Quebec mayor calls 'extremely lucrative' Roxham Road surge 'human trafficking'

Illegal immigrants looking to enter Canada from the United States can access Roxham Road by taxi or bus in what has become a lucrative human trafficking enterprise. It's an industry worth hundreds of millions, with the cost continuing to climb for Canadian taxpayers.

Quebec mayor calls 'extremely lucrative' Roxham Road surge 'human trafficking'
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For between US$50 and US$70 per trip, transport workers will take migrants roughly 25 minutes north at Roxham Road, where they illegally walk across the Canadian border to seek asylum.

"I get the impression that it is extremely lucrative for certain people — like for the buses and taxis in Plattsburgh that travel to Roxham Road," said St-Bernard-de-Lacolle Mayor Estelle Muzzi, adding she considers it a form of "human trafficking."

St-Bernard-de-Lacolle is located mere minutes from the unofficial border crossing.

RCMP agents at Roxham Road, who agreed to an interview with the National Post if they remained anonymous, said there had been a growing number of migrants who arrived at the crossing by way of Florida. The officers confirmed they fly into the US and pay hundreds of dollars to take a minibus for the long drive north to Roxham Road.

As soon as the migrants cross at the unofficial border crossing, most will receive shelter at select hotels on the taxpayers' dime.

Provinces and municipalities have paid $551.6 million since 2017 through the Interim Housing Assistance Program, which covers "extraordinary costs of interim housing for asylum seekers."

According to Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC), provincial governments must care for asylum seekers while the federal government determines their eligibility as a refugee.

However, the IRCC spent $136 million between March 20, 2020, and January 31, 2023, on "temporary accommodations," meals, security and transport for illegal immigrants who entered Canada via Roxham Road. 

If eligible, the migrants can access "social assistance, education, health services, emergency housing and legal aid" while waiting for the Immigration and Refugee Board to rule on their case. Because of significant backlogs, the entire process takes several months and could last years.

Asylum claimants are considered a "vulnerable group, and Canada has obligations under the Refugee Convention that do not apply to other areas of immigration," said IRCC spokesperson Remi Lariviere when asked why they receive access to those services.

Muzzi added these migrants crossing at Roxham Road are not doing so "out of pleasure" or to "take advantage of the system" but out of necessity.

The mayor said she understands people may find it "shocking" to see migrants in hotels but claimed it's "certainly better than seeing them in the streets."

There may be a middle ground between the hotel and the street. But what is the middle ground? Putting them up in community housing that's already sorely lacking? I find that those who say Canada is 'rolling out the red carpet' for migrants are going too far," she said. 

Since 2017, tens of thousands of illegal immigrants have entered Canada through Roxham Road after Prime Minister Justin Trudeau tweeted, "To those fleeing persecution, terror & war, Canadians will welcome you."

President Donald Trump cracked down on refugee claimants at the time as part of his administration's rollback on asylum seekers.

Since then, roughly 100,000 migrants have crossed over, with yearly averages varying between 16,000 and 39,000, except for 2021, when Trudeau secured the borders against COVID.

Québec's provincial government recently asked Ottawa to offload most of the migrants to other jurisdictions after it fielded complaints that the migrant surge strained its social support and healthcare systems.

In June 2022, the feds began redistributing illegal immigrants from Québec to Ontario cities to reduce the "pressure on publicly funded services and accommodation in Quebec," including Ottawa, Niagara Falls, Toronto, and Cornwall, among others.

In Cornwall, Mayor Justin Towndale pleaded for more resources from Ottawa to pay for the social services used by nearly 800 migrants at the DEV Hotel and Conference Centre.

Since last summer, the federal government has paid the hotel owner over $15 million to accommodate them. However, Ontario taxpayers, especially Cornwall residents, continue to fork up the costs for the social support accessed by migrants.

In February, the IRCC publicly disclosed it had signed a three-month contract with the new owners of the Ramada Inn on December 29, 2022, to host migrants from Roxham Road. 

The IRCC spokesperson declined to detail the amount spent on specific hotel contracts.

In a statement, Cornwall Conservative MP Eric Duncan said the Ramada Inn received "a contract to expand and extend the processing centre and volume in Cornwall indefinitely." He heard about clients who had hotel reservations and wedding events cancelled to accommodate the migrants.

In February, the IRCC transferred over 3,000 migrants from Roxham Road to some 1,000 privately owned hotel rooms in Niagara Falls.

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