STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:
Let's follow more of the trail of refugees who flee the United States. Some choose to go to Canada out of concern about President Trump's immigration ideas. Last month, we took you to the border where people originally from war-torn countries have been crossing North.
It's often a dangerous and snowy crossing from upstate New York to Quebec, where Canadian authorities arrest them. Today, North Country Public Radio's Brian Mann has the story of what happens next.
BRIAN MANN, BYLINE: A group of men stand outside a drab YMCA hostel in downtown Montreal, smoking cigarettes and enjoying the warm spring sun. This place is part of a system of shelters for refugees coming into Canada from all over the world.
MOHAMMED AHMED: My name is Mohammed Ahmed. I'm from Pakistan.
MANN: Ahmed spent a year in New Jersey, but says he was afraid he would be detained and separated from his wife and two children.
AHMED: The Trump policy, he was just deporting the guys over there. We didn't see any future there, so that's why we came over.
MANN: These days, a growing number of refugees arrive in Canada after first living for a time in the U.S. Canadian officials say more than 2,500 people crossed the border in January and February alone, seeking asylum.
Ahmed's family walked across last month just north of Plattsburgh, N.Y. After being briefly detained, the family was allowed to go free and given a voucher to live at the YMCA. Ahmed says he no longer feels hounded or like a criminal.
AHMED: Canada is the best place. They give us the shelters. My lawyer, she's being paid by the government. Everyone in here in the YMCA and the immigration office, they help us a lot.
MANN: Ahmed says he was receiving death threats back home in Pakistan, so he's confident he'll be allowed to stay in Canada.
FRANCINE DUPUIS: (Speaking French).
MANN: Across town, Francine Dupuis’ Montreal office is busy with new immigrants to Canada, many of them refugees. She's leading the government-funded effort to resettle the wave of asylum seekers arriving in Quebec from the U.S.
DUPUIS: We're managing them now. We're not overwhelmed because we've been used to waves. We've had the Mexican wave, Kosovo wave and more recently the Syrian wave.
MANN: The treatment of immigrant families here is starkly different when compared to the U.S. Those seeking refugee status are unlikely to be detained for more than a day or two, even if they entered the country illegally or came originally from Muslim countries.
Newcomers are quickly vetted by border agents. If they're found to have criminal records, they're deported. But Dupuis says the vast majority of families are encouraged to begin settling in Canada, even while their applications for refugee status are being decided.
DUPUIS: They get their card, their Medicare card. We've registered their children in schools. They have a nonpermanent work permit. The basics are taken care of.
MANN: She acknowledges that some Canadians are uncomfortable with the latest surge of refugees. A debate is growing here over the question of how many newcomers Canada should welcome. But Dupuis predicts that most of the asylum seekers fleeing the U.S. will be allowed to stay.
Just a few weeks after crossing the border illegally, Mohammed Ahmed says his family's life is already totally different. They're looking for an apartment. And he's trying to find a job and maybe go back to school.
AHMED: I'm a graduate. So further on, I am planning to have some diplomas in management so that I can have a good or better future.
MANN: A last note about Mohammed Ahmed's family. His 3-month-old son was born while they were still in New Jersey. So while they look for a more secure and prosperous future in Canada, one member of the family will remain a U.S. citizen. For NPR News, I'm Brian Mann.
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