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eyes on the U.S.

Eyes On U.S. — Democrats, Republicans And Canadians In Standoff Over Migrant Buses

Republicans and Democrats have been engaged in political ping-pong over migration, bussing migrants from red to blue states. Now the issue has reached Canada as the migrants are pushed ever further north.

Photo of a bus at the border between the U.S. and Canada

Bus at the border between the U.S. and Canada

Riley Sparks and Bertrand Hauger

Known for its natural beauty and luxury shopping, the island of Martha’s Vineyard off the coast of Cape Cod has long been associated with the U.S. political elite. The Kennedys holidayed there and former U.S. president Barack Obama chose the island to host his lavish 60th birthday party.

September last year should have been quiet as peak season came to an end, seasonal shops shuttered, and part-time residents left their summer homes to return to their regular lives. But the island found itself at the center of a political storm around immigration. Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, a Republican who may run for the White House in 2024, bought airline tickets for 50 asylum seekers to fly there from Texas in protest against President Joe Biden’s policies on immigration.

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Since then, thousands of migrants have been bussed to Democrat-run northern cities from the Republican-run states of Texas, Arizona and Florida. Republican governors say blue states (Democrat) should share the responsibility of taking care of the increasing number of migrants crossing the border. Numbers of migrants had dropped, but the end of pandemic-related policies is expected to lead to an uptick in the numbers crossing over the border.

While DeSantis’ move was initially criticized by Democrats, some cities and states run by Democrats in the south have also started bussing migrants north.

But the latest news is that migrants’ journeys don’t stop there — now being moved even further north, bounced around like balls in a game of political ping-pong.

Political buck-passing

Authorities in New York City have begun shuttling them up to the Canadian border. And Quebec premier François Legault is demanding New York stop the buck-passing bus rides, which he says are straining the province’s asylum system.

The news this week has added to pressure from Quebec for the Canadian national government to negotiate with the U.S. and close a legal loophole that allowed almost 40,000 people to cross into Canada last year via Roxham Road, a stretch of country road in upstate New York.

Closing the border has never been the solution.

Last year saw record traffic at the crossing, which spans the border between northern New York State and Quebec. Under the Safe Third Country Agreement (STCA) signed by the U.S. and Canada, migrants must make an asylum claim wherever they first land and can be turned back at official crossings — but the agreement doesn’t apply if they enter Canada via an unofficial crossing like Roxham Road.

The crossing has become so popular that in Plattsburgh, N.Y., the last major town on the road to Canada, groups of taxi drivers wait for new arrivals at the bus station and offer rides to the border, where they will then cross on foot, La Presse reports.

U.S. and Canadian media reported earlier this month that New York City authorities have been buying bus tickets to Plattsburgh for asylum seekers — many of whom have, in turn, recently been bussed to the city from Republican-run southern states after crossing from Mexico.

“Some want to go to Canada, some want to go to warmer states, and we are there for them as they continue to move on with their pursuit of this dream,” New York City mayor Eric Adams said.

Now, the Quebec government is insisting that Canada negotiate with the U.S. to amend the agreement so that people could be sent back even if they enter through unofficial crossings like Roxham Road.

No sign of a deal

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau may raise the issue during U.S. President Joe Biden’s trip to Canada in March, but Canada’s immigration minister has said he doesn’t expect to sign a new deal soon, the Toronto Starreports.

Legault says the province is running out of space to accommodate people and no longer has the capacity to welcome new asylum seekers. He met with the U.S. ambassador to Canada in February to push for amendments to the STCA agreement between the North American neighbors.

International borders are under federal jurisdiction, and Legault’s government says the province can do nothing except pressure Canada to negotiate a solution with the U.S. Still, as the Journal de Québec reports, the opposition Parti Québécois (PQ) has demanded that the provincial government find a way to close the crossing, even by sending provincial police to block the road — a suggestion Quebec’s public safety minister dismissed as ridiculous.

Traveling even further

In January, former PQ leader Jean-François Lisée said that if the federal government didn’t help to resettle people arriving at Roxham Road elsewhere in Canada, Quebec should take those who didn’t speak French or have immediate family in Quebec and “put them on a nice, air-conditioned bus and bring them to Immigration Canada in Ottawa.”

But the federal government recently began moving people who arrived at Roxham Road to the neighboring province of Ontario, Quebec’s immigration minister said on Feb. 14 — although it’s unclear if this policy will continue.

Refugee advocates say closing the border will just push people to make more dangerous crossings, citing the fate of Fritznel Richard, a Haitian man whose body was found in early January after he tried to cross the Quebec-NY border on foot and froze to death.

“Closing the border has never been the solution,” refugee advocate Hady Anne, a Mauritanian who himself crossed at Roxham Road. Speaking on the Quebec talk show Tout le monde en parle in February, Anne said that people should be allowed to request asylum where they wish, and where they feel safe. "If people cross the United States to reach Canada, it’s because they don’t feel safe in the United States, or because they want to go to Canada. We have to give them that chance.”

— Riley Sparks

In other news ...


What do the words “rodeo,” "typhoon," "aficionado," "gazelle" or the U.S. slang word "boondocks" have in common? They were all borrowed from other languages and incorporated into the English vocabulary.

A study by global nonprofit Translators Without Borders confirms data from the U.S. Census Bureau: the number of people who speak a language other than English at home has nearly tripled in the last three decades: from 23.1 million to 67.8 million.

As there are between 350 and 430 languages spoken in the United States, making it one of the most linguistically diverse countries on the planet, Translators Without Borders wonders about "La riqueza lingüística de Estados Unidos" — i.e. whether the U.S. is "linguistically at risk."


In France, "football" means soccer, while what Americans call football is, well, le football américain.

But the country does have an NFL body, governing an estimated 25,000+ gridiron enthusiasts in the country. And last week, the association proudly celebrated the first "Frenchie" to ever win the Super Bowl: Lucas Niang, an offensive lineman for the winning Kansas City Chiefs, who defeated the French-less Philadelphia Eagles.

Although he was born in New York, Niang's father hails from France, and his mother from the Ivory Coast — and Niang sported a French flag on his helmet for the big game.

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Migrant Lives

They Migrated From Chiapas When Opportunities Dried Up, Orchids Brought Them Home

An orchid rehabilitation project is turning a small Mexican community into a tourist magnet — and attracting far-flung locals back to their hometown.

They Migrated From Chiapas When Opportunities Dried Up, Orchids Brought Them Home

Marcos Aguilar Pérez takes care of orchids rescued from the rainforest in his backyard in Santa Rita Las Flores, Mapastepec, Chiapas, Mexico.

Adriana Alcázar González/GPJ Mexico
Adriana Alcázar González

MAPASTEPEC — Sweat cascades down Candelaria Salas Gómez’s forehead as she separates the bulbs of one of the orchids she and the other members of the Santa Rita Las Flores Community Ecotourism group have rescued from the rainforest. The group houses and protects over 1,000 orchids recovered from El Triunfo Biosphere Reserve, in the southeastern Mexican state of Chiapas, after powerful storms.

“When the storms and heavy rains end, we climb to the vicinity of the mountains and collect the orchids that have fallen from the trees. We bring them to Santa Rita, care for them, and build their strength to reintegrate them into the reserve later,” says Salas Gómez, 32, as she attaches an orchid to a clay base to help it recover.

Like magnets, the orchids of Santa Rita have exerted a pull on those who have migrated from the area due to lack of opportunity. After years away from home, Salas Gómez was one of those who returned, attracted by the community venture to rescue these flowers and exhibit them as a tourist attraction, which provides residents with an adequate income.

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