ICYMI: ‘Dreamers’ unlikely to rush to claim asylum in Canada, immigration experts say

Good survey of opinions:

Canadians shouldn’t expect another flood of asylum seekers to illegally cross the border in the wake of the Trump administration’s decision to scrap a program designed to protect young, undocumented immigrants in the United States, immigration experts say.

The situation of the roughly 800,000 so-called Dreamers, undocumented immigrants who were brought to the U.S. as children, is very different from that of the Haitians and other asylum seekers who’ve been coming to Canada in large numbers via irregular border crossings, said Ottawa immigration lawyer Ronalee Carey.

For one thing, it’s still unclear whether the Dreamers will actually face deportation from the U.S. once the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program ends six months from now.

“If I was a DACA recipient, I would not be trying to come to Canada irregularly,” Carey said. “I think they should sit tight and wait and see what happens.”

U.S. President Donald Trump has given Congress six months to come up with a solution for the Dreamers, so-called because of the proposed DREAM Act, voted down in the Senate in 2010, which would have offered them legal status in exchange for joining the military or attending college. DACA is a stopgap measure, implemented by the Obama administration, that has shielded the Dreamers from deportation but has not given them a path to citizenship.

On Tuesday evening, Trump tweeted that he will “revisit this issue” if Congress is unable to “legalize DACA” in the next six months. A majority of Americans believe Dreamers, many of whom have grown up speaking English and have attended American universities, should be allowed to stay in the U.S.

Carey said it would be a “huge mess” if the Trump administration actually tried to deport the 800,000 undocumented young people.

“That was a smart tweet on his part to sort of take back a little bit,” she said.

If some DACA recipients do head north, they will be very unlikely to meet the criteria for refugee status in Canada, she said. But some could come to Canada through normal immigration streams, like the Express Entry program for skilled workers, which would give them a path to permanent residence. Others could come as international students if they have the money, Carey said. In fact, at least one Canadian post-secondary institution is already trying to capitalize on the opportunity. Huron University College, in London, Ont., announced Wednesday it will be offering a $50,000 scholarship for students affected by the DACA decision.

Even if some Dreamers do decide to brave the odds and seek refugee status in Canada, most wouldn’t need to cross the border illegally to do so, she said, because of an exception in the Safe Third Country Agreement. Most would-be refugees who try to enter Canada from the U.S. can be turned away at official border crossings and told to make their asylum claims in the U.S., which is why so many have been coming into Canada at unauthorized points. But Mexicans, who account for about 70 per cent of DACA recipients, are exempted from this rule because they don’t need a visa to come to Canada. They can claim asylum at any border checkpoint, Carey said.

Independent Senator Ratna Omidvar said she has spoken to a number of Dreamers in recent days, and they seem less inclined to seek asylum in Canada than to look at immigrating through other channels.

“That was the least attractive to them,” she said. “They see themselves in a different way.”

Still, Omidvar said Canada should look at taking in 10,000 to 30,000 DACA recipients over the next several years, though she doesn’t believe the government needs to create a special program for them. She compared the Dreamers to the draft dodgers who came to Canada in the 1960s to escape the Vietnam War.

“I feel that Canadians have a huge amount of empathy and compassion, but their empathy for young people is always louder,” she said.

Irene Bloemraad, a sociology professor at the University of California Berkeley who specializes in immigration, said she doesn’t expect floods of Dreamers to make their way to Canada immediately, but it could be an appealing prospect if Congress fails to come up with a solution in the coming months.

“I don’t think there’s going to be hundreds of thousands of people coming north,” she said. “But I think there’s going to be interest.”

She believes Canada should create a special provision to fast-track DACA recipients who want to come north as skilled workers, students or asylum seekers. What Canadians dislike, she said, “is when you have unanticipated numbers of people crossing the borders and then claiming asylum. … But when those flows can be structured in a way, then I think Canadians are very, very generous.”

The issue has come up at a sensitive time for the Canadian government, with NAFTA negotiations underway between Canada, the U.S. and Mexico. Asked about a potential influx of Dreamers to Canada, Hursh Jaswal, spokesperson for Immigration Minister Ahmed Hussen, said the government “won’t speculate on any possible future trends.”

But Bloemraad said Canada needs to look ahead. “Even if the Canadian government is worried about how being proactive with regards to the DACA recipients might have complications for NAFTA negotiations, the alternative, not doing anything, is going to create much bigger policy problems down the road.”

Andy Semotiuk, a Canadian and U.S. immigration lawyer, said Canada has other immigration hurdles to face beyond the DACA recipients. He pointed to the 260,000 Salvadorans and 86,000 Hondurans whose temporary protected status in the U.S. is set to expire, saying the trend of illegal migration to Canada could become “overwhelming.”

Liberal MP Pablo Rodriguez is set to go to Los Angeles this week to try and head off that possible next wave of migrants by correcting misinformation about Canada’s immigration system.

Source: ‘Dreamers’ unlikely to rush to claim asylum in Canada, immigration experts say | National Post

About Andrew
Andrew blogs and tweets public policy issues, particularly the relationship between the political and bureaucratic levels, citizenship and multiculturalism. His latest book, Policy Arrogance or Innocent Bias, recounts his experience as a senior public servant in this area.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: