The Safe Third Country Agreement closes Roxham Road border crossing point

Published: Mar. 25, 2023 at 6:41 AM EDT
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CHAMPLAIN, N.Y. (WCAX) - Any asylum seekers trying to cross the northern border by Roxham Road, will now be turned away. This after Canada and the U.S. reached a new immigration deal Friday.

It means the popular unofficial point of entry, Roxham Road in Champlain, N.Y. is closed.

As the clock struck midnight, Canadian border officials tore off the tape and cut the plastic on a new sign at Roxham Road. Warning migrants to, “Stop. Do not cross.”

But as they did that, just 50 meters away a last taxi pulled up with a family trying to make it across in time.

Their driver urging them to run.

They did. A man and young child, crossing through.

Our cameras were at Roxham Road when the family made the effort to cross into Canada.

Officials allowed the family through. However, their bags left in limbo on the American side, to be sorted out later.

Moments like those, underscoring the scramble of the last moments where Roxham Road was a place refugees could enter and ask for asylum in Canada.

For six years, it’s been a unofficial crossing point for tens of thousands looking to make a new life in Canada. Pretty much everyone like them goes through this small, dead-end rural road in the North Country.

But, the better services and faster immigration process they sought were in high demand.

Quebec was overwhelmed by a sharp influx of migrants in recent years. So Canada turned to the United States to renegotiate the Safe Third Country Agreement.

Friday, the leaders of both nations announced sweeping changes that closed the loophole of Roxham Road. And created this mad dash to get across before the clock struck midnight.

Despite the official closure, the buses of migrants keep coming. A Greyhound bus from New York City, pulls into Plattsburgh just before 4:00 a.m.

When its passengers bought their tickets and boarded, Roxham Road was open.

When they got off, they learned it’s closed. No line of cabs awaits them, to ferry them along the last leg of their journey. And no instructions on what they should do next.

One driver who did show up tells us in his 38-years driving cabs, he’s never seen anything like this.

“It’s bad because they’re closing the border,” Wayne Seymour said. “You see I have children in my personal vehicle, keeping them warm. I feel sorry for the women and children. These people are running for their lives, they’re scared.”

A second bus arrives, and at dawn, a third.

They’re scheduled to keep coming. Wayne Seymour normally would be driving these people to the border. But not this night. He tells us Canadian border officials told him not to.

“They just dropped it on us. They said don’t come up after midnight,” Seymour said.

Instead, he’s offering to buy the migrants coffee next door while they wait, to get them out of the cold.

But while he’s doing that, we follow the other driver who takes a van load of passengers up to Roxham Road anyway. They cross into Canada.

The process looks the same as those who came before midnight. But we’re told, it’s not.

Even now five hours after the closure of Roxham Road, people are still crossing into Canada. However, Canadian border officials tell us this is not where people will be staying. They will be bused over to the I-87 official border crossing and then likely sent back to America. What happens after that, is unclear.