collaborative. Kathleen came to Vermont having worked as a producer for NPR’s science desk and as a beat reporter covering agriculture and the environment.
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