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Tense Scene as Canada's Tighter Border Policy Takes Effect

When the U.S. and Canada agreed last week to clamp down on a border crossing popular with migrants transiting through the U.S., they put the policy into effect within hours to avoid a crush of last-minute crossings. The tactic largely worked, but the 12:01 a.m. Saturday tightening of Canada's border at a crossing in New York still saw a number of people rushing to beat the deadline, the New York Times reports. At the notorious Roxham Road crossing point in Champlain, N.Y., bordering rural Quebec, several taxis and vans arrived about 20 minutes before the deadline carrying people from Haiti, Georgia and other countries who were visibly tense. They crossed over and lined up in the tented tunnel leading to a processing center Canada has set up at the border. While some of the people who crossed after the deadline appeared to believe that their arrests would be followed by admission to Canada as before, Audrey Champoux, a spokeswoman for Canada’s public safety minister, said that the new policy of returning them to the U.S. applied to everyone who crossed after 12:01 a.m. on Saturday.

A surge of nearly 40,000 migrants in recent months has taxed Canadian provincial governments that have housed and supported the newcomers and educated their children while they awaited decisions on their immigration claims. Canada has welcomed refugees from Syria, Ukraine and elsewhere and has pledged to increase immigration to the country by 1.5 million by 2025, earning it a reputation as being more open to migrants than many other Western nations. But after opponents of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau mounted pressure against him to curb a swell in migrants who walk across the border, the country has shifted gears in its approach to those who arrive by foot. On Friday, President Biden and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced an amendment to a pact two decades old that had permitted migrants to walk into Canada at unofficial crossing points and file an asylum claim. Rather than being accepted as asylum seekers in Canada, the migrants will now be returned to the United States. Canada, in turn, has agreed to accept 15,000 migrants from Central and South America who are fleeing persecution and poverty, a move intended to ease some of the pressure on the United States’ southern border. The accepted migrants will not be allowed to arrive on foot but must pass through the country’s tightly controlled refugee system.


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