Toronto:special report:Siraj Siddiqui:For five hours, Somalis Farhan Ahmed and Mohamed Mualim trekked through the barren and frigid snow-swept fields dividing North Dakota from the Canadian prairies. The snow was knee-deep and it was nearly -20 degrees Celsius.
Then, out of the darkness, a highway appeared. They had arrived in Canada. One of them pulled out their mobile phone to call 911.
“Wow, it was very, very cold,” Ahmed, 36, recalled. “You could not walk about the ice. It was too much. Sometimes, it reached our knees. We didn’t feel sometimes our hands, sometimes our feet.”
Hours earlier, Ahmed, Mualim, and three other African men paid a man $500 to drive them from Minneapolis, Minnesota to North Dakota, just three miles south of the Canadian border. They were underdressed for the winter temperatures, wearing only light gloves and spring jackets.
“Sometimes, you cannot walk because the snow is very big – sometimes above your knees,” Mualim, 28, explained.
Mualim and Ahmed say they were spooked by Trump and his immigration ban, which prohibited the entry of nationals from seven Muslim-majority countries – among them Somalia – for 90 days. Their decision to flee the United States was largely influenced by the president.
“Why I have to flee, is because of Donald Trump,” Ahmed said.
“It’s not safe, so I run. When new president came in, everything changed. The hate speech. The people who have the documents, the status, and everything, they cannot come in.”
Upwards of 90 Somalis, many of whom have had their refugee cases denied, have already reportedly been deported since Trump’s immigration ban, which has been temporarily blocked by a federal judge.
“It was very hard but we didn’t have a choice,” said Mualim. “I couldn’t stay and feel safe any more in the United States. You have no choice or they will deport you back. You have only one choice: to cross the border.”