International

U.S. and Canada reach a deal to close a popular but unofficial border crossing

An officer speaks to migrants as they arrive at the Roxham Road border crossing in Quebec, Canada, earlier this month.
An officer speaks to migrants as they arrive at the Roxham Road border crossing in Quebec, Canada, earlier this month.
Sebastien St-Jean | AFP via Getty Images

The U.S. and Canada have reached a deal that would allow both countries to turn away more migrants at unofficial border crossings, according to a rule that's set to be published in the Federal Register.

President Biden announced the deal in remarks to the Canadian Parliament in Ottawa on Friday.

The new agreement, which takes effect early Saturday morning, will allow Canada to send asylum-seekers who cross the border at unofficial crossing points back to the U.S., and vice versa, according to the published text of the rule.

The deal is the latest move by the Biden administration to discourage migrants from crossing the border illegally in order to seek asylum, over the objections of immigrant advocates and some Democrats.

The U.S. and Canada have long had a "Safe Third Country Agreement" in place that allows them to turn away migrants if they cross through official ports of entry. But Canada has seen a dramatic uptick in traffic at unofficial crossings.

Last year, more than 39,000 asylum-seekers crossed into Quebec outside official ports of entry — many of them using Roxham Road, a small road in northern New York that dead-ends at the U.S.-Canada border. That's led Canadian officials to call for tougher restrictions.

Many of those migrants initially came to the U.S. at the southern border and were bused to New York City. But tens of thousands have since found themselves in limbo — unable to work legally, or to send money back to their relatives in Venezuela and other countries in Latin America and beyond.

As part of the deal, Canada has also agreed to accept an additional 15,000 migrants per year from the Western Hemisphere.

Still, immigrant advocates criticized the deal for limiting the movement of asylum-seekers.

“Asylum seekers flee violent conditions to build better futures for themselves and their families—they undergo extreme journeys across thousands of miles in search of safety and relief,” said Murad Awawdeh, the executive director of the New York Immigration Coalition, in a statement. "To now restrict the movement of asylum seekers is to recklessly endanger their lives.”

Copyright 2023 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

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