NYS Exposed: Thousands flee to Canada

November 02, 2017 11:53 PM

You could soon start paying for stricter immigration enforcement, but not in taxes. Fear is driving both legal and illegal immigrants to flee the country. According to Canadian customs officials, many of them are using a New York-Quebec border to cross. It's on a road between Plattsburgh and Montreal, called Roxham Road.

Just a few months ago, Roxham Road was full of broken down houses and overgrown weeds. Now, on the Canadian side, it's home to a makeshift police station.

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Royal Canadian Mounted Police officers, day and night, stand guard, and tell anyone who shows up, "If you come here and cross, you're going to be arrested."

It deters some, but not all. Those who cross are, as promised, taken into custody as they claim asylum in Canada. Here's the loophole: they get to stay in Canada while they're processed, instead of being bounced back into America.

On Roxham Road, we met Gracia, a Panamanian woman who has been in the United States for six years. She told us she is here illegally.

"Just want to leave," she told us. She told us she was scared to be in the United States.

"Just different," she says.

Gracia and her companion decided to turn around at the last minute, instead of entering Canada. But many others do cross. When we went to the other side of Roxham Road, in Quebec, we saw five people board a bus. They had just crossed the border, illegally. After being arrested, they were taken about two miles away to an official border crossing to be processed.

Officials wouldn't disclose to us the exact number of refugees to cross the border illegally there. But statistics from the Canadian Government that News10NBC obtained indicate how busy RCMP officers in Quebec have been this summer. In June, they intercepted and arrested 781 asylum seekers. In July, the number jumped to 2,996. In August, it increased again to 5,530. By far, more are arrested in Quebec than any other Canadian province.

Jean-Pierre Fortin is the president of the Customs and Immigration Union, the labor group that represents Canada's customs agents. He blamed the "policies in the United States" for the increase, and says refugees know about Roxham Road through word of mouth. It could become a national crisis for our neighbors to the north.

"We don't have sufficient officers to deal with the matter right now," Fortin said.

It could be a problem on this side of the border too. Our farmers, some of New York's biggest economic drivers, have noticed the recent change.

"It's getting harder and harder to attract even migrant workers, I think in large part, or significantly, because of the enforcement actions that are going on," said Steve Ammerman. He is the manager of public affairs and associate director of public policy at the New York Farm Bureau. 

Ammerman also sees a trickle-down effect.

"We've seen more farmers, particularly in the dairy industry, are looking more and more at robotics," he said.
It's an expensive investment, that Ammerman says could get passed down to you at the store or public market if this trend continues nationwide.

Federal officials have taken a hardline stance on immigration this year, pointing to safety concerns. Gates Town Supervisor Mark Assini, a Republican, has applauded the effort.

"We want them to have an opportunity at the American dream," he said. "But that doesn't mean we leave our borders wide open.

"Stricter enforcement will save lives. There are a number of criminals that are looking to get into the United States."

But it's a stance Governor Andrew Cuomo, a Democrat, has fought. In January, he said New York will be a "beacon of hope and opportunity" for people seeking refuge in New York. When asked about the recent exodus through the Empire State for this story, he chalked it up to geography saying: "They are people who are trying to get to Canada, and New York is a border state."

Fortin points out that refugees are crossing mainly at Roxham Road, however, on the New York-Quebec border. He told us he expects the crossings to pick back up again in the coming months.


Chris Horvatits

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