By
Andy Semotiuk

Illegal Migrants At The Canadian Border

August 15, 2017

Andy Semotiuk – Pace Immigration: President Trump’s crackdown on illegal immigrants in the United States is having unforeseen consequences for Canada. The flood of recent illegal migrants crossing the Canadian border from the U. S. is unprecedented. Originally from Mexico, from Honduras, from El Salvadore, they come. Somalis with criminal records, Haitians fleeing expected cancellation of their American Temporary Protected Status and even a Syrian family flying into New York City on tourist visas, then making their way to Plattsburgh, where they took a taxi to the border.

All of them are fleeing to Canada in search of a better life. Many more are coming – by taxi, by bus and on foot responding to Prime Minister Trudeau’s January 2017 tweet: “To those fleeing persecution, terror & war, Canadians will welcome you, regardless of your faith.Diversity is our  strength #WelcomeToCanada.” – all of them crossing the border illegally.

President Trump’s crackdown on illegal immigrants in the United States is having unforeseen consequences for Canada. The flood of recent migrants crossing the Canadian border from the U. S. is unprecedented. Originally from Mexico, from Honduras, from El Salvadore, they come. Somalis with criminal records, Haitians fleeing expected cancellation of their American Temporary Protected Status and even a Syrian family flying into New York City on tourist visas, then making their way to Plattsburgh, where they took a taxi to the border.  All of them are fleeing to Canada in search of a better life. Many more are coming – by taxi, by bus and on foot responding to Prime Minister Trudeau’s January 2017 tweet: “To those fleeing persecution, terror & war, Canadians will welcome you, regardless of your faith.Diversity is our  strength #WelcomeToCanada.” – all of them crossing the border illegally.

There is a growing backlog in processing these arrivals. According to Richard Goldman of the Committee to Aid Refugees, “rather than the typical 72 hours to complete initial vetting, these appointments are being scheduled “one or two months later.” In other words, Canada is losing control of its border security and criminal checks are not being done. Quebec is dealing with the problem by trying to send the new migrants to other provinces.

Canadian Immigration Minister’s Pronouncement Tepid

Meanwhile to address concerns expressed in the media and elsewhere, Canada’s Minister of Immigration, Ahmed Hussen, issued a statement warning, ‘Anyone who is in the United States who is intending to come to Canada to make an asylum claim should do so in the United States and not embark on what could potentially be a dangerous journey across our border.’ Dangerous? Perhaps during the winter, but not now. At least not according to video broadcast by the Canadian news media. This tepid and out-dated pronouncement has clearly missed the mark. Although it is true that not everybody is alarmed by the new arrivals, nor exactly satisfied with the way immigration has been handled historically. Many Canadian immigration advocates have denounced the Third Country Agreement requiring refugees to make their claim in the first North American country where they land. They argue that the United States is no longer a safe haven for refugee claimants. Thus the reason for  illegal entries on foot and away from ports of entry – a loophole in the agreement that makes an entry in this manner successful where otherwise the entry would be denied.

Frankly, however, at least for the time being and despite President Trump’s disquieting behavior, the U.S. legal system and refugee processing while far from perfect, is still over all, working well.  At least well enough to still have confidence in their work. So what are we to say to illegal American immigrants migrating to Canada?

Real Refugees Do Not Take Taxis To The Border

We should tell them that real refugees do not come to Canada in taxis and buses. They do not flee from democratic countries.  They are not individuals who get to choose to live in Canada just because they are unwilling to return home for economic and even just any humanitarian reason. Instead,  real refugees are people escaping recent persecution, people living in refugee camps in Africa and Asia and those who live in despair because they have been hounded out of their countries and forced to live on the edge of civilization. If Canada is sincere about being a refuge for those who are persecuted, let it choose from this latter group.

Third Country Agreement Needs Updating

Until the Third Country Agreement can be amended to plug the loophole causing these entrants to come by foot, it ought to be Canadian policy that the mere illegal entrance by foot by a migrant from the United States who has been present there for over one year will be presumed to be an admission that the applicant is not a refugee and therefore subject to removal to their country of origin. In the context of a democratic North America, their choice of illegal entry by foot is an indication that more is involved than a mere refugee claim. Expedited removal ought to be employed as a priority, even ahead of current domestic removal cases. Otherwise, as my colleague Jim Metcalfe, a former Canadian visa officer  pointed out, the country does not have the absorptive capacity to take everyone in.  Indeed, Canada could  be faced  with a catastrophic flood of illegal migrants and a looming crisis in social services unparalleled in history as potentially millions of illegal migrants make their way north.

Trudeau’s Liberal Legacy On The Line

In the absence of immediately introducing such a policy,  Trudeau’s public declaration of welcome to refugees could turn out to be as colossally negligent and the cause of great social divisions in Canada, as Angela Merkol’s declaration was in instigating the flood of refugee migrants to Europe from North Africa and the clashes in Europe thereafter. As the crisis grows, Canadian attitudes towards immigration are hardening . Ironically, in the absence of an about face in policy, this crisis could turn Canada into the exact opposite of the country Trudeau’s declaration described.

Andy J. Semotiuk is a U.S. and Canadian immigration lawyer, published author and former UN Correspondent with offices in New York and Toronto. Sign up for his newsletter at My Work Visa. A version of this post originally appeared in Forbes.

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