The Americas

Canada sees spike in border crossers coming from US

Families brave frigid temperatures crossing border

 

An unprecedented number of people are fleeing north, seeking safety in a new homeland.

No, not in America.

Thousands are leaving the United States for Canada and immigration advocates say the political rhetoric of the Trump administration is playing a role.

Many cross illegally, braving snow and frigid cold in a dash for asylum. They avoid border checkpoints and the risk of being sent back to the U.S. due to a pact dubbed the "Safe Third Country Agreement." It requires the majority of migrants to apply for refugee protection in the first country of arrival.

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"Some are arriving fairly well dressed but others are not and at times have suffered from cold and exposure," said Kyle Archambault, a criminal intelligence analyst with the Royal Canadian Mounted Police.

Canadian authorities say the migrants come from all over the world and cover a broad-spectrum, including families with children, some pushing baby carriages or carrying infants.

"I'm a father of two myself and lots of our members do have kids too so there's no doubt that it's touching," said Staff Sgt. Brian Byrne of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police.

The number of people seeking asylum has soared in the last year and spiked recently, with Quebec seeing the greatest influx.

According to the Canada Border Services Agency, more than 1,400 people have made claims at land border ports of entry in the region since November. That's more than all of 2015.

"Usually in the winter months it would be a quiet time but we've seen the increase has occurred over these winter months, regardless," Archambault said.

Immigration advocates cite the stark contrast between Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau's message of welcome and the actions of U.S. president Donald Trump, who is cracking down on immigration, for motivating the rush.

"In fact, the information that has been given to us by our clientele recently is about the new immigration policy. People without status in the U.S. fear being arrested and deported to their country of origin," said Stephane Handfield, a lawyer. "Most of those people, with reason, fear being persecuted if they are sent back. So they have no other alternative than to turn to Canada to apply for refugee status."

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Some who seek safe haven trek across rural roads and isolated spaces but others simply take a cab to the border, stroll over and turn themselves in.

While there is compassion for the migrants' plight, authorities are ever watchful.

"They're not reporting to an open port of entry so they're being placed under arrest and then interviewed to make sure there's no national security nexus," said Inspector Martin Roach of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police.

The inundation is keeping the Royal Canadian Mounted Police and their partners busy, forcing them to add manpower along the border. With warmer temperatures approaching in the coming months, resources may be further stretched. 

Molly Line joined Fox News Channel as a Boston-based correspondent in January 2006.