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Illegal immigrants sneaking out of Vt. into Canada - WCAX.COM Local Vermont News, Weather and Sports-

Illegal immigrants sneaking out of Vt. into Canada

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DERBY LINE, Vt. -

New concerns at the Vermont-Canada: authorities say people are being smuggled illegally from the U.S. into Canada.

Border agents could only watch as a caravan with California license plates and a dozen Roma, also known as Gypsies, zoomed across the Vermont border heading north this past October. The car stopped in Magog soon after and called the Canadian Police. When the Mounties arrived, the Gypsies applied for political asylum. It's a new twist on an age old problem.

At Brown's Drug Store in Derby Line, pharmacist and owner Buzz Roy is a living piece of town history. But Roy says the town has changed. He had a run in with the law two years ago after ordering a pizza in Stanstead, Quebec, and not going home the same way he came. He went the easy way, up a street now known as porous border between Vermont and Canada.

"That's the way I've always went and I was stopped by the state police and told I couldn't enter the country there," Roy said.

He had to go back home to Vermont the way he came. It bothered Roy so much he did it again, and then again.

"I went back, did it again, stopped and read a sign. Then the Border Patrol arrested me, took me down and handcuffed me," he said.

Derby Line and Stanstead are more like one community, with the border even running through the library.

"Until very recently it was a non-border; it wasn't thought of as crossing into another country," Roy said.

The area which largely remains open is an attractive place for smugglers, people sneaking into the U.S., and a growing trend-- people looking to cross illegally from the U.S. into Canada.

In 2010, 85 people crossed the border illegally in Stanstead. The number jumped to 168 last year. So far this year there have been 260 illegal crossings.

One popular avenue in the past has always been Church Street. It's blocked off now with flower pots, but it used to be wide-open. They've also beefed up security in these parts.

Up the road at the Four Seasons Motel, owner Joyce Oeschger say it's a hot spot for immigrants on their way to seeking asylum north of the border. People who enter Canada without proper papers can still get government assistance while they wait five years to apply for permanent residency.

"It's closer to the border. The Border Patrol patrols our parking lot daily," Oeschger said.

Oeschger says she even once invited a group of five immigrants who were sitting in the rain in the motel's parking lot inside to have breakfast because she felt bad. The next day 10 people were waiting.

"The third day there was more. So I said no, go away, go away, and that ended that," she said.

Just a few weeks ago, Pharmacist Buzz Roy says he saw something strange.

"We observed a taxi from Albany stop in front of the store. A couple and three kids got out; the taxi left," he said.

The family went up the street into an alley, and then quickly made their way over the border.

We did try several times to reach out to the U.S. Immigration and Border Patrol and had not yet heard back when this story was published.

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