Reuters reports the Sudanese asylum seekers had been living and working in Delaware for two years before deciding to flee the U.S. in the wake of President Donald Trump’s immigration crackdown and travel ban on seven Muslim-majority nations, including Sudan.
The group was traveling north in a taxi to the Canadian border at Champlain, New York when a U.S. Customs and Border Protection officer seized their passports and questioned a man in the front passenger seat. Four adults and four children then fled the taxi and crossed a snowy gully separating the two countries. Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) officers watched as the group barely evaded capture, helping them up the other side of the gully and into Canada. Reuters photographer Christinne Muschi captured the RCMP officers lifting the younger children to safety.
The children then stood looking back across the border as a U.S. agent detained the man in the passenger seat, explaining his documents were being verified. The man then appeared to grab the group’s passports from the agent before running for the border. U.S. officers gave chase but stopped at the international boundary. Canadian police held his arm as he entered the country.
The U.S. agent then informed a Canadian officer the detained man was in the United States illegally and that he would have been arrested if he hadn’t escaped. However, the Canadian authorities transported the group to a nearby border station to be interviewed by police and submit refugee claims.
A growing number of asylum seekers, many of them from the seven countries included in Trump’s short-lived ban, are braving sub-freezing temperatures to illegally cross from the United States into Canada, where the government has adopted a markedly different policy from its neighbor’s. In the wake of Trump’s executive order halting the U.S. refugee program, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau tweeted, “To those fleeing persecution, terror & war, Canadians will welcome you. Diversity is our strength. #WelcomeToCanada.”
The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals upheld a lower court’s block on Trump’s executive order, finding “no evidence that any alien from any of the countries named in the order has perpetrated a terrorist attack in the United States.” However, Trump has vowed to issue a new executive order as soon as next week and undocumented immigrants remain fearful and uncertain about their future.
Many remain willing to risk everything to flee to Canada. Seidu Mohammed, 24 and fellow Ghanaian refugee Razak Iyal, 35, had almost all of their fingers amputated after suffering severe frostbite walking into Emerson, Manitoba from North Dakota to seek asylum on Christmas Eve. The men insisted their extreme sacrifice was worthwhile. “The president of the Ghana community [in Winnipeg], she has been coming every day, every day,” Iyal told CBC News. “She brings us food, everything we need. She’s been helping us, and most of the Canadian people, too… when they see us they have been good to us. Now I think we are part of the Canadian people.”