The Emerging Global Flood
"We have virtually no resources at the border. The way [the Mounties] respond is when the Americans tip them off."
"Once someone reaches the border it's too late [to stop them from declaring themselves asylum seekers]."
"The worst thing that the government can do is revoke the Safe Third Country Agreement. Then you'll have a flood of people showing up at the border."
Christian Leuprecht, political science professor, Royal Military College/Queen's University
"There are many Latin Americans in the United States who fear return to their home country. I think it is quite likely that we'll be seeing more of those as the crackdown of deportations heats up."
"The Safe Third Country is encouraging people to enter Canada dangerously and surreptitiously, and I don't see how that can possibly be in our interests."
"[Immigration lawyers] have been absolutely slammed [since Trump's election]. There's no doubt that people who have options are considering leaving."
Laura Best, immigration lawyer, Vancouver
"Nearly two-thirds [of undocumented immigrants] have been in the United States for at least a decade and a fifth have been present for 20-plus years."
"A large fraction of these people have U.S.-born citizen children. I expect most . . . will try to remain in place and avoid deportation."
Douglas Massey, co-director, Mexican Migration Project, Princeton University
And so it is that the 'world's longest undefended border' separating Canada from the United States has begun to leak refugee claimants who fear the accelerated crackdown on undocumented migrants taking place in the United States threatens their future. There is a reputed 11-million undocumented workers from Mexico and Central America living and working in the United States. These are economic migrants whose climate of fear of being detected and deported has suddenly undergone a transition from caution to outright panic.
They are not the only ones who are panicking. The farmers who depend on these workers to bring in their crops because this is back-breaking, low-income work that most Americans avoid, now fear for their own livelihoods. The small businesses in urban centres that rely on the low-paid work of undocumented migrants are also being hit hard. The irony in all of this, of course, is that these are the very people who voted Donald Trump into the White House. And the panic that has ensued reflects a forgetfulness that his predecessor succeeded in deporting far more migrants than his predecessors ever did.
The tactics appear to have changed, however, with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement having been given new orders. They are not only rounding up non-violent criminals to rid the United States of those with a criminal record, but as well those who have committed the felony of possessing a fake ID. And those who had declared themselves previously and are on record, reporting to the ICE are now being detained and deported. So it appears that the Trump administration is determined to best President Obama's record 2.5 deportations.
Some of those hoping to stake a claim for refuge are taking the initiative to move on, further north, to cross the border into Canada. That movement has not yet become a flood, but it could, conceivably, and Canada is ill equipped to deal with a very large influx. Yes, it is illegal to cross the border into Canada bypassing the normal process of authorization, but once having achieved that goal and declaring need of refuge, Canadian authorities begin the process of assessing the refuge application.
Refugee advocates are agitating for the suspension of the Safe Third Country Agreement, a 12-year-old agreement between Canada and the United States prohibiting people arriving at a Canadian land border crossing entering from the U.S. from claiming themselves refugees since the U.S. represents the place where the initial claim for asylum would have taken place. The like premise holds that anyone entering Canada first is not entitled to claim asylum in the United States. The country of first arrival is the country where the claim is to be made.
In the wake of the 9/11 attacks many Muslim Americans evidently feared for their future in the United States, and a surge of claimants ensued. The Liberal Chretien government struck the Safe Third Country Agreement with Washington. While in opposition the current Liberal government spoke of the Conservative Harper immigration refugee policy with contempt, claiming it to be cruel and clumsy, opposing an expedited process for citizens of "designated countries of origin".
Now that the Liberals have regained power in Ottawa, they are faced with the same old problems that have traditionally bedevilled governments in power. The current Liberal Trudeau government struck down the previous government's visa provision for Mexicans. And as they did, claims began swelling once again, which led to the visas being imposed in the first place. Canadians in general are fairly open to immigration; the country 'grows' by almost a quarter-million yearly through generous immigration numbers.
|A man leaps across the border with passport in-hand under watch by a U.S. Border Patrol agent at the U.S.-Canada border near Hemmingford, Que., on Friday, February 17, 2017. (Paul Chiasson/The Canadian Press)|
But Canadians are not the least bit enthralled at the prospect of having to host large numbers of economic migrants and refugees arriving in the country without the institutionalized immigration process being in play. The Canada Border Services Agency reported over 400 people had crossed from North Dakota into Manitoba this past year. The RCMP reported 452 asylum claims at the border in Quebec for January alone. This, when refugees have to cross on foot over long distances in the winter months, auguring a much larger influx when the weather becomes moderate.
And this will task Canada's limited resources beyond what both government and its citizens are prepared to accept.