- ISIL creates all-female brigade to terrorize women into following Sharia law
- ISTOOK: Obama wants to be impeached
- Obama to Latin leaders: Help with border
- Military bans troops from Baptist church event honoring ‘God’s Rescue Squad’
- ‘Pocket drones’: U.S. Army developing tiny surveillance tools for the next big war
- Belgian cafe posts sign: Dogs allowed, but Jews stay out
- Gen. Dempsey: Pentagon studying Russian readiness plans not viewed ‘for 20 years’
- John McCain: Botched, two-hour execution of murderer is ‘torture’
- House GOP ready to move border bill
- Bomb squad called after live WWII artillery washes on Cape Cod beach
Gypsies take curious route through U.S. to asylum
Question of the Day
DERBY LINE, Vt. — A Dodge Caravan with California license plates and a dozen passengers zipped across the border between Vermont and Quebec in October, heading north in a southbound lane unblocked by traffic.
Border agents could only watch as the van disappeared into Quebec. But the vehicle and its occupants didn’t try to disappear.
About 22 miles later, they stopped in a Wal-Mart parking lot in Magog, Quebec, and asked someone to call the Royal Canadian Mounted Police. When the Mounties arrived, the Gypsy occupants of the vehicle applied for political asylum.
“It’s as though they had it programmed into their GPS,” said Magog police spokesman Paul Tear.
That may not be far from the truth. Canadian authorities announced Wednesday that they had broken up a circuitous but ingenious human smuggling ring that shuttled Romanians from Europe to Mexico and across the U.S. to the famously porous border between the twin communities of Derby Line, Vermont, and Stanstead, Quebec.
Interviews and statistics gathered by The Associated Press in the weeks before the announcement revealed that the Romanians are largely ethnic Roma people, or Gypsies. Canadian officials say many of the immigrants move to Toronto and Montreal, which have large Roma communities.
“Quite frankly, we really haven’t seen anything like this in our immigration system before,” Canadian Immigration Minister Jason Kenney said at a news conference Wednesday in Stanstead.
The Roma are descendants of nomads who moved out of what is now India 800 years ago. They speak a distinct language, a variation of Hindi. They have faced centuries of oppression in Europe that many advocates — and some countries, like Canada — say continues today. They have been forcibly resettled through the ages and were imprisoned and executed in concentration camps during World War II.
A 2004 agreement between the U.S. and Canada in how the two countries deal with asylum seekers is driving the latest migration, experts told the AP.
If the Romanians were to present themselves at a Canadian border post, they would be refused entry and told to seek asylum in the United States, which has more difficult requirements and where asylum seekers are not eligible for welfare benefits.
Once in Canada, the asylum seekers are freed in most cases from detention while their asylum claims are pending, a process that can take years. At the same time, they are eligible to receive public assistance benefits.
The two towns are separate only in name and country — otherwise, they are essentially one community. The border runs through yards and buildings. Until recently, people could freely walk across quiet residential streets to visit neighbors in another country.
Since Sept. 11, many of those streets have been blocked off and people required to pass through the border posts before visiting the other country. It’s not entirely clear how Derby Line and Stanstead became the focus for Gypsies, but until repeated crossings like the one in October led the Canadians to beef up security on their side, agents didn’t have the resources available to their American counterparts.
TWT Video Picks
By Mark Davis
The nation founders, the Lone Star State thrives
- 'Pocket drones': U.S. Army developing tiny spies for the next big war
- Rahm Emanuel: Send illegal immigrant shelter kids to Chicago
- Tactical advantage: Russian military shows off impressive new gear
- CURL: Obama, staffers not even pretending any more
- HUSAIN: Fleeing Iraqi Christians find safe haven at the Shrine of Imam Ali
- DCCC raising money on suggestion Obama impeachment is imminent
- Washington Times strikes content and marketing partnership with Redskins
- NAPOLITANO: What if our democracy is a fraud?
- Family of Marine killed in Afghanistan pushes back against cover-up
- Pentagon running out of time to find mass of missing weapons in Afghanistan
Obama's biggest White House 'fails'
Celebrities turned politicians
Athletes turned actors
20 gadgets that changed the world
Fighting in Iraq