Fleeing America Across a Freezing Border

Since Trump’s election, Canada is seeing a rise in the number of people illegally crossing its border from the United States.

By Alexander H. Maurice

The town of Emerson, Manitoba, is a tiny village its founders called “the gateway to the west”. At the end of the 19th century, Emerson was founded by American immigrants who came to Canada, looking to improve their economic situation thanks to a land grant from the province of Manitoba. While many things have changed in the century since its founding, the village, situated directly on the U.S./Canada border, remains the gateway to the Canadian west—only now for a new group of immigrants. Since Donald Trump secured the Republican nomination, the residents of Emerson have seen growing numbers of “border hoppers” entering Canada at locations without a designated border crossing. Since the inauguration, in the coldest months of the year, these numbers have continued to grow.

Emerson lies immediately across the border from the town of Noyes, Minnesota, from which train tracks run directly north. Refugees are able to take a taxi to less than a mile north of the town, which leaves them within sight of Emerson. From there, they are able to walk across the border to Emerson, where they can call the police to be picked up to have their asylum claims registered. While it is normally a crime to cross the border in this way, under Canadian law it is not illegal if the purpose is to make an asylum claim.

Noyes to Emerson may be one of the easiest border crossings. Those less fortunate have taken an expensive taxi trip in North Dakota, or elsewhere in Minnesota, from where they have then walked over 30 km, throughout the night and in freezing temperatures, to cross the border.

People are forced to take this trip due to complications in Canada’s immigration law. Many of these people have legitimate asylum claims when they reach Canada. In 2015, the Immigration and Refugee Board approved over 57 percent of refugee claims made from within Canada, but these same people are currently prevented from entering Canada at legal border crossings with the U.S. due to …

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