Tuesday, August 29, 2017
Earlier today at my blog, I linked to an article published earlier this month in the Toronto Star. In "Fleeing to Canada, asylum seekers’ old lives revealed in the scraps found along New York’s Roxham Rd.", journalist Allan Woods looked at the debris discarded by refugee claimants fleeing potential threats in Trump's America.
There were airplane boarding passes and luggage tags from Haiti, Florida, Ethiopia, Salt Lake City and New York; Greyhound bus tickets from Albany and Indianapolis; a Delaware driver’s licence and a U.S. Social Security number; Florida detention records; immigration documents from Orlando; and medical laboratory test records for a Delaware man.
Dampened by rain and dried by sun, the scraps of papers discarded while fleeing for a new life in Canada offer insight into the journeys made by asylum seekers. They may have been thrown away as simple garbage from a life abandoned or been purposefully left behind for fear of complicating an expected refugee claim in Canada.
Canadian officials said this week that there have been about 250 people crossing each day at Roxham Rd. in the past few weeks, with a one-day peak of 500 about a week ago.
About 85 per cent have been Haitian nationals worried that the U.S. government intends to get rid of a special immigration designation, known as a Temporary Protected Status, that prevents deportation back to Haiti and nine other countries.
Among them is the Baptiste family — mother Sophonie, father Michel and son Colby — who stepped off a Greyhound bus at 6 p.m. Wednesday along with an elderly grandfather, an aunt and a cousin after deciding to leave behind the life they had built over the past decade in Queens, N.Y.
In Haiti, they ran a successful home renovation business that was abandoned over fears of kidnapping. Colby Baptiste said he was employed by Honda and was a registered real estate agent in New York before the family decided to seek refuge in Canada.
Pushing them to take that decision was a letter they received from immigration authorities advising them to prepare for the expiration of their Temporary Protected Status and an eventual return to Haiti.
With tears welling in her eyes, Sophonie Baptiste said she saw Canada as a more generous and open country and was confident her family would be able to rebuild once again.
More recently, the Star carried Mike Blanchfield's Canadian Press article interviewing some of the people fleeing.
The Francois family are among nearly 7,000 asylum seekers — most of them Haitian — who have flooded across the Quebec-New York state border since mid-July when the Trump administration announced it might end their “temporary protected status,” which was granted following Haiti’s massive 2010 earthquake. They are among the first few hundred the government has relocated to this eastern Ontario processing centre.
Few here have heard of Justin Trudeau and no one says they saw his now-controversial January Twitter message welcoming immigrants facing persecution. The tweet was heavily criticized by the Conservative opposition for sparking the American exodus.
But many here say they uprooted their new American lives because of something more primal: they were driven by fear of the anti-immigration politics of President Donald Trump.
“I decided to come to Canada because the politics of migration in the United States changed,” says Haitian-born Justin Remy Napoleon, 39. “I was scared. I came here to continue my life.”
Like Frank Francois, Napoleon says he feared deportation over Trump’s policy shift, so he left his adopted home in San Diego, flew to the eastern seaboard and boarded a bus for the northern border. It wasn’t the first time he decided to start over in another country. He left Haiti in 2006 for the Dominican Republic and then went to Brazil.
Napoleon says he dreamed of coming to Canada from as far back as his time in Haiti. When he crossed the border earlier this month, “I thought I was entering a paradise.”
The eastern Ontario city of Cornwall, close to the Québec and New York borders, has--as reported by, among others, Global News--been scrambling to find housing for hundreds, even thousands, of people.
Const. Daniel Cloutier, a Cornwall police spokesman, says almost 300 Haitians have arrived recently and, so far, there have been no problems and none are anticipated.
About 3,800 people crossed into Quebec in the first two weeks of August following the 2,996 who crossed in July after the Trump administration said it was considering ending “temporary protected status” for Haitians in the U.S. following their country’s massive 2010 earthquake.
Last week, federal Transport Minister Marc Garneau announced a temporary shelter would be set up in Cornwall.
The newcomers are being housed at the Nav Centre, which is run by Nav Canada, the private non-profit corporation that owns and operates the country’s civil air navigation service. The military is erecting tents on its grounds.
The centre sits on more than 28 hectares of parkland abutting the St. Lawrence Seaway and is billed as a government conference centre with all the amenities of a luxury resort. Its website boasts 560 “comfortable” rooms, as well as a swimming pool, sauna, fitness centre and outdoors sports fields.
Amy Minsky, also at Global News, reported that many of the refugee and asylum candidates who came to Canada have been misled by false rumours, carried on social media.
Amid the federal government’s assurances it has everything under control at the Canada-U.S. border, where thousands of would-be refugees are crossing over in droves, is an aggressive campaign to combat one element seen to be behind the most recent wave: the viral spread of potentially deliberately misleading information about Canada’s refugee and asylum systems.
The Liberal government has said it is aware of misinformation spreading via instant messaging apps like WhatsApp and through other social media platforms.
Much of the misinformation has targeted the Haitian population living in the United States with “temporary protected status” granted to more than 50,000 Haitians, primarily in the wake of 2010 earthquake that killed an estimated 222,570, injured another 300,000 and displaced almost 100,000.
With that status likely to expire without renewal in mere months, however, many have packed their bags, made their way to Champlain, N.Y., and walked across to Saint-Bernard-de-Lacolle, Que. – seemingly, according to the Canadian government, encouraged by false information.
“The misinformation that Haitians in the United States, for example, could get permanent residency easily in Canada if they have temporary protected status in the United States. That’s completely untrue,” Immigration Minister Ahmed Hussen said in an interview with Global News.
“Those [are the] kinds of myths we’re working really hard to dispel, and we’re engaging all available means to attack that misinformation.”
Videos on YouTube are also spreading misinformation about Canada’s system.
At VICE, meanwhile, Cole Kazdin described how fraudsters in the United States are taking advantage of refugees and immigrants there desperately trying to legalize their status.
When Andrea Mora took her grown daughter Karla to get her green card two years ago, she could barely contain her excitement on the drive to the immigration office. "The happiness…" Mora tells me in Spanish. "We were looking so forward to the interview." Finally, she would have her entire family together in the US.
But instead of walking out of the immigration office with a green card, Karla was given a deportation order on the spot. She was a victim of the sort of misinformation and sometimes deliberately misleading advice that experts say is all too common among immigrants looking for permanent resident status.
Mora, who asked that I change her name, came to the US 11 years ago from Costa Rica to be further from her alcoholic husband and closer to her eldest daughter, who is married to a US citizen. After being sponsored by her daughter, Mora now has resident status. She was hoping to sponsor her younger daughter, Karla, who came to the US on a tourist visa. So she borrowed money from friends to get the $5,000 to pay a notario—a term for a notary or immigration consultant—who advised her and helped them fill out the paperwork to apply for Karla's residency.
But notaries don't have law degrees. The one that Mora saw not only filled out the paperwork incorrectly, she also promised an outcome—a green card—that attorneys familiar with the case say would never have been possible.
Those errors led to her interviewer at the immigration office not just turning her application down but telling her to leave the country. Heaping injury upon injury, the notario's high fees meant that Mora is still paying back the friends who lent her money two years ago.
I wonder if anything similar is going on in Canada.