By Christinne Muschi and Melissa Fares
HEMMINGFORD, Quebec (Reuters) - A Sudanese man hopped out of his taxi with a duffle bag slung around his shoulder just before daybreak, as he headed for the U.S. - Canadian border.
Within a matter of seconds, the man, who sought to brave the negative 6 degrees Celsius (21 degrees Fahrenheit) weather, was confronted by a female Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) officer who shined her flashlight on him as he crossed into Hemmingford, Quebec from Champlain, New York.
Dressed in a checkered sweatshirt, pants and snow boots, the Sudanese traveler is one of several people looking to build a life in Canada as U.S. President Donald Trump vows a sharpened crackdown on America's illegal immigrants.
"Stop, you have to stop," the officer insisted, grabbing his arm.
Over and over again, the man, who did not provide his name, muttered as if speaking to himself: "I need to be safe, I need to be safe, I just want to be safe." He kept walking, desperately trying to plow past the officer.
He only stopped when the officer told him, almost empathetically: "You're in Canada already. You're in Canada. You're here."
Now, with no reluctance, he put his hands in the air as she told him he was under arrest and that he had entered Canada illegally.
The exchange lasted all of four minutes.
Less than an hour later, a Turkish family of four came next, also by taxi.
Curtis Seymour, 62, has been a cab driver for 10 years. His shift starts at 1:30 a.m. and usually ends around 9 a.m. depending on the day.
"Well, it's definitely gotten busier," Seymour said, guessing that some mornings, he makes upwards of 10 trips to the border.
"I explain to them: 'You will be arrested, you will be handcuffed, you will be brought to immigration and held there for who knows how long.' They say: 'That's OK. We want to be in Canada. We have to be in Canada. We have no other choice.'"
Seymour, of Plattsburgh, New York, voted for Trump. He said he did not know how bad the situation was until he saw and spoke to his customers trying to start a life in Canada.
"They have kids - a lot of them newborn babies. It doesn't take them much time to cross the border," he said. "But they have to go down a ditch and then climb over a big snow bank, lugging all they have left. Many customers leave their child's car seat behind. It's just too much to carry."
The young Turkish girl in pink pants, a pink scarf and toting a small pink suitcase carried her doll as she tread through the snow behind her father who was being placed under arrest.
She managed to keep her head held high and eyes focused ahead, looking back only once to make sure her little brother and mother were safe.
Tears began to roll down her cheek when she and her family were placed inside of the police car.
Thirty minutes later, two parents and a gaggle of five children from Sudan - drove up to the border in Champlain from Texas in a white Chevy van. The father sprinted out first, somersaulting over the snow bank. He proceeded to help his family over the hill. The Canadian officers helped them, too.
"Are they leaving it?" one U.S. Border Patrol agent yelled to the RCMP officers pointing to the abandoned van.
The mother nodded. A tow truck later came by and took the car away.
The father dropped his phone on the U.S. side but was told by a patrol agent that if he crossed back over he would be arrested. The U.S. agent found the phone in the snow.
Unable to cross over to the other side herself, the agent threw the phone over to me. I brought it to the officer on the Canadian side with no problem.
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(Reporting by Christinne Muschi in Canada; Writing and additional reporting by Melissa Fares in New York; Editing by Diane Craft)