Every time a bus pulls into the Greyhound station in Plattsburgh, New York, a small group of cabbies wait to take passengers on a nearly half-hour ride up a snowy, dead-end dirt road.
There, at the Canadian border, refugees alight from taxis or vans several times a day, warned by Royal Canadian Mounted Police officers that they will be arrested if they attempt to cross without legal authorization, which they do. Most of them are soon released to apply for asylum, allowing them to live and work freely while awaiting a decision.
“We have the same hope as everyone — to be successful and change our lives,” said Alejandro Cortez, a 25-year-old Colombian, getting out of a taxi last week at the end of Roxham Road in Champlain, New York. The town of around 6,000 inhabitants is located directly on the border with Saint-Bernard-de-Lacolle, Quebec.
Cortez joined a renewed flow of migrants seeking refuge in Canada after a 20-month ban on asylum claims created to prevent the spread of COVID-19. Families are once again packing their bags and carrying children down a remote, snow-covered border ditch.
The decision by Canadian authorities to lift the ban on November 21 stands in stark contrast to the approach in the United States, where the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has extended a similar restriction indefinitely. on the border with Mexico that will reach its third year in March.
On Wednesday, a Justice Department prosecutor vigorously defended the ban in the face of federal appeals court judges questioning the scientific basis for such a far-reaching asylum move.
The United States expelled migrants approximately 1.5 million times from March 2020 through November under what is known as the Title 42 statute, which was named after a 1944 public health law that the Donald Trump and Joe Biden administrations have used to deny migrants a chance to apply for asylum, on the grounds that it slows the spread of the coronavirus.