Andy Semotiuk – Pace Immigration: The recent crackdown on 7-Eleven stores sent an electric shock through the American economy that was felt all the way up to the Canadian border. As Trump cranks up pressure on employers hiring undocumented aliens, those undocumented aliens and others who are losing their status in the U.S. are looking for alternatives. One such promising alternative, at least according to recent trends, has been to migrate to Canada.
There is no doubt Trump is cracking down on immigration. The other day, President Trump decided to end Temporary Protected Status (TPS) for some 200,000 Salvadorans. A similar fate appears to be awaiting Hondurans in the United States. Previously Haitians and Nicaraguans had their TPS cancelled. What is more, recently, at a United Nations conference addressing global migration, U.S. ambassador Nikki Haley announced that the United States would not be continuing with the U.N. global compact on migration – another move in the Trump administration’s lock down on immigration policy.
Canada as a place of refuge for American unlawful aliens
All this is undoubtedly putting pressure on Canada which appears destined to soon become the favorite alternative for expired TPS holders and illegal immigrants. The influx of approximately 15,000 alien asylum seekers crossing the US-Canadian border last year put an unexpected strain on Canadian society . For example, in Montreal, the Olympic stadium was converted into a “temporary welcome center” housing the asylum seekers. With the U.S. cancellation of Temporary Protected Status for Salvadorans coming into full effect on July 22, 2019, the Canadian government now has eighteen months to prepare for another potential swarm of illegal border crossings in that regard, in addition to the other streams that may be headed northward in the months ahead.
What is the impact on Canada of these Illegal Border Crossings?
According to a Global News article in August 2017, of the 15,000 aliens who crossed the US-Canada border, only 5,529 people have been deported. Since the majority of these aliens are crossing illegally, they are exploiting the loophole in the Safe Third Country Agreement. The Safe Third Country Agreement spells out that asylum seekers must make their claim in the country in which they first arrived. But that only applies when claims are made at official border points. If asylum seekers reach Canadian territory, they are entitled to go through a claims process after being arrested. That is because Canada is a signatory of the U.N. Refugee Convention. If the aliens claim refugee status, they have to await a trial to determine if they will be approved or not.
Meanwhile an inordinate strain on the Canadian government is caused by their sheer numbers. According to the CIC website, from January to November 2017 alone, the Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada processed 13,280 asylum claims in Quebec and 10,775 in Ontario, although there were only 970 in Alberta and 815 in British Columbia. Nonetheless, since there are so many asylum claims overall, the processing times are long. While Prime Minister Trudeau is confident that Canada will manage the influx of these refugees, conservative MP Michelle Rempel, for one, pointed out that the “Immigration and Refugee Board is already reporting 11-year wait times (yes, YEARS) for refugee hearings and is experiencing an alarming shortage of immigration judges.” On average, $15,000 to $20,000 is spent by different levels of government on each asylum claimant, according to Michael MacDonald, director general of the operations sector of the citizenship and immigration department. So Canadian taxpayers could end up paying heavily over many years because of delayed hearings for the new arrivals.
The possible collapse of NAFTA talks and trade disputes may add irritants to the U.S.-Canada relationship
The numbers keep growing. According to the Government of Canada Asylum Claims Website, a total of approximately 45,785 asylum claimants were processed by the CBSA and the IRCC (Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada) from January 2017 to November 2017. Meanwhile there is growing Canadian speculation that President Trump is going to pull out of the NAFTA free trade talks. U.S.-Canadian relations are getting frosty in particular because Canada recently launched a global trade complaint against the U.S. through the World Trade Organization, so there is good reason to think NAFTA may come crashing down. This serves to complicate the matter of cross border illegal migration since it appears that the two countries are not exactly going to be best buddies in the days ahead.
Ottawa is underestimating the problem
I have written on the theme of illegal immigration from the U.S. to Canada before. In that article I set out some suggestions on how Canada should handle this matter. My most important impression at the moment is that Ottawa seems to be underestimating the potential flood of migrants that could be coming illegally to Canada in the months ahead and the implications for Canadian society. Take for example the recent statement by the Minister of Immigration, Ahmed Hussen who indicated Salvadorans are not interested in coming to Canada because they want to remain in the United States. We know they want to stay, but isn’t the point that they are not going to be able to stay and given that fact, where are they most likely to go when that happens? The same holds true for illegal 7-Eleven workers.
An American solution Canada could use
The American Immigration and Nationality Act has a provision that better deals with this problem than anything Canada has in its legislation. Section 235(b)(2)(C) of the U.S. act states:
Treatment of aliens arriving from contiguous territory –
In the case of an alien … who is arriving on land (whether or not as a designated port of arrival) from a foreign territory contiguous to the United States, the Attorney General may return the alien to that territory pending a proceeding under section 240.
The provision, though not always popular with all quarters in the legal community, enables American officials to hold migrants at bay in Mexico until their removal proceedings are held.
What needs to be done immediately
In my view, three things need to be done immediately in the Canadian situation.
Firstly, the government of Canada needs to clearly state publicly that, as a general rule, while migrants from America who seek to come to Canada may or may not be facing prosecution for their illegal presence in the U.S., they are definitely not currently facing imminent persecution from the U.S. government. Therefore, they should not be crossing illegally into Canada.
Secondly, Canada should adopt a measure similar in nature to the American one mentioned above, so the country can turn migrants away when they cross the border illegally.
Finally, Canada should make immediate arrangements with the U.S. to return illegal entrants to U.S. officialsuntil hearings can be scheduled at a later date. In this way the migrants can be dealt with fairly through appropriate hearings when they can be scheduled, but not at the cost of their immediate presence in Canada. In this way their cases will not negatively impact the debate about welcoming genuine refugees and immigrants to Canada but will be dealt with fairly in deserving instances.
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 MyWorkVisa.com. A version of this article originally appeared in Forbes.