I am heartbroken: the Canadian government announced without any warning the closure of the Roxham road I passed through, but also the entire Canadian border to asylum seekers. I imagine the hundreds, or even the thousands of migrants who will suffer in the coming months.
Much has been said about us asylum seekers, but very little has been revealed about why so many people like me feel unsafe in the United States. In Haiti, I had been a nurse for years in a large university hospital. I never thought of leaving my country, but I experienced attacks and great danger, and had to flee to the United States in September 2020.
Reading all that is written about the closure of Roxham Road, I realize that for many Canadians, it’s easy to just think of immigrants as invaders, but much more difficult to know what’s behind it, what makes us migrate.
What little savings I had when I arrived melted like snow in the sun, and within weeks we had no money to eat or to send our child to school. My days in the United States, crammed with my family of four into a tiny room, consisted of getting up and going to bed, and waiting for someone to come by to feed us. And we were lucky, no one in the family got sick: there, asylum seekers don’t have the right to health care. I know many sick people who have wasted away without being able to see a doctor or take medication for their diabetes, and other much worse health problems.
When you apply for asylum in the United States, you know that you will live in this poverty for many years. An acquaintance applied for asylum in the United States in 2013, and she died in 2022, nine years later, still awaiting her asylum hearing and status. The only way out is to do odd jobs on the black market: you are made to work 10 or 12 hours a day, paying you much less than minimum wage, doing the worst jobs. Living without money and without the right to work is a real torture: we don’t want to work on the black market, but we have no choice to feed our children.
I left with my family to enter Canada in December 2021 via Roxham Road, because it was my only option. If I had entered through the regular border, at Lacolle, I would have been turned back to the United States.
Today, I gave birth, I have a young child and I volunteer in community organizations in Montreal. My husband works in essential services, my child goes to school, I have my patient care attendant diploma, and we do our best to contribute to Canadian society. I am ready to wait patiently for the government’s decision on my status, and I am grateful for the incredible welcome Canadians have given me in every way.
The closure of Roxham, we feel it as a blow for all migrants. Anyone in Haiti, Central America and elsewhere does not yet know how extremely difficult it is to seek asylum in the United States. People will try to cross by other routes, because we have no choice but to try to survive for our children. People will die in the woods and despair of being turned back to the United States.
If the United States were a safe country, why would so many people like me cross into Canada? It is because we suffer too much in this unequal country, and to come to Canada is to save our lives. Now I am in Canada, and even if it is not easy every day, it is the first country where I felt welcomed and where I could start contributing. For all migrants, I pray that Canada will once again allow people like me to have access to the asylum process.