There are multiple reports of refugees from the U.S. braving the winter weather to cross the Canadian border in hopes of a brighter life. The Canada Border Services Agency claims “in January , 452 people made a refugee claim at Quebec land border crossings.” The increase in claims is correlated to the executive orders signed by President Trump that target undocumented people in the United States.
The Atlantic reported on one such crossing, photographing a Sudanese mother traveling by taxi with four children to Hemmingford, Quebec. Bundled up and suitcase in hand, she gave Canadian police her information when she and her children were escorted into custody in order to be processed. Another anonymous migrant was photographed falling to his knees, landing on a hill of snow, begging for asylum; Canadian police also took him into custody.
Saidu Mohammed, a man who fled Ghana because of persecution due to his sexual orientation, walked from North Dakota to the Emerson border of Canada in -4 degrees Fahrenheit in the hopes of obtaining refugee status. After traveling for six months in search of freedom, Saidu feared he would not have a fair trial in the U.S., choosing instead to partake in an arduous journey which resulted in severe frostbite on his fingers. In fact, according to Canadian aid workers, many of the migrants and refugees lack the proper clothing necessary for the harsh winter conditions at the border.
CNN reports that nearly 100 refugees have fled to the Emerson border in the last two months. Many are concerned about their lives and safety after President Trump signed an initial executive order banning refugees and travelers from seven countries from entering the United States. Many know of this as the “travel ban” or the “Muslim ban,” which has sparked controversy around the world, forcing thousands to fear for their friends and loved ones. Undocumented people and refugees are choosing to relocate to Canada because of its liberal attitudes and policies toward immigrants.
According to the Canada Immigration Newsletter, “Applicants who spent time in Canada on temporary status would be able to count a portion of this time towards the three-year requirement [for Canadian citizenship].” Members of the Canadian government have proposed a number of amendments to the Citizenship Act that would allow people who wish to obtain citizenship to be processed faster and easier.
The Atlantic describes Canada as being “exceptional” in its refugee policies, welcoming over 40,000 Syrian refugees between November 2015 and March 2016. CNN reported Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau previously discussed the importance of welcoming refugees into Canada. However, in February 2016, over 22 refugees were taken into police custody and processed upon arrival at the Canadian border before being returned to the United States. Canadian law enforcement is standing by the Safe Third Country Agreement that states, “Under the agreement, refugee claimants are required to request refugee protection in the first safe country they arrive in unless they qualify for an exception to the agreement…To date, the U.S. is the only country that is designated as a safe third country by Canada under the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act.” However, Canadian activists are urging their government to reconsider the United States’ designation as safe territory for refugees in the wake of recent policies.
Historically, the United States has been viewed as a land of great opportunity to all those who show up at its gate, looking to fulfill the “American Dream.” However, under the Trump administration, refugees feel they are in a state of danger in which it is necessary to relocate, risking their lives crossing to Canada in freezing and wintry conditions.