Sarnia Ontario - Miguel Padron knew that entering Canada illegally on foot through the St. Clair River Tunnel was dangerous, but says he was desperate to escape rising racism in the United States.
He walked into the tunnel beneath the river, enduring train engine fumes that he says made him dizzy, and arrived an hour later in Canada.
Padron, who now lives in housing provided by a Sarnia homeless shelter, said he left his rented home and job as a gymnastics coach in Detroit because of U.S. President Donald Trump's push to deport illegal residents.
"I risked my life to come through the tunnel," said the 57-year-old Cuban national.
"I was thinking about swimming across but people told me I'd get sucked under the water."
He slipped on a backpack with $180 and an extra pair of shoes and left the U.S. on Tuesday, 4 Jul 2017.
"I picked that day because I knew it was a holiday and they'd be busy partying," he explained.
He watched the train traffic travelling through the St. Clair tunnel for several hours and, just after 22:00 made a run for it under the river.
"I waited for a train to pass and knew it would be a long time for another one," he said.
No other trains appeared as he travelled through the corridor, which measures 1.87 kilometres (1.16 miles) from portal to portal.
When he emerged in Sarnia's south end he hid in some nearby bushes.
"An alarm went off and some police came," he said.
"I surrendered, because where else am I going to go?"
Padron said he also wants to live in Canada because he no longer feels safe in the U.S.
The CN Police, which provides security for the railway, found Padron near the tunnel entrance that night.
Officers took him to the Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) in Point Edward where he was questioned.
"I was told they didn't want to put me in jail because I'm not a criminal," Padron said.
Patron said he was directed to a local motel where he stayed a few nights until his money ran out.
"Then they told me about this place," Padron said in the living room of the River City Sanctuary, a homeless shelter on Mitton Street.
He said he was denied refugee status by the U.S. and nearly 30 years ago by Canada as well.
He said he doesn't want to return to Cuba, the only country he can enter legally.
"If I go to Cuba I can't speak out at all. If I'm sent back to Cuba, I'll be sent to jail," he said.
Padron said he wants to lead a "normal" life in Canada.
OkthePK Joint Bar Editor: Article abridged - some data removed to shorten article.