Sid Ahmed Tfeil wrestled with the idea of leaving behind the life he had built in New York City and abandoning his dream of one day becoming a U.S. citizen.
But when he was arrested after crossing illegally from the U.S. onto Canadian soil this past January, he knew he had made the right decision.
“I have to leave this country, I have to cross this border. I have to achieve my goal, I have to put my feet in a safe place,” Tfeil recalled telling a U.S. border agent who warned him that if he left, he’d never be able to come back.
The 32-year-old from Mauritania is one of hundreds of asylum seekers who have crossed illegally into Canada from the U.S. in recent weeks.
Like many others, he walked across the border on Roxham Road, a quiet residential street in Champlain, N.Y..
Tfeil said he fled Mauritania, in North Africa, after being arrested in 2011 for writing and sharing pro-democratic posts on Facebook that were critical of the government while working as a journalist.
He said he was abused for several days before being released.
It was at that moment he knew he had to leave, or risk death.
“I was afraid, when you get arrested you don’t know what’s going to happen,” said Tfeil, who had a colleague sentenced to be executed for writing articles critical of the government.
Changes under Trump
Tfeil said he arrived in the United States in 2011 and applied for asylum in 2012. In the meantime, he began building a life and eventually found a job with a human rights organization.
He had hoped to one day bring his son, who is now eight, from Mauritania over to the country he grew to love. But that all changed this past November.
“I love the United States so much, I proved myself there. But the problem after the election and the hate from Donald…