May 16, 2017 – New York taxi companies have admitted bumping up fares for illegal immigrants trying to flee the U.S. and become refugees in Canada.
Three companies operating in the city of Plattsburgh will pay financial penalties after engaging in practices including price gouging, the New York Attorney General’s office has reported.
Northern Taxi, Town Taxi and C & L Taxi will pay fines of up to $2,500 after they failed to post ‘rates as required by law’, the Attorney General said.
Illegal immigrants have been increasingly trying to cross the U.S.-Canada border in recent months to flee the crackdown by Donald Trump’s administration.
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The immigrants seek out remote border crossing locations to make their way into Canada. During winter months, it meant braving potentially dangerous conditions to escape the US. The number making the trip is expected to increase as the weather improves.
New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman says the three taxi companies were looking to exploit the fear of illegal immigrants.
“It’s no secret that we’ve seen intense fear in immigrant communities across New York in recent months,” he said in a statement.
“To take advantage of that fear for financial gain is simply unconscionable. My office won’t hesitate to crack down on those seeking to take advantage of this climate of fear.”
Canada says the majority of those crossing the border are in possession of U.S. visas, preferring to risk arrest here and try to become refugees in Canada rather than remain south of the border where they have legal status.
Canada has also sought to play down the matter, with Immigration Minister Ahmed Hussen saying the numbers are so low that a trend is yet to be established.
Quick Facts: The Canada-US Border
- Longest international border in world at 8,891km, 2,475km of which is with Alaska.
- 3 million Canadians travelled to the USA in February 2016, with 2 million moving in the other direction.
- 400,000 people and $2.4 billion in trade cross the border each day.
- Canada and US are second and fourth largest countries in the world by area.
- Canadian provinces and territories on border: Yukon, British Columbia, Alberta, Saskatchewan, Manitoba, Ontario, Quebec, New Brunswick.
- US states on border: Alaska, Washington, Idaho, Montana, North Dakota, Minnesota, Michigan, Ohio, Pennsylvania, New York, Vermont, New Hampshire, Maine.
However, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is under pressure from both sides – to let people in and provide refugee protection and to ensure they do not present a security risk.
Border towns Manitoba, Quebec and British Columbia have all reported increases in illegal crossings.
The issue has raised questions around the Safe Third Country Agreement, signed by both Canada and the U.S.
It means asylum seekers who claim refugee status in one country cannot simply hop to the next if they are rejected.
This means they would be turned down immediately if they turned up at an official U.S.-Canada border crossing.
However, if they make it across the border, they are checked for medical conditions and then the majority make a request for refugee status, after which they are seen by a judge within two months. Around 60 per cent of those hearings result in the subject being given refugee status in Canada.
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