As President Donald Trump welcomed Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to Washington on Monday, it became increasingly clear that Canada is struggling to welcome a sudden influx of Somalis crossing the border in search of asylum.
But safety is a growing concern hundreds of miles away on the border between Minnesota and Manitoba.
"There are such grave, grave dangers at the moment doing this on frozen fields, said Rita Chahal, Executive Director of the Manitoba Interfaith Immigration Council.
Chahal says centers designed to help house asylum seekers are full after yet another weekend of unauthorized border crossings. More than 20 people crossed into Canada near the Emerson border crossing south of Winnipeg alone.
"I held a 6-month-old baby on Saturday and looked into the eyes of a 2-year-old and a 4-year-old, who had trekked with their parents for six hours," Chahal said. "I just thought, if something had happened to those children what would we be doing today?"
Minneapolis immigration attorney Marc Prokosch says Somalis currently living in Minnesota make up the majority of those seeking asylum. He says there has been a steady increase in the number of those taking their chances on the Canadian border in recent years. Many have been here for years and have exhausted efforts to gain asylum in the United States due to instability in Somalia. Now, as fears of deportation grow, Prokosch says the numbers have spiked.
"It's only been in the past month that I've been hearing more of a flood rather than a drip, drip," Prokosch said.
Despite increased security on both sides of the northern border, the demand for transportation has grown so strong that many are willing to pay hundreds of dollars for a ride to rural areas near the border where an unauthorized crossing can be attempted.
Prokosch say, despite warnings, many are panicking and risking their lives to avoid any threat of deportation.
"We haven’t historically deported Somalis back to Somalia except for felons,” Prokosch said. "But now we’re hearing them say it’s time for you to get a passport and get ready to go.”
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