This weekend, a small group of four people travelled to the Lacolle border crossing with the sole purpose of providing Haitian migrants with legal support. Since the Trump administration announced it would be rescinding Temporary Protected Status (TPS), a program that provides refuge for almost 60,000 Haitian people in the U.S., thousands of families and individuals have arrived at the Canadian border in search of a better life. Their welcome into this country has been shackles and detention.
Since last summer, more than 16,000 Haitian migrants have been arrested and detained in trailers after setting foot on Canadian soil. These brave people, whose sole mission is to find safety and a home, are typically held for hours on end with very little direction or idea of what is really happening, or what the next steps are.
Knowing so many were experiencing this without any legal counsel or support, we decided to go to the border to provide them with just that and to offer them hope in the midst of the turmoil. We wanted to let them know that, despite what government officials are doing, they are welcome here. The dreams they have for their families, the better lives that they are pursuing, the painful obstacles they have faced, are all welcome here.
Upon arriving at the border, security immediately came up to our car and told us we had to leave. When we inquired about this, they didn’t give us any reasons; they simply told us we couldn’t be here.
Saron, the legal counsel we traveled with, explained to them in French that we simply wanted to pass along some literature explaining the rights that these migrants were legally entitled to. The officials merely insulted Saron, asking if she spoke French (despite her speaking fluently to them in French). Rather than answering our questions, they repeated that we had to leave. They let us know that the only people allowed in the area were those working with the Red Cross. Then, they threatened to “escalate” the situation if we did not leave. We decided to take the car back but were sure to let them know that we would be returning.
After heating up our hands and coming up with a game plan, we returned to the location, this time on foot. We saw members of the Red Cross and knew this was the perfect opportunity to pass along the legal pamphlets we had brought. Instantly, the security alerted the Red Cross members and said that they were not permitted to listen to us. Again, without any explanation. Throughout this exchange, it became overwhelmingly clear that any aid or support we were attempting to provide was prohibited for reasons completely unknown. We left angry but determined to return and provide the counsel these migrants are entitled to.
It is egregious that Haitians and all refugees escaping an administration and president that seek to erase and dispossess them of their entire livelihoods are being met at the Canadian border with arrest. When Trudeau tweeted that all refugees are welcome here, it was painfully clear that he was not talking about Haitians. He was not including the millions of people who watched as an earthquake shattered their homes, schools, and the institutions that supported them. He was not addressing the families that have chosen, time and time again, to leave the only homes they knew—all for the well-being of their children and families. He was not thinking about Haitians, but we are. We must. We must hold Trudeau and our government to their words and truly ensure that all refugees are welcome.