As the deadline passed, tensions rose. A van from New York carrying migrants from Haiti pulled up.
“Go, go! Please go,” their driver, who identified himself only as Sergei, implored as a young couple pulled small children and a collection of backpacks and heavy roller bags from his van. “Don’t take the luggage. Just go in!”
They crossed and were arrested.
While some of the people who crossed after the deadline appeared to believe that their arrests would be followed by admission to Canada as before, Audrey Champoux, a spokeswoman for Canada’s public safety minister, said that the new system applied to everyone who crossed after 12:01 a.m. on Saturday.
The cases of latecomers will be examined to see if they fit under a small number of exemptions to the agreement. Most, perhaps all of them, will not qualify and will be taken to an official U.S. border crossing, advised to make their refugee claim in the United States and turned over to American government officials. It was unclear on Saturday afternoon if any of them had been returned.
The newly revised agreement between Canada and the United States may be short-lived.
The Federal Court of Canada has found that the original Safe Third Country Agreement, as it is formally known, violates part of Canada’s Charter of Rights and Freedoms as well as the country’s obligations under international treaties. The Supreme Court of Canada heard an appeal of the case last fall and is expected to issue a decision this year.
Many human rights groups also argue that the United States’ immigration policies mean that it is not a safe country for asylum seekers to return to.