Roxham turned upside down, a dangerous path that’s become popular

Roxham turned upside down, a dangerous path that’s become popular

Ms. Gravel, who has lived on Roxham Road for more than 20 years, is used to seeing the constant flow of Canadian police vehicles and asylum seekers crossing the United States to settle in Canada.

But the other side exists, she slips, still surprised by this new phenomenon.

One morning, she says, I was making coffee and a lady with a child walked by right in front of me. There weren’t any people from here.

She insists these people drove due south through her property, which was only a few tens of yards from the border.

“Walking in the fields I found tracks and tracks. On the side of the road I discovered a folded stroller, a children’s backpack, a bottle. »

— A quote from Hélène Gravel, resident of Roxham Road

She shows us a picture of a teddy bear hanging in a tree on her cell phone. Likely a landmark for migrants and their smugglers, a police source told us.

A woman reads a book.

Hélène Gravel has lived in Roxham Road for almost 25 years.

Photo: Radio Canada

A little further, on a nearby road, only a strip of forest separates the few dwellings from the Canadian-American border.

In these woods, Martin Gamache’s children recently faced several migrants of Hispanic descent trying to evade the police.

Cars regularly drive by his house, stopping or even turning around after dropping off men, women and children. Suitcases are sometimes deposited.

They’re getting more and more. Sometimes it’s Uber vehicles that get my address. There are also rental cars, white vans, he says.

Dismayed, even a family knocked on his door.

A man shows tracks.

Next to his property, Martin Gamache discovered a very popular trail regularly walked by migrants.

Photo: Radio Canada / Romain Schué

“They were completely frozen, their feet wet. The little girl was almost hypothermic. »

— A quote from Martin Gamache of Hemmingford

In my opinion, they’ve gone in circles, he thinks. In the evening you can’t see much with the weak light of the phone. Here is still dense forest.

US arrest record

Two profiles of migrants are observed along these routes, we learned.

According to a CBC/Radio-Canada investigation last fall, the area around Roxham Road has been known to smugglers and a Mexican network for several months.

Roxham turned upside down a dangerous path thats become popular

Fritznel Richard froze to death trying to cross the border into the US at the end of December. It’s not the only one, it’s a growing trend. The report by Romain Schué.

Canada is just a short stopover for them before heading to the United States. They take advantage of the lack of a visa requirement for Mexican tourists and travel by plane to Toronto or Montreal. Once they arrive, they will be taken to the border via the Montérégie roads.

However, this north-south route has also gained popularity in other communities and other networks, particularly among those who decide to leave Canada after an initial unsuccessful experience.

From December 30 to January 6, American police arrested 92 people from 11 different countries who came from Canada in the Swanton area. This area includes parts of Vermont, New York State and New Hampshire.


Suitcases were found at the edge of the forest.

Photo: Courtesy

“In less than three months, officers in the Swanton area observed more illegal border crossings than all of last year. Our agents are dedicated to their mission: protecting our homeland. »

— A quote from US Customs and Border Protection, December 31, 2022

The increase in one year was almost 1000%, the United States Customs and Border Protection Service wrote on social media.

Around 400 people were intercepted in November 2022, compared to 70 in May.

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However, the total number of migrants illegally crossing the border would be much higher. In fact, these numbers only give an idea of ​​those who were spotted and arrested by the police.

Also, American police forces regularly release photos of people attempting to cross the forest, accompanied by warnings that this route is neither legal nor safe.

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In early December, US agents also reported rescuing a family from what could have been a dire situation.

A group that included a family with three children, ages 1 to 8, was spotted in the woods of Churubusco, New York. Despite the freezing temperatures, the children ran barefoot.

Further east, police discovered an unconscious person suffering from hypothermia the next day. He was taken to the hospital.

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The number of people arrested in the United States for illegally crossing the Canada-US border is increasing. Photo: USCBP

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  • Image 1 of 4Migrants arrested in the US

    The number of people arrested in the United States for illegally crossing the Canada-US border is increasing. Photo: USCBP

  • Image 2 of 4Migrants attempt to enter the United States.

    Migrants attempt to enter the United States Photo: USCBP

  • Image 3 of 4Migrants attempt to enter the United States.

    Families use Quebec’s forests to cross into the United States in the middle of the night Photo: USCBP

  • Image 4 of 4migrants go

    In November 2022, 393 people were intercepted by US police Photo: USCBP

Fritznel Richard, from Roxham to Death

Fritznel Richard was not so lucky. His body was found near Roxham Road on January 4.

Originally from Haiti, he arrived in Canada via Roxham Road in December 2021 with his wife and their newborn baby.

According to our information, in the months leading up to this tragedy, they had managed to cross no less than a dozen countries to find refuge in Canada. This trip has become a classic for thousands of people who dream of starting a new life in Canada.

But the Canadian dream quickly turned into a mirage for this family, which was primarily struggling with economic difficulties.

Fritznel Richard's body was found near Roxham Road.  Police say he wanted to visit his family.  (Facebook/Fritznel Richard)

Fritznel Richard attempted to cross the border on the night of December 23/24.

Photo: (Facebook/Fritznel Richard)

Last fall, Fritznel Richard’s wife and son approached a smuggler to take them to Montérégie to discreetly cross the border and join relatives in Florida.

She paid $1,300 to get to the border and then took a cab to the United States, a cousin tells us.

” [Fritznel] thought that everything would be simpler in Canada and that it would be easier for him to get papers than in the United States. »

— A quote from A Cousin of Fritznel Richard’s Wife

On December 23, her husband wanted to make the same trip. However, in the middle of a snowstorm, he would have gotten lost in the woods before he likely died of hypothermia, according to the Sûreté du Québec, in charge of the investigation.

Non-Status Action Committee coordinator Frantz André has become close with the family and knows at least 10 people or couples who have returned to the United States since Roxham Road reopened in November 2021.

“A smuggler going this route can cost up to $1,500 and maybe more. »

— A quote from Frantz André, coordinator of the Action Committee on Persons without Status

It’s more than risky. It’s illegal and people are being scammed. We take advantage of their desperation, he complains. If they are then intercepted by US police, there is a high chance of imprisonment and deportation.

Roxham Street.

Almost 40,000 people used the Roxham Road to enter Canada in 2022. Now some are trying to return to the United States.

Photo: Radio Canada / Romain Schué

Dramas of infinite sadness

Despite the natural obstacles, inclement weather and surveillance cameras, more and more migrants are thinking of borrowing these Quebec border forests. Why are they doing it?

Before they came to Canada they were sold a dream and they saw that this dream is not so nice. Everyone has their reasons, but we can think the long processing times play a role, and they realize things weren’t so bad in the US after all, believes immigration attorney Stéphane Handfield.

At the end of last year, the average waiting time for new refugee applications in Canada was 16 months. It also takes many months to get a work permit.

The customers [qui va dans cette direction] is different. People passing through Roxham Road want to be looked after by the Canadian authorities. Stéphane Handfield specifies that if you want to translate to the American side, the opposite is likely to happen.

“They want to merge with nature and unfortunately are willing to take roads that are not always safe. »

— A quote from Stéphane Handfield, immigration attorney

Hélène Gravel sighs as she walks along Roxham Road. She points to the Canadian facilities that have just been renovated.

At the end of the street we have expanded, it has become immense. But in the other direction, who does what? We have the impression that there is nothing there, she complains.

Those who arrive are treated well, but those who leave are even unhappier. There are people who fill their pockets on their backs and on the misfortunes of others. I find that incredibly unfortunate.