Episode 30: Crossing Borders

NEXT New England
NEXT New England
Episode 30: Crossing Borders

This week: more stores from our series Facing Change, about shifting demographics in New England, and the impact of immigration. A reporter crosses the border to find those leaving the U.S. to seek asylum in Quebec, and we go to prep school to meet a pair of teenage refugees. We meet people trying to build political power in the region’s growing Muslim community, and visit a Spanish-language bookstore that’s open for just five more weeks.

A Canadian police officer offers a hand to a migrant crossing the U.S.-Canada border near Champlain, New York. Photo by Kathleen Masterson for VPR

Heading North

At the Royal Canadian Mounted Police communications center in Montreal, technicians monitor live-camera screens of popular illegal border crossings. If people cross into Canada, command control can alert patrolling police. Photo by Kathleen Masterson for VPR

The Royal Canadian Mounted Police are reporting surges in illegal crossings in Canada in recent months. Officials say Quebec has seen the highest influx of people seeking asylum, with many crossing in remote, snowy areas west of Lake Champlain.

One illegal border crossing area has become so popular among immigrants seeking asylum that all taxis in Champlain, New York, know it by name: Roxham Road. Vermont Public Radio reporter Kathleen Masterson visited Roxham Road, and found migrants knowingly crossing into police arrest on the Canadian side.

Back in Episode 21 we shared the story of the town of Rutland, Vermont, where, at the end of last year, residents were busily preparing for 100 Syrian and Iraqi refugees.

Ghena and Ayman Alsalloumi stand on the St. Johnsbury campus on a snowy January day. Their family is from Homs, Syria — a city torn apart by civil war. Photo by Ryan Caron King for NENC

President Trump’s immigration orders have thrown plans like that into doubt. But WSHU’s Cassandra Basler found one Vermont prep school that’s trying their own approach to bring in those fleeing from the war: offering scholarships to refugees already living in the U.S. Cassandra followed teenagers Ayman and Ghena Alsalloumi from the Connecticut shoreline to the snowy north. Below, watch a video of Ayman and Ghena at St. Johnsbury Academy.

A Time to Run for Office

Somali refugee Deeqo Jibril is running for Boston City Council. Photo by Jesse Costa for WBUR

As more Muslim immigrants come to New England, they’re pushing for a seat at the political table.

As WBUR’s Shannon Dooling found, a nonprofit based in Cambridge, Massachusetts is trying to jump-start the effort, encouraging Muslims across the country to run for political office. The group, called Jetpac, trains potential candidates regardless of party affiliation with the goal of increasing civic engagement within Muslim communities.

On right, Portland city counselor Pious Ali, one of the first African-born Muslims to hold public office in Maine. Photo by Ryan Caron King for NENC

In Portland, Maine, there’s a Muslim politician who’s already gained substantial political clout. A newly-elected city counselor, he’s working to get out the vote. Maine Public Radio’s Fred Bever introduces us to Pious Ali.

Vietnamese-American poet Ocean Vuong. Photo by Tom Hines, courtesy of Ocean Vuong.

“I always had the sense that I was a perpetual trespasser, a guest. And in a way, we were.” – Ocean Vuong

More than a million Vietnamese came to the U.S. as refugees in the years after their civil war ended. More than 65 thousand Vietnamese make New England home. Now another massive wave — dislocated Syrians — are seeking safety. It is unclear just how many will be allowed into the U.S. under the Trump administration. These two very different cultures share a common experience. New England Public Radio’s Jill Kaufman shares a profile of Ocean Vuong, a Vietnamese poet from Hartford, Connecticut who is reaching out to the new refugees.

Fabric and Paper

American Roots top stitcher Duaa Khalifa. Photo by Patty Wight for Maine Public

In Portland Wednesday, Maine Congresswoman Chellie Pingree held a roundtable with business leaders to highlight the role of  immigration in Maine’s economy. For the venue, Pingree chose a small made-in-the-U.S. clothing company called American Roots, which employs mostly immigrants.

Maine Public Radio’s Patty Wight visited in October 2016, when the company was about a year old.

Artist Pablo Helguera said that despite continuing growth in the U.S. Latino population, access to books in Spanish is disappearing.

That’s the impetus behind a traveling bookstore/art installation that’s making it’s temporary home in Boston’s Jamaica Plain neighborhood. WBUR’s Simón Rios paid a visit.

Project Urbano Director Stella Aguirre McGregor standing in the middle of the current exhibition Librería Donceles, a participatory art project consisting of a traveling bookstore of more than 10,000 used books in Spanish. Photo by Jesse Costa for WBUR

About NEXT

NEXT is produced at WNPR.
Host: John Dankosky
Producer: Andrea Muraskin
Executive Producer: Catie Talarski
Digital Content Manager/Editor: Heather Brandon
Contributors to this episode: Kathleen Masterson, Cassandra Basler, Shannon Dooling, Fred Bever, Jill Kaufman, Patty Wight and Simón Rios
Music: Todd Merrell, “New England” by Goodnight Blue Moon

Get all the NEXT episodes. Find all of the stories from the New England News Collaborative’s Facing Change series.

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