With COVID-19 clampdown, number of asylum seekers at Canada-U.S. border slows to a trickle

As expected. Full March numbers not out yet so these interim numbers highlight the impact from March 21:

Sweeping changes at Canada’s borders under emergency pandemic restrictions have slowed cross-border traffic to an unparalleled trickle, including people claiming persecution abroad.

Six asylum seekers were turned back at Canada’s border with the United States under recent COVID-19 restrictions, four of them irregular border crossers, from March 21 to April 2, according to data from Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA).

March 21 was the day the highly unusual emergency order under the Quarantine Act prohibited entry into Canada by people claiming refugee protection.

Only one asylum seeker has been allowed to proceed into Canada under exemptions to the closed border rule, which could mean the person was an American citizen.

Of the four irregular crossers, which are sometimes referred to as illegal border crossers, two were stopped after crossing into Quebec and two into British Columbia.

The remaining two asylum seekers arrived from the United States at a border entry point in southern Ontario and were also turned back, CBSA said. The agency refused to say what country any of these people were seeking protection from.

“Failure to comply with a direct back order could result in the foreign national to become inadmissible to Canada,” said Jacqueline Callin, a spokeswoman for CBSA. “This regulation will be applied to all foreign nationals seeking to enter Canada if their entry is prohibited — regardless if they enter irregularly or at a designated land port of entry.

“Asylum claimants will be asked to provide basic identifying information and requested to return to make their asylum claim after the temporary prohibition has been lifted.”

That stands in sharp contrast to what is typical border activity.

CBSA would not provide the numbers of asylum claims for the same period last year. However, as a point of contrast, in all of March 2019, the RCMP made 1,001 interceptions of asylum seekers who did not cross at a formal border checkpoint: 967 in Quebec, 22 in B.C., and 13 in Manitoba.

That same month there were a total of 1,870 asylum claims made at formal border crossing points, which was itself one of the lowest monthly totals for the year.

There are far fewer new cases of refugee claimants at the Immigration and Refugee Board (IRB).

The Refugee Protection Division of the IRB received 304 refugee protection claims nationally from March 21 and April 5, according to IRB data. While a specific comparison to the same period last year was not available, in 2019, the IRB had an overall average of 2,245 referrals in a two-week period.

This does not mean all 304 claimants crossed the border since the COVID-19 travel restrictions, however. There may be delays between a claimant’s arrival in Canada and a referral to the IRB, said Anna Pape, a spokeswoman for the IRB.

The steep drop in asylum seekers in Canada mirrors the unparalleled drop in all border traffic under COVID-19.

From March 23 to March 29, there were almost 82 per cent fewer land crossings into Canada compared with the same period last year, and an almost 85 per cent drop in people arriving by air.

On March 16, in an abrupt about-face, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said foreign travellers were prevented from entering Canada, except for U.S. citizens, to curtail the spread of the novel coronavirus.

Despite that, the next day, Minister of Public Safety Bill Blair said irregular border crossers would undergo medical screening but still be allowed to proceed for assessment of their immigration claims in Canada.

The following day,  borders were clamped down even tighter with the Canada-U.S. border closed to all non-essential travel, regardless of citizenship.

On March 20, in a further change, the government announced that asylum seekers will also be rejected at the border for the time being.

All travellers arriving in Canada — including Canadian citizens — are being met with increased intervention and screening in light of COVID-19.

Temperatures, however, are not taken by CBSA at borders or airports.

During a similar but less severe pandemic, the Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) outbreak in 2003, temperature testing was found to be an ineffective control, CBSA said. During SARS, 2.3 million travellers had temperatures taken at Canada’s airports.

“Despite this intensive screening effort, no cases of SARS were detected using these methods,” said Callin.

Source: With COVID-19 clampdown, number of asylum seekers at Canada-U.S. border slows to a trickle

China needs more, not fewer, immigrants holders

An interesting opinion piece. Like so many calls for increased immigration, primarily based on addressing the aging demographicsd along with attracting talent to support innovation:

China’s latest draft law on granting permanent residency to foreigners has touched a nerve among the public. It has been met with overwhelming disapproval, fanning fears that a “lowered threshold” will lead to an influx of immigrants who will put a strain on resources.

A closer look at the proposed regulation, however, finds the bar for obtaining a Chinese “green card” remains extremely high. For instance, a skilled applicant is required to hold a doctoral degree or a diploma from “an internationally renowned university”, to have at least three years of work experience and have lived in China for a year minimum.

China’s existing green card system, which began in 2004, is more of an obstacle than a channel for foreigners looking to settle in the country. In the past 15 years, only about 10,000 foreigners have obtained permanent residency.

Except for a handful of non-natives like Tesla founder Elon Musk, obtaining the right to reside in China for most professionals is mission impossible. The latest official data shows that China issued 1,500 green cards in 2016. The United States government by comparison provided about a million that same year, including more than 77,000 to people born in China.

As a result, the foreign community in the world’s second largest economy is tiny. It is estimated that China, a country of 1.4 billion people, has just one million foreigners working and living here. The coronavirus may shrink that number further.

Japan has a foreign-born population of 2.2 million, including 320,000 permanent residents, out of a total population of more than 127 million. The US has more than 44 million foreigners, including 13.2 million permanent residency holders, out of a total of over 327 million.

China’s green card system is too protective and turns away overseas talent. Without permanent residence, life can get very frustrating – from schooling to buying a high speed railway ticket.

If it wants to become an innovative country, China has to be more open to foreign talent. Immigrants are often more willing to take risks, work harder and innovate. Skilled migrants have an important role to play in scientific research, education and industrial upgrading. It is no accident that China’s best cities, including Beijing, Shanghai and Shenzhen, have the highest presence of foreign residents in the country.

The US, which has the highest proportion of immigrants among developed nations, has had commendable success in this regard. Immigrants are one reason for America’s tech power; in Silicon Valley, the heart of the US technology industry, more than a third of the population are foreign-born.

Although China has temporarily closed its borders to foreigners due to concerns over imported coronavirus cases, it cannot afford to allow these restrictions to impede its long-term growth and prosperity.

The proposed permanent residency threshold should be lowered further. For instance, the investment migration threshold of 10 million yuan (US$1.4 million) proposed in the draft can be lowered to one million yuan, while the education threshold can be lowered from a doctorate to a bachelor’s degree.

At the same time, the Chinese public has a reason to be sceptical about allowing foreigners to settle permanently in China as the government still discriminates against its own citizens in terms of residency.

Where Beijing’s ‘bottom of society’ live

A migrant worker from a rural province is unable to get permanent residency in a big city like Beijing even if he has been working and living in the city for decades. Try persuading him that foreign passport holders can settle permanently while he can’t.

The migration debate, in a nutshell, comes down to whether a nation’s population is viewed as a burden or a resource.

Given that China’s population is ageing rapidly after four decades of rigid birth controls, it has come to a point where it must rethink both its population and immigration policies. China cannot pin its hopes on foreigners to solve labour force shrinkage, but a larger flow of immigrants is desirable, along with encouraging new births.

If China remains unfriendly to new births and immigrants, the country will face an ageing population and its innovative capacity will be crippled – a threat to the country’s aspirations. Therefore, it is in China’s fundamental interest to issue more, instead of fewer, green cards.

Source: China needs more, not fewer, immigrants holders

ICYMI: The number of detainees held in Canada’s immigration holding centres is declining amid COVID-19 fears

Of note, and addressing some of the concerns:

Dozens of people who were held in Canada’s immigration detention facilities have been released over the last week as advocates and lawyers have called for their release amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

According to data obtained from the Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) by Global News, the total number of immigration detainees held in all three of Canada’s immigration holding centres dropped to 64 as of April 1 from 98 on March 25.

There are three immigration holding centres in Canada: one in Laval, Que., one in Toronto, and one in Surrey, B.C. However, hundreds of immigration detainees are held in provincial jails across the country — sometimes indefinitely.

The Toronto immigration holding centre, which has 198 beds, had the biggest drop in detainees, dropping to 21 detainees on April 1 from 41 on March 25. The Laval centre, which has 109 beds, went from 48 detainees to 35. And the Surrey centre went from having nine to eight in that timespan. CBSA said that no minors were in the facilities on those dates.

Earlier this week, TVO reported that an employee at the Toronto centre tested positive for COVID-19 and has been in isolation since March 18. So far, no detainees are confirmed to have contracted COVID-19.

A number of legal and advocacy groups have been calling for the release of people in immigration detention “unless they pose a danger to the public.” Canada’s immigration law allows CBSA officers to detain foreign nationals if they believe the person is unlikely to appear for an immigration proceeding like a hearing, if the person is deemed a threat to public safety, or if the person’s identity is under question.

Jenny Jeanes, the detention coordinator with Action Refugies, an NGO that works with people detained in the Laval immigration holding centre, said that she’s pleased that people are being released, and that the COVID-19 pandemic makes the situation even more urgent. She said that even more detainees at Laval have been released since April 1.

“Releases are picking up. And we were so relieved that after asking for a few weeks, finally some of the [detained] fathers who were separated from their families were released this week on an expedited basis,” Jeanes said in a phone interview.

“If people are released, it’s either because whatever issues there were that were leading them to be detained are resolved. So that’s been the case for some people. Some people were released in the past days because their identity was confirmed, (and) they were able to get the information that the CBSA needed to confirm their identity.”

Last month, detainees at the Laval centre started a hunger strike after sending a petition to the federal ministers of public safety and immigration, asking to be released from the centre over fears of contracting the virus in the facility.

Jeanes said that the hunger strike there was suspended earlier this week “but the distress of those inside has not ended.” Though her group previously conducted visits and work inside the centre multiple times a week, she and her colleagues recently moved to conducting their work remotely because of COVID-19, and have been communicating with Laval detainees over the phone.

“I’ve had people hang up in tears, sobbing with me on the phone this week because they see other people getting released. But they know that that doesn’t mean that they’re going to be released and they’re scared,” Jeanes said.

“At the best of times, detention can create anxiety, depression and other negative mental health effects. And I think right now, everybody, we’re all under strain. And so imagine that you’re in detention. It’s that much worse.”

“As this situation is fluid and evolving rapidly, the CBSA is continuing to closely monitor and assess the state of those in detention. All options are being considered at this time,” a CBSA spokesperson said in an email. “As always, should a detainee in CBSA care be seriously ill and in need of immediate medical attention, they would be referred to the appropriate local or emergency health authority for medical assessment without delay.”

Last week, Legal Aid Ontario said on its website that it was expanding its detention review hearing representation services for immigration detainees.

“We are pleased that in many cases CBSA is cooperating with detainees and their counsel to develop viable safe release plans; we think all involved recognize the personal and public health issues raised by detention during a pandemic,” Alyssa Manning, manager of Legal Aid Ontario’s immigration detention duty counsel project, said in a statement to Global News.

According to CBSA data, around 7,706 people were held in immigration holding centres in Canada last year, and around 2,249 people were detained by CBSA and held in provincial jails. The average time spent in detention was around 12 days.

Coronavirus outbreak: UN launches global appeal for $2 billion in aid to fight COVID-19

On Friday, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau was asked why civil servants are still going into work at places like immigration detention facilities when that could increase the risk of spreading COVID-19 to those held in the facilities and among employees and their families.

“We’re going to continue to ensure that essential services get done. Wherever possible, civil servants are encouraged to work remotely from home. We know there are significant things that need to be worked on to deliver for Canadians, to keep Canadians safe at this particular time,” Trudeau said.

When asked whether the federal government would be releasing non-violent offenders in general, Trudeau said that “action has been taken” and that the government has been working with Corrections Canada and “detention facilities of all types” to reduce the vulnerability to the spread of COVID-19.

“We continue to look at other measures that can be taken and we will take those measures in due course.”

Source: The number of detainees held in Canada’s immigration holding centres is declining amid COVID-19 fears

Immigration Filings for H-1B Visas Up 25% from 2019

A rare easing of administration requirements by the Trump administration:

Between March 1 and March 20, 2020, 275,000 individuals were entered into USCIS’ new electronic pre-registration system to obtain an H-1B for the 2020-2021 fiscal year. This is a nearly 25% increase over last year’s filings.

While it is hard to judge what led to the apparent increase in demand, the change may be a reflection of the ease of entering into the lottery, and low unemployment during the first quarter. Employers no longer are required to complete and submit full H-1B filings, but rather simply enter the individuals they wish to sponsor into the system and pay a $10.00 fee per worker. This is an enormous benefit since filing full H petitions has become much more complex under the current Administration’s focus on enforcement. More documentation is needed to try to avoid the now ubiquitous Requests for Evidence (RFEs). Last year more than 60% of H-1B cases received RFEs.

USCIS required very little information about each applicant, but it collected such information as whether the individuals hold U.S. advanced degrees and the citizenship of each applicant. USCIS has announced that about 43% of this year’s pre-registrations were for individuals holding U.S. advanced degrees (Master’s Cap cases). Eighty-one percent of the pre-registrations were for Indian (68%) and Chinese (13%) nationals. The companion figures for the cases that “won” the lottery have not been released. But the lottery system generally favors those with advanced degrees. Last year, 63% of the selected petitions were for beneficiaries with U.S. Master’s degrees.

Many petitioners have been notified which of their cases were selected in the pre-registration lottery. Those cases must be filed over the next 90 days. USCIS explained that all submitted cases will remain in the system for possible selection until the end of the fiscal year (September 30, 2020). From now until then, more cases may be selected in the lottery. Whether or not this happens may depend upon the appetite of the employers whose cases have already been selected for filing. Will COVID-19 play a role in determining how many employers will move forward and file full Cap H-1B petitions?

Source: Immigration Filings for H-1B Visas Up 25% from 2019

Trump gambles on immigrant workers during coronavirus

Reality and economic interests at play:

The Trump administration is still soliciting immigrants for specific jobs despite droves of Americans filing for unemployment.

It is urging medical professionals to contact a U.S. embassy to move their application process along, cognizant of the coronavirus pandemic sweeping America.

It is easing requirements for immigrants to get jobs as farm workers, landscapers and crab pickers, aware that industries, including those that fill grocery store shelves, could be hurt if they couldn’t hire foreign employees.

And until facing criticism this week, it had been moving ahead with a 35,000-person increase in the number of seasonal workers in part for expected job openings at resorts and golf courses after the pandemic releases its grip on the economy.

Activists are irate that Trump hasn’t backed down more. But business leaders say it’s needed to stabilize a cratering economy.

Indeed, Trump faces immense pressure to prop up the economy — both during and after the coronavirus outbreak. And he’s adopting an approach the business community has long pushed: Recruit workers for perennially empty jobs, even if they’re not American workers. Business leaders say that even during the coronavirus crisis, foreign workers are critical to companies that might be unable to find enough unemployed Americans willing to take certain jobs, especially if those people can collect more money via jobless benefits.

“There’s still a need for these types of workers,” said one business industry representative in touch with the administration.

But the move poses political risks for the president, with hard-line immigration activists baffled that Trump would choose a moment of financial peril — with unemployment skyrocketing and a reelection campaign around the corner — to turn to foreign workers.

“It’s reprehensible,” said Mark Krikorian, executive director of the Center for Immigration Studies, which advocates more immigration restrictions. “Specifically importing workers into jobs unemployed Americans would be doing is absurd.”

A Department of Homeland Security official said the administration’s moves were surprising given the “soaring unemployment rate.” A record-shattering 6.6 million people filed for their first unemployment benefits last week, as scores of industries have fully shuttered during the pandemic.

In response to pressure from opponents, the Trump administration did backtrack on some of its plans, pausing the approval of 35,000 more seasonal worker visas, pending further review. But the other moves remain in place for now.

Trump made cracking down on immigration the centerpiece of his 2016 campaign, promising to build a wall on the southern border with Mexico and deport millions of migrants who arrived in the country illegally. In his inaugural address, he promised to rebuild the country with American labor. “We will follow two simple rules: buy American and hire American,” he said.

Since the pandemic began, the administration has restricted foreign visitors from China, Europe, Canada and Mexico, and postponed hearings for immigrants wanting to remain in the U.S. More broadly, it paused visa processing for those that aren’t being granted exemptions.

But it has also begun easing the process for companies looking to hire foreign workers, altering some paperwork requirements, including allowing electronic signatures and waiving the physical inspection of documents.

The administration even talked about boosting the number of visas offered to wealthy immigrants who invest money in the U.S., though interest in that has cooled on Capitol Hill, according to the business leader.

DHS is expected to extend visas that are expiring but can’t be renewed because federal offices are closed, according to the business group representative. Acting DHS Secretary Chad Wolf confirmed this week that he is considering that, among other changes.

“We’re looking at a … variety of different options that I think we will have soon, and it will be very beneficial,” he said.

The White House and DHS did not respond to requests for comment.

Trump touted the importance of agricultural visas on Wednesday in response to a question at a news conference at the White House.

We want them to come in,” he said. “We’re not closing the border so that we can’t get any of those people to come in. They’ve been there for years and years, and I’ve given the commitment to the farmers: They’re going to continue to come. Or we’re not going to have any farmers.”

NumbersUSA, which supports immigration restrictions, has been railing against the changes for days on social media and in alerts to supporters, specifically calling out Wolf, who once lobbied for an association that wanted to keep a visa program for foreign workers.

“@DHS_Wolf is going to admit tens of thousands of foreign guest workers in the coming month to satisfy the corporate lobby,” it posted on Twitter this week. “These guest workers will be dispersed across the entire U.S. putting Americans out of work and hampering efforts to control the coronavirus.”

The business community, including the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, had been pushing for temporary slots for immigrants coming to the U.S., saying companies were struggling to fill jobs as unemployment has fallen. It continued lobbying even after the coronavirus, according to the business industry representatives.

“Many immigrant workers are currently helping our nation fight the spread of Covid-19,” said Jon Baselice, the chamber’s executive director of immigration policy, citing medical professionals, scientists and agricultural workers. “Their contributions to our national well-being are critically important to our safety and security until we flatten the curve on this pandemic.”

Immigrant advocates have joined in the call for not restricting foreign labor during the current pandemic.

“It’s never been more clear that the American economy depends on immigrants and immigration,” said Ali Noorani, executive director of the National Immigration Forum, an immigrant advocacy group. “This is a community that is currently contributing on the front lines and is also able to come in and meet gaps in the labor force.”

Immigrant advocates have cautioned that being on the front line during coronavirus puts these foreign laborers in harm’s way. The issue made headlines after a video surfaced of farm workers laboring close to each other without proper protective gear. María Teresa Kumar, president and CEO of the Latino political organization Voto Latino, said immigrants who don’t speak English well might not understand confusing guidelines about how to protect themselves against the virus.

Despite Trump’s campaign vow to reduce immigration, the number of immigrants with temporary visas has steadily increased during his presidency, reaching 925,000 in 2018, according to the Migration Policy Institute.

While there is no cap for the total number of temporary workers, there are annual limits on several of the dozen-plus visa categories. More than 1 million immigrants are allowed into the United States each year on a permanent basis, but only a fraction — 140,000 — come through employment categories.

Companies also request many more foreign worker visas than are approved. On Thursday, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services announced that companies initially were requesting 275,000 visas in fiscal 2021 for skilled workers in specialty occupations. Those visas, dubbed H-1B, are capped at 85,000 annually.

The Trump administration has also worked to prioritize visa processing for medical workers, given America’s resource-strained health system.

Last Thursday, the State Department encouraged medical professionals seeking a work or exchange visitor visa to contact the nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate for a visa appointment. Hours later, after some criticism, the department clarified that the person must already have an approved visa petition.

The State Department later announced it would also waive interviews for some temporary worker visas, saying the program is “essential to the economy and food security of the United States and is a national security priority.”

The prioritization for some workers comes amid a broader suspension of visa services at embassies and consulates around the world. But the Trump administration created a carveout after a push by members of Congress and agriculture groups, who already had been coping with a worker shortage and the fallout from Trump’s trade wars.

Separately, DHS had announced before the pandemic that it planned to allow an additional 35,000 workers into the country on non-agricultural seasonal worker visas as it tried “to strike a careful balance that benefits American businesses and American workers.”

The visas, dubbed H-2B, have been regularly used for workers in the landscaping, housekeeping and construction industries, and had been capped at 66,000. DHS has added additional visas in that category for the past three years.

The administration discussed reversing the decision, according to two people familiar with the situation, but moved forward last week with the plan. Employers expected to be able to hire workers within weeks, according to the business industry representative.

But after criticism, DHS reversed course yet again. “DHS’s rule on the H-2B cap is on hold pending review due to present economic circumstances,” the department tweeted.

Source: Trump gambles on immigrant workers during coronavirus

Portugal gives migrants and asylum-seekers full citizenship rights during coronavirus outbreak

Of note. Best approach from a public health perspective (not full rights, can’t vote):

Portugal has temporarily given all migrants and asylum seekers full citizenship rights, granting them full access to the country’s healthcare as the outbreak of the novel coronavirusescalates in the country.

The move will “unequivocally guarantee the rights of all the foreign citizens” with applications pending with Portuguese immigration, meaning they are “in a situation of regular permanence in National Territory,” until June 30, the Portuguese Council of Ministers said on Friday.
The Portuguese Council of Ministers explained that the decision was taken to “reduce the risks for public health” of maintaining the current scheduling of appointments at the immigration office, for both the border agents and the migrants and asylum seekers.
Portugal declared a State of Emergency on March 18 that came into effect at midnight that day and was due to last for 15 days. Portuguese Prime Minister Antonio Costa said during a news conference that “democracy won’t be suspended.”
The country was a dictatorship for decades, with democracy being restored in 1974.
President Marcelo Rebelo de Sousa called the Covid-19 pandemic “a true war,” which would bring true challenges to the country’s “way of life and economy.”
Rebelo de Sousa also praised the behavior of Portuguese citizens, “who have been exemplary in imposing a self-quarantine,” reflecting “a country that has lived through everything.”
Portugal has has 6,408 cases of coronavirus, with 140 deaths and 43 recovered, according to figures from Johns Hopkins University.

Source: Portugal gives migrants and asylum-seekers full citizenship rights during coronavirus outbreak

Immigrant Workers: Vital to the U.S. COVID-19 Response, Disproportionately Vulnerable

Of note. Haven’t looked at immigrant status but visible minorities provides a similar picture (mix of immigrants and subsequent generations). Some visible minority groups such as Latin American and Blacks are more concentrated in support positions than other groups:

Six million immigrant workers are at the frontlines of keeping U.S. residents healthy and fed during the COVID-19 pandemic. While the foreign born represented 17 percent of the 156 million civilians working in 2018, they account for larger shares in coronavirus-response frontline occupations: 29 percent of all physicians and 38 percent of home health aides, for example. They also represent significant shares of workers cleaning hospital rooms, staffing grocery stores, and producing food.

The foreign born also are over-represented in sectors most immediately devastated by mass layoffs: Restaurants and hotels, office cleaning services, and in-home child care, among them. All told, another 6 million immigrants work in industries that MPI has identified as some of the hardest hit, meaning that collectively 12 million immigrant workers are at the leading edge of the response to and impacts from the pandemic.

As dramatic economic contraction brings hardship to tens of millions in the coming months, the difficulties will be exacerbated for many immigrant workers because of limited access to safety-net systems and to federal relief, both for those who are unauthorized and some who are legally present. The estimated $2 trillion pandemic aid package makes many immigrants eligible for cash relief payments; others, such as most U.S.-citizen or legal immigrant spouses who file taxes jointly with unauthorized immigrants, will not be eligible.

Noncitizens also face restricted access to existing safety-net programs. While green-card holders, those on a temporary work visa, and individuals with Temporary Protected Status or Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals can access unemployment insurance, most noncitizens cannot turn to the federal, means-tested benefits, including food stamps, that other workers tap in times of need. And immigrant workers face additional vulnerabilities, including smaller incomes and lower rates of health insurance coverage.

Minimizing the Risk of Exposure to COVID-19 in Canada Order (Prohibition of Entry into Canada from the United States)

Latest version for those interested.

PC Number: 2020-0184

Date: 2020-03-26

Whereas the Governor in Council is of the opinion that

(a) based on the declaration of a pandemic by the World Health Organization, there is an outbreak of a communicable disease, namely coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19), in the majority of foreign countries;

(b) the introduction or spread of the disease would pose an imminent and severe risk to public health in Canada;

(c) the entry of persons into Canada who have recently been in a foreign country may introduce or contribute to the spread of the disease in Canada; and

(d) no reasonable alternatives to prevent the introduction or spread of the disease are available;

Therefore, Her Excellency the Governor General in Council, on the recommendation of the Minister of Health, pursuant to section 58 of the Quarantine Act, makes the annexed Minimizing the Risk of Exposure to COVID-19 in Canada Order (Prohibition of Entry into Canada from any Country other than the United States).

Minimizing the Risk of Exposure to COVID-19 in Canada Order (Prohibition of Entry into Canada from any Country other than the United States)

Definition of immediate family member  

1 In this Order, immediate family member, in respect of a person means

(a) the spouse or common-law partner of the person;

(b) a dependent child, as defined in section 2 of the Immigration and Refugee Protection Regulations, of the person or of the person’s spouse or common-law partner;

(c) a dependent child, as defined in section 2 of the Immigration and Refugee Protection Regulations, of a dependent child referred to in paragraph (b);

(d) the parent or step-parent of the person or of the person’s spouse or common-law partner; or

(e) the guardian or tutor of the person.


2 Any foreign national, as defined in subsection 2‍(1) of the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act, is prohibited from entering Canada if they arrive from a foreign country other than the United States.


3(1) Section 2 does not apply to

(a) an immediate family member of a Canadian citizen or of a permanent resident as defined in subsection 2‍(1) of the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act;

(b) a person who is authorized, in writing, by an officer designated under subsection 6‍(1) of the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act or by a consular officer of the Government of Canada, to enter Canada for the purpose of reuniting immediate family members;

(c) a crew member as defined in subsection 101.01‍(1) of the Canadian Aviation Regulations or a person who seeks to enter Canada only to become such a crew member;

(d) a member of a crew as defined in subsection 3‍(1) of the Immigration and Refugee Protection Regulations or a person who seeks to enter Canada only to become such a member of a crew;

(e) a person who is exempt from the requirement to obtain a temporary resident visa under paragraph 190‍(2)‍(a) of the Immigration and Refugee Protection Regulations and the immediate family members of that person;

(f) a person who seeks to enter Canada at the invitation of the Minister of Health for the purpose of assisting in the COVID-19 response;

(g) a person who arrives by any means of a conveyance operated by the Canadian Forces or the Department of National Defence;

(h) a member of the Canadian Forces or a visiting force, as defined in section 2 of the Visiting Forces Act, and the immediate family members of that member;

(i) a French citizen who resides in Saint-Pierre-et-Miquelon and has been only in Saint-Pierre-et-Miquelon, the United States or Canada during the period of 14 days before the day on which they arrived in Canada;

(j) a person or any person in a class of persons who, in the opinion of the Chief Public Health Officer appointed under subsection 6‍(1) of the Public Health Agency of Canada Act

(i) does not pose a risk of significant harm to public health, or

(ii) will provide an essential service while in Canada;

(k) a person whose presence in Canada, in the opinion of the Minister of Foreign Affairs, the Minister of Citizenship and Immigration or the Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness, is in the national interest;

(l) a person who arrives by means of a vessel as defined in section 2 of the Canada Shipping Act, 2001, if the vessel departed before 00:00:01 am Eastern Daylight Time on March 21, 2020 and had a scheduled destination of Canada upon its departure;

(m) the holder of a valid work permit or a study permit as defined in section 2 of the Immigration and Refugee Protection Regulations;

(n) a person whose application for a work permit referred to in paragraph (m) was approved under the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act and who has received written notice of the approval, but who has not yet been issued the permit;

(o) a person whose application for a study permit referred to in paragraph (m) was approved under the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act, and who received written notice of the approval before noon, Eastern Daylight Time on March 18, 2020, but who has not yet been issued the permit;

(p) a person permitted to work in Canada as a student in a health field under paragraph 186‍(p) of the Immigration and Refugee Protection Regulations;

(q) a person permitted to work in Canada as a provider of emergency services under paragraph 186‍(t) of the Immigration and Refugee Protection Regulations.

(r) a licensed health care professional with proof of employment in Canada;

(s) a person who seeks to enter Canada for the purpose of delivering, maintaining, or repairing medically-necessary equipment or devices;

(t) a person who seeks to enter Canada for the purpose of making medical deliveries of cells, blood and blood products, tissues, organs or other body parts, that are required for patient care in Canada during or within a reasonable period of time after the expiry of the Order;

(u) a person whose application for permanent residence was approved under the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act, and who received written notice of the approval before noon, Eastern Daylight Time on March 18, 2020, but who has not yet become a permanent resident under that Act; or

(v) a worker in the marine transportation sector who is essential for the movement of goods by vessel, as defined in section 2 of the Canada Shipping Act, 2001, and who seeks to enter Canada for the purpose of performing their duties in that sector.

Exception — signs and symptoms

(2) Despite subsection (1), a foreign national is prohibited from entering Canada from a foreign country other than the United States if they exhibit the following signs and symptoms:

(a) a fever and cough, or

(b) a fever and breathing difficulties.

Exception — optional or discretionary purpose

(3) Despite subsection (1), a person who seeks to enter Canada for an optional or discretionary purpose, such as tourism, recreation or entertainment, is prohibited from entering Canada from a foreign country other than the United States.

Non-application — order

4 This Order does not apply to

(a) a person registered as an Indian under the Indian Act; or

(b) a protected person within the meaning of subsection 95‍(2) of the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act.

Powers and obligations

5 For greater certainty, this Order does not affect any of the powers and obligations set out in the Quarantine Act.

Repeal of P.C. 2020-0162

6 The Minimizing the Risk of Exposure to COVID-19 Coronavirus Disease in Canada Order (Prohibition of Entry into Canada from any country other than the United States) is repealed.

Effective period

7 This Order has effect for the period beginning on the day on which it is made and ending on June 30, 2020.

Source: https://orders-in-council.canada.ca/attachment.php?attach=38958&lang=en

Four Reasons to Keep Allowing Refugees into Canada

I don’t find these arguments terribly convincing.

Travel restrictions by themselves only slow down the spread of viruses like COVID-19. But at a time where “planking the curve” is a priority to assist our healthcare system handle current and anticipated increased demand, it is one tool that government’s have. Implementing widespread screening at airports was not terribly effective during SARS (“health theatre” just like “security theatre.”)

While some migrants will, of course, find a way, the numbers will likely decrease, reducing the potential additional burden on healthcare (and the IRB).

And and the recent MPI study, Coronavirus Is Spreading across Borders, But It Is Not a Migration Problem, shows, while travel restrictions have limited effectiveness in the containment phase, they are more effective in the mitigation phase in which we find ourselves.

Is the policy immoral? Or does it strike a reasonably balance between protecting Canadian residents and asylum seekers who arrive at official border crossings? Is Canada a “classist society, partially determined by citizenship status.” Of course it is, citizenship does have meaning. But Canada’s implementation of all travel restrictions is inclusive: citizens, Permanent Residents, and immediate family members who fall into neither category.

One can, as many have, that the measures are illegal, as is the STCA with the US. In the current context, not sure such arguments would prevail, in particular given the large number, and ever increasing number, of COVID-19 cases in the USA and the lack of effective US policies to contain the pandemic.

We are all in this together, but there are better and more comprehensive ways to support international cooperation than simply focusing on irregular arrivals:

On Friday morning, Prime Minister Trudeau announced that the government would restrict the movement of people across our borders as an unprecedented measure to stop the spread of COVID-19. Starting this Wednesday, asylum seekers who cross the border at unofficial ports of entry — known as irregular migrants — will be arrested and handed over to American authorities.

This is a marked departure from the government’s previous position. Just a day earlier, the government promised that it would continue to allow people to cross into Canada, ensuring they screen and isolate anyone who crossed the border for two weeks in federal facilities.

While it’s important to acknowledge that we are facing a pandemic, and every decision is difficult and crucial, closing the border to irregular migrants is not the answer. This policy is ineffective, immoral and likely illegal.

1. The new policy is ineffective

Public Safety Minister Bill Blair said that while asylum seekers do not represent a higher public health risk, the efforts required to monitor and isolate them would be difficult during these trying times.

Indeed, welcoming and monitoring migrants while in quarantine requires resources, but it will also require many resources to monitor the closed border and co-ordinate the return of these migrants with the U.S. How many resources will we actually free up by this policy?

Most importantly, this won’t stop the spread of COVID-19.

The World Health Organization hasn’t recommended closing borders to curb COVID-19. Instead, it has instructed countries to ensure appropriate screening measures are in place at ports of entry and to promote thorough hygiene practices and social distancing.

If Canada was to follow the advice of WHO we would conduct an individualized assessment of every person entering the country, move them to a temporary shelter facility, and be asked to self-isolate. This process would be just as, or more, stringent than those in place right now for Canadian and American citizens. And it’s what Trudeau had previously announced Canada would do.

Furthermore, this policy won’t stop migrants from making their way into Canada. As we’ve seen time and time again in Europe, closing the border doesn’t stop migration, it just makes it more dangerous. Migrants won’t abandon their hopes of reaching safety simply because a government tells them to. Rather, they will be pushed to take clandestine routes into Canada.

In this new policy, migrants who make it into Canada will not be quarantined for 14 days, increasing the risk of spreading the virus. Once they are in Canada, they’ll be forced to live underground and will be too afraid to seek medical attention if sick, further exacerbating the spread.

If anything, closing known border crossing points like Roxham Road will put the health of Canadians at greater risk.

We also can’t forget, COVID-19 isn’t happening in a vacuum. This is a global pandemic, and pushing migrants out of Canada won’t stop COVID-19, it will just move it somewhere else. Migrants will be left to wander through the U.S., trying to find safety, and potentially spreading the virus throughout communities.

European Union sources have said that refusing entry to anyone is not considered an appropriate preventive measure, because “the virus would spread further since those potential patients would keep moving in the region without being treated.” European Union experts are instead urging countries to have systematic checks for all arrivals.

Back in January, at the beginning of the COVID-19 outbreak, WHO warned that closing the borders could actually spread the virus more quickly. WHO spokesman Christian Lindmeier said that by closing official border crossings, countries can “lose track of people and cannot monitor (their movement) anymore.”

2. The new policy is immoral

The government of Canada is capitalizing on the chaos of COVID-19 to push through a policy that oppresses the most vulnerable. It is taking advantage of a global pandemic to pander to xenophobic and racist fears.

Sealing the border to irregular migrants reaffirms that ours is a classist society, partially determined by citizenship status. This policy implicitly states that citizens deserve the safety and comfort of Canada, but migrants do not.

Minister Blair characterized turning away migrants as a step toward closing the border for all but “essential” travel. What travel is more “essential” than seeking refuge?

It’s worth noting that the border closure exempts international students and temporary foreign workers and Canada is still allowing American citizens into Canada. These many exceptions illustrate that the border closure isn’t about blocking non-Canadian citizens, but seizing this moment of panic to turn our backs on irregular migrants, a plan the government has long been musing.

3. The new policy is likely illegal

Aside from this policy being immoral, there’s a good chance that the new policy is illegal, and human rights and refugee groups in Canada have been quick to condemn it.

In its press release, the Canadian Association of Refugee Lawyers said, the new policy “is unnecessary and unjustified, and it puts refugees at risk.”

Alex Neve, the Secretary General of Amnesty International Canada, condemns closing the border, noting that “refugees and migrants face considerable risks in the face of the pandemic and are frequently demonized and ostracized as public health threats.” Neve said that “turning refugee claimants over to U.S. border control officials at a time like this violates international law and is just plain cruel.”

Under international law and the 1951 Refugee Convention, Canada has an obligation to allow asylum seekers to launch a refugee claim and have their case heard. By automatically returning all irregular migrants to the U.S., we are ignoring international law and shirking our obligations.

In addition, human rights organizations have fervently opposed the Safe Third Country Agreement for decades now, arguing that the U.S. is not a safe place for refugees.

In the U.S., asylum seekers are prevented from making a refugee claim if they wait more than one year, are often denied access to counsel, and are detained while their claims are assessed. In recent years, the situation has only worsened. Trump has held migrant children in cages, implemented the Muslim ban, housed migrants in tent cities, barred asylum claims based on domestic violence and gang violence, and ripped babies from mothers’ arms.

Canada may also be violating its obligations of non-refoulement — which stipulates that countries cannot return asylum seekers to a country where they would risk persecution — by sending migrants back to the U.S.

There is a very real possibility that the U.S. will send migrants back to countries where they could face persecution. The Trump administration has brokered agreements with El Salvador, Honduras and Guatemala — countries from which countless refugees flee — mandating migrants to apply for refugee protection in those countries on their journey to the U.S. The U.S. already has an established practice of sending migrants back to Guatemala, where Indigenous people and women, in particular, face extreme rates of violence. All of this violates the international obligations to not return asylum seekers to persecution, and Canada will now be complicit in these “chain pushbacks.”

Given these bilateral agreements, and the fact that the U.S. government is still conducting raids and deporting people during the COVID-19 pandemic, Canada cannot argue that sending migrants back to the U.S. is in line with our legal obligations.

The government has emphasized that this measure will only remain in place during the COVID-19 crisis, but we should take this with a very large grain of salt. The Safe Third Country Agreement was created during the aftermath of 9/11, when it may have seemed reasonable. But the panic of 9/11 is long gone, and the agreement still remains. It’s very likely that this policy will also stay in place permanently. As Justin Mohammed from Amnesty International Canada said, “History demonstrates that when we see the rollback of certain human rights, the unwinding of that action has been very difficult.”

4. We’re all in this together

As Canada and other countries around the world close their borders in an effort to contain the spread of COVID-19, IOM reminds us that, “it is critical that such measures be implemented in a non-discriminatory manner, in line with international law, and prioritizing the protection of the most vulnerable.”

We are in unchartered territory. It’s understandable that Canada wants to do everything it can to protect its country from a deadly virus, but it doesn’t have to be one or the other: we can protect Canadian health while at the same time upholding human rights and protecting asylum seekers.

As always with human rights, it’s a balancing act. As we make difficult decisions to combat this pandemic, we cannot lightly compromise human rights and must account for every competing factor. Just as we balance the freedoms of assembly, association and religion of Canadian citizens against their right to life and health, we must also balance the right to life, liberty, and security of the person of irregular migrants.

As Eric Paulsen has written, we must implement public health measures “in a way that is justifiable in line with international standards. Any limitations on our rights must be necessary, proportionate and in the pursuit of a legitimate aim.”

Canadian citizens are scared, but so are migrants. Migrants face the same health threats from COVID-19 as citizens.

The world is at war, but for the first time in history, the entire world is fighting a common enemy. Let’s use this moment to embrace unity and care for one another.  [Tyee]

Source: ow.ly/tlVs30qsz3V

Crisis within a Crisis: Immigration in the United States in a Time of COVID-19

Good overview by Muzaffar Chishti and Sarah Pierce of MPI on the cumulative impact of US immigration restrictions and related policies on COVID-19 (conclusion):

Relief for Some, But Not All

Once the severity of the health and economic crisis precipitated by the pandemic became evident, Congress passed—and the president signed—two emergency aid packages offering economic and other assistance. A far larger, “Phase 3” estimated $2 trillion-dollar package has been approved by the Senate, awaiting House action. It would provide important medical coverage for Americans who are uninsured and an economic cushion in the form of cash payments, extended unemployment insurance benefits, and other income supports for many impacted by the sharp economic decline and rising joblessness. But the aid package excludes a large section of the noncitizen population. For the medical benefits, the bill excludes even a substantial-share of green-card holders—those who have held legal permanent residence for less than five years. And the economic relief and tax rebate provisions exclude more than 4 million immigrant workers, typically unauthorized, who pay income taxes but use Individual Taxpayer Identification Numbers (ITINs) instead of Social Security numbers to file their tax returns. Advocates had been able to get these provisions included in a House draft that ultimately was not considered; they undoubtedly will plan to push for these to be addressed in future coronavirus-relief legislation.

Immigrant advocates note that foreign-born workers, legal and unauthorized alike, not only constitute a sizeable number of those in critical occupations on the frontlines of fighting the pandemic, they also work disproportionately in non-salaried, nonpermanent jobs, living close to the margin. At the other end of the debate, some conservatives have argued in favor of reserving taxpayer funds for the U.S. born, and in particular object to including unauthorized immigrants. Yet excluding workers who are among the most vulnerable in society from critical safety-net benefits would compromise the effectiveness of the entire aid package and recovery from a virus that makes no distinction based on national origin, immigration status, or income level, experts have noted.

There are no parallels to the multidimensional challenges that the COVID-19 pandemic has presented the United States and the world in this globalized and economically interdependent era in which we live. The vast public health crisis and resulting economic freefall require a global response, and certainly a unified and robust national response where all institutions and individuals are responding to their fullest potential. A set of policies that intentionally or inadvertently discourages a subset of the population from fully participating—without fear or repercussion—in this war against the invisible enemy compromises the wellbeing and lives of all of us.

Source: new article