Dramatic increase in Haitian immigrants trying to cross border from Canada

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April 5, 2010, 8:20 pm
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(NECN: Anya Huneke, Swanton, VT) - Ever since the January earthquake in Haiti, the border patrol in Vermont has seen a dramatic increase in Haitian immigrants trying to cross the border illegally from Canada.
Their motivation, agents say, is not the earthquake itself, but policies put into place after the earthquake.

Around the woods near the Highgate Springs, Vermont, port-of-entry, Border Patrol agents have been busy over the past two and a half months.

Since about a week after the devastating earthquake in Haiti - they've seen group after group of Haitians try to sneak across the U.S.-Canadian border.

Border Patrol traces the influx back to mid January, when the federal government established 'temporary protected status' for Haitians who were living in the U.S. illegally before the earthquake-- to protect them against deportation back to Haiti.

Of the 123 who have crossed illegally into this country along this wooded route or others like it, all but one were caught in Vermont, most likely, because Montr�al is just to the north.

Deputy chief John Pfifer of the Border Patrol Swanton sector says a majority of those arrested have prior immigration records-- many were previously deported from the U.S. and have been staying in Canada.

Leslie Holman, an immigration attorney in Burlington, believes a main reason for the sudden increase in illegal immigrants is misinformation- about the T.P.S. policy.

Holman says desperation could also explain why so many Haitians are trying to cross the border.

In a typical year, agents in the Swanton sector may see about a half dozen illegal immigrants from Haiti. In the past two months, they've averaged almost two per night.
What happens to those arrested depends on their record. Some are held, some let go. But as of now, none is being sent back to Haiti.

Tags: vermont, Haiti, Border Patrol, Swanton, Anya Huneke
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