Asylum-seekers still arriving in Northern NY despite closure of unofficial border crossing

Published: Mar. 27, 2023 at 6:13 PM EDT
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PLATTSBURGH, N.Y. (WCAX) - Asylum-seekers are now being sent back to the United States. The irregular border crossing at Roxham Road in Northern New York is technically closed, but that’s not stopping migrants from continuing to travel to the North Country.

Now when they cross, rather than being allowed to stay in Canada, most are immediately sent to the nearby official border crossing and turned over to U.S. immigration agents.

At the bus stop in Plattsburgh, migrants continue to arrive on buses from New York City. Taxi drivers say fewer are coming, but they still are, hoping they’ll be able to claim refugee status in Canada. However, Canada is no longer allowing asylum-seekers to do that.

Still, the buses continue to arrive. One on Monday afternoon had about a half dozen people headed for Roxham Road in Champlain, including a man from Afghanistan who was confident he’d be allowed to stay in Canada

“I can explain my situation,” he said. “The United States and also Canada are democratic countries, and I think we can do it.”

Even with these latest arrivals, traffic at Roxham Road has slowed from the 150-250 people a day in recent months.

The U.S. and Canada reached a new immigration deal Friday. And as the clock struck midnight, the irregular border crossing was officially closed to asylum-seekers after six years.

The remnants of people still remain in the form of cellphones and other discarded goods, but there are fewer migrants.

“I’m glad, it’s a relief. It’s quieter now. We can sleep at night and now I don’t have to worry about my dogs,” said Melissa Beshaw, who lives down the street from Roxham Road and says she’s noticed the sudden decline in traffic on her street. “There’s been a few cars coming up and down, some are being dropped off, some are being turned away. Where they went I have no idea, but yeah it’s slowed down and it’s quieter.”

Canada’s border patrol shared with us early Saturday morning that once migrants cross into Canada, they are bused to the officials Interstate-87 Champlain border crossing, but there’s no official word on what happens after that.

North Country Assemblyman Billy Jones is frustrated with the lack of communication.

“We do not know what the plan is as locals. This is strictly a federal issue. I agree, I know that, but it becomes a local issue when we possibly could have several hundreds of migrants and asylum-seekers stuck in the North Country,” said Jones, D-Chateaugay Lake.

At the border, taxi drivers told me they’ve been picking up migrants when border patrol calls and driving them back down to Plattsburgh. Monday, we heard of drivers taking them as far as Burlington, Albany and New York City.

Local officials are asking for federal funds if they are expected to help the people who get turned away from Canada.

We asked Congresswoman Elise Stefanik if there should be federal aid coming to northern communities that might have to support the asylum-seekers. She did not answer that question but instead expressed her frustration with the Biden administration and the illegal migrants who are coming into New York from Canada. Stefanik, R-New York, said, in part: “It is past time to end the taxpayer-funded bus trips of illegals through New York’s 21st District that are incentivizing illegal immigration, and the Biden administration must uphold the law and send a clear signal by securing our borders.”

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