Canadians are seeking asylum in US due to Trudeau’s Covid policies

Funny and sad that some think they can apply for asylum in the USA given COVID-related restrictions. At least the lawyer involved is reasonable honest about the likelihood of success (while pocketing his fees). “True” North is not exactly innocent in promoting such beliefs:

Buffalo immigration lawyer Matthew Kolken has filed asylum applications for at least half a dozen Canadians who hope to flee the country permanently due to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s pandemic policies. 

In an exclusive interview with True North, Kolken, who is a former director of the Board of Governors of the American Immigration Lawyers Association, explained that his clients fear being persecuted for being unvaccinated should they return to Canada.

“If you just don’t want to go back to Canada, you actually need to fear that you will be the victim of targeted persecution by the Government of Canada or by groups within the country that the government either can’t or won’t protect you from,” said Kolken. 

“(The application) says they’ve either expressed some sort of political speech or a member of a particular social group like unvaccinated individuals that have faced persecution before either through seizing of bank accounts, or loss of employment, or forced quarantines, things of that nature.”

According to US Citizenship and Immigration Services, those seeking asylum must apply within one year of arriving in the country. Groundsfor seeking asylum include suffering persecution due to race, religion, nationality, membership in a particular social group or political opinion. 

An application filed by Kolken in January for one client cited the Liberal government’s crackdown on the Freedom Convoy in February. To deal with the situation, Trudeau took the unprecedented step of invoking the Emergencies Act which enabled the government to freeze the bank accounts of protesters.

Kolken stated that his clients were also “scared to death” of being singled out by the Trudeau government for speaking out against vaccine mandates or have their employment opportunities limited. 

“They’re scared to death that if they go back to Canada they will be singled out and isolated by the Government of Canada, they will be unable to travel,” said Kolken.

“They’re afraid they wouldn’t get onto a plane in Canada and they will be trapped within their own country and that their abilities to obtain employment are limited there.”

Although the Liberals lifted travel mandates which prohibited unvaccinated Canadians from boarding a plane and train domestically or abroad, public health officials have not ruled out re-introducing restrictions in the future. 

“[If] COVID-19 takes a turn for the worst and we need to readjust and go back to a different regime, maybe similar to what we might have had before, we’re ready to do that,” said Deputy Chief Public Health Officer Dr. Howard Njoo in June. “We have no idea what the long term success rate is but I counsel my clients over the phone, the applications that clearly are justifiable under the law and regulations. They set forth a bonafide non-frivolous case.”

He also warned those seeking asylum that the Safe Third Country Agreement which dictates asylum applications between Canada and the US could be used against them. 

“The Safe Third Country Agreement cannot differentiate either country’s treaty obligations to accept asylees from one of the two contracting countries. You can’t say that because of the Safe Third Country Agreement that nobody who is a Canadian citizen can’t apply for asylum in the United States.”

Source: Canadians are seeking asylum in US due to Trudeau’s Covid policies

Canada’s immigration backlog has never been worse

The ever increasing backlogs understandably continue to attract attention. However, apart from CILA and a few individuals, haven’t seen any call for a pause in applications or heaven forbid, reduced levels, to address the backlogs:

In tandem with the increasing backlog has also been a precipitous rise in Federal Court cases from frustrated applicants demanding a reply from the IRCC.

They’re called “mandamus cases,” and it’s essentially an application for the court to order a response from IRCC. Before the pandemic there were only a few dozen mandamus cases per year. Last year, there were more than 400.

In prior statements, the federal government has largely attributed the crushing IRCC delays to the COVID-19 pandemic and the avalanche of refugee applications from Afghanistan and Ukraine. Last month, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced the formation of a special committee to figure out how to reduce wait times.

Amid history-making line-ups at Canadian airports and passport offices, an absolutely crushing backlog at Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada is putting them all to shame.

According to numbers obtained from the IRCC by the immigration-focused publication CIC News, there are now 2.7 million people waiting for Ottawa to process their immigration application.

The backlog encompasses every application filed to IRCC, from citizenship to visas to requests for permanent residency. The backlog of citizenship applications alone stands at 444,792, while most of the list (1.7 million) is applications for temporary residence.

Not only is it the worst immigration backlog of all time, but it is growing exponentially with each passing week. This time last year, the backlog was just 1.5 million names, according to CIC News. In just the last 30 days, the list has grown by 300,000 — an increase of roughly 1,000 new applicants per day.

All told, there are now more people awaiting a reply from the IRCC than there are residents of Atlantic Canada. As of press time, the population of all four Atlantic provinces (including Newfoundland and Labrador) is roughly 2.5 million.

If the backlog continues to grow at the current rate, it will only be another four months until the number of applicants awaiting processing by the IRCC is equivalent to 10 per cent of the Canadian population of 38 million.

This has thrown immigration wait times into complete disarray at the precise time that Canada is touting itself as a haven for refugees, most notably from Afghanistan and Ukraine.

Many of those 2.7 million represent foreign nationals dwelling in a kind of awkward limbo as they spend years awaiting updates from the IRCC.

Last month, Pakistani man Kazim Ali told CTV he applied for Canada’s Express Entry program in 2020, when the estimated wait for a reply was six months. Two years later, he hasn’t heard a thing, bringing the life of he and his wife “to a screeching halt” as they delay career choices and even children until they can hear back.

An increasingly overwhelmed IRCC is also making it difficult to reliably schedule any event in Canada that involves foreign nationals. Last month, both a Montreal AIDS symposium and a major Toronto tech conference saw dozens of invitees unable to attend because of difficulties in obtaining Canadian visas.

In a recent report by the Business Council of Canada, Canadian employers cited “processing delays” as the top barrier to recruiting international talent.

“Frustrated by application processing delays, complex rules, and the cost of navigating the system, fewer than a quarter (of survey respondents) say the immigration system currently serves their business needs well,” it read.

In tandem with the increasing backlog has also been a precipitous rise in Federal Court cases from frustrated applicants demanding a reply from the IRCC.

They’re called “mandamus cases,” and it’s essentially an application for the court to order a response from IRCC. Before the pandemic there were only a few dozen mandamus cases per year. Last year, there were more than 400.

In prior statements, the federal government has largely attributed the crushing IRCC delays to the COVID-19 pandemic and the avalanche of refugee applications from Afghanistan and Ukraine. Last month, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced the formation of a special committee to figure out how to reduce wait times.

Source: Canada’s immigration backlog has never been worse 

Brian Lilley on Roxham Road (usual hyperbole about Trudeau’s tweet):

In the first six months of this year, more people crossed illegally into Canada at Roxham Road in Quebec than in all of 2019. The asylum seekers fast-track route may have all but shut down for much of the pandemic, but now it’s back in business with gusto.

According to the latest federal figures, 16,319 people entered Canada at “irregular” border crossings in Quebec between Jan. 1, 2022, and June 30, 2022. That includes 3,449 in May and 3,066 in June.

Those are the second- and third-highest months on record, surpassed only by August 2017.

By comparison, in 2019 a total of 16,136 people crossed at Roxham Road, and there were 18,518 illegal crossers in 2018 and 18,836 in 2017. The advent of COVID-19 saw the flow of asylum seekers at the Quebec-New York border slow to a trickle with just over 3,000 in 2020 and just over 4,000 in 2021, with most of them coming in December of that year.

This whole thing started when Justin Trudeau put out a tweet welcoming the world to Canada as then newly elected president Donald Trump threatened to deport people back to Haiti from the United States. What was lost on most is that Trump was ending a program that allowed people to stay in the U.S. if they were displaced by the earthquake or at risk following Haiti’s 2004 coup. Canada had ended a similar program years earlier under the Harper government and Trudeau had kept the policy in place and was removing people even as he criticized Trump.

With Trump threatening to do what Canada had already done, many looked north, and Trudeau welcomed them with open arms.

“To those fleeing persecution, terror & war, Canadians will welcome you, regardless of your faith. Diversity is our strength #WelcomeToCanada” Trudeau tweeted on January 28, 2017.

Days later, embassy staff from Mexico were writing to officials at Global Affairs seeking advice on how to handle people looking to declare refugee status in Canada.

“We are receiving an increasing number of enquiries from the public about requesting refugee status in Canada, and a number clearly having links with our Prime Minister’s tweet this weekend,” one email read.

It wasn’t just staff in Mexico. Word spread that Canada would take anyone as a refugee and many decided to use the illegal border crossing to skip dealing with the system.

Since then, more than 77,000 people — that’s more than the population of Belleville, Ont. or Chateauguay, Que. — have crossed at Roxham alone. The government has built special processing facilities there, establishing posts for immigration and RCMP officers to process people.

This is nothing short of the Liberals attempting to import another American political issue into Canada to wedge the Conservatives. In Canada, Conservatives support high numbers for legal immigration, something we saw throughout the Harper years.

What Conservatives don’t support is people who break the law.

This is where we get into word games. The Liberals claim no one is breaking the law, that these are asylum seekers and under Canadian — and international — law it is legal for them to seek asylum. The reality is, the government has giant signs warning people that it is illegal to cross at Roxham and the RCMP give verbal warnings that anyone doing so will be arrested for breaking the law.

They only claim asylum once arrested.

Nigeria is the biggest source of people crossing at Roxham and just 30% of the more than 16,000 who crossed there between February 2017 and March 2022 were accepted as valid refugees. For the more than 10,000 Haitians who crossed — the second-largest source country, just 23% were accepted.

Roxham Road has become a way for those looking to skip the long delays in legal, economic migration to get into Canada.

This isn’t how a properly functioning immigration and refugee system should work, but very little of what the Trudeau government is doing these days is working properly.

Source: LILLEY: Trudeau continues immigration games as Roxham Road sees record numbers

Chouinard: Demandeurs d’asile largués [childcare subsidies]

Of note:

La décision de Québec de porter en appel un jugement qui redonnait enfin aux demandeurs d’asile le droit aux garderies subventionnées, et ce, après quatre ans d’interdit, traduit une politique migratoire insensible à la vulnérabilité des citoyens en attente d’un statut. Les organismes de défense des droits de ces demandeurs, qui ont un permis de travail mais ne peuvent l’utiliser faute de moyens, ont raison d’être exaspérés.

Ce dossier à la fois complexe et d’une simplicité désarmante nourrit les manchettes depuis quatre ans. En avril 2018, le gouvernement libéral de Philippe Couillard a décidé sans crier gare de réinterpréter l’article 3 du Règlement sur la contribution gratuite de la Loi sur les services de garde éducatifs à l’enfance. Alors que cet article donnait jusque-là accès aux garderies à 8,70 $ par jour à tout titulaire d’un « permis de travail et [qui] séjourne au Québec principalement afin d’y travailler », une nouvelle lecture de cet article a exclu les demandeurs d’asile, qu’on a jugés présents au Québec pas « principalement » pour travailler. Du jour au lendemain, cette catégorie de migrants s’est donc retrouvée privée d’accès aux services de garde subventionnés, et ce, malgré le fait qu’ils détenaient un permis de travail.

En prenant le pouvoir en 2018, la Coalition avenir Québec (CAQ) n’a pas jugé bon d’annuler la décision du précédent gouvernement, qui avait soulevé l’ire de tous les groupes de défense des droits des réfugiés et des demandeurs d’asile. L’accès à la garderie subventionnée revêt une importance capitale dans la vie de personnes nouvellement arrivées au Québec et qui désirent s’intégrer, travailler et apprendre le français. Pour les enfants, cet accès est capital. Même les arguments économiques ne tiennent pas la route pour justifier cet entêtement obscur de Québec à exclure ce groupe de citoyens de l’accès à la garderie, car, faute de moyens financiers, plusieurs mères doivent renoncer à travailler, et ce, même si elles détiennent un permis de travail. En pleine pénurie de main-d’oeuvre, c’est d’une absurdité sans nom.

Les médias ont rapporté nombre d’histoires invraisemblables : des mères célibataires forcées de se rabattre sur l’aide sociale et de refuser nombre d’offres d’emploi, car le prix d’une garderie privée — environ 50 $ par jour, contre 8,70 $ dans les garderies soutenues par Québec — équivalait littéralement au montant mensuel de leur loyer. Alors que les pénuries de main-d’oeuvre dans nombre de secteurs cruciaux sont en train de créer un Québec vivant sur le mode gruyère, avec des trous béants dans son offre de services essentiels, on tournerait le dos à un groupe de travailleurs prêts à s’intégrer dans la société québécoise par le truchement du travail ?

Québec prétexte le fort afflux de migrants, les listes d’attente pour les garderies subventionnées et les délais d’attente déraisonnables imposés par le fédéral pour justifier son refus de relire avec justesse l’article 3 du Règlement ; mais la vérité est qu’il ajoute lui-même des embûches sur la route déjà tortueuse de l’intégration des migrants. En outre, et cela est une véritable disgrâce pour un gouvernement dont le slogan de la dernière campagne électorale dans le dossier d’immigration était « en prendre moins, mais en prendre soin », l’interprétation de la CAQ prend pour cible un groupe vulnérable. C’est en totale contradiction avec toutes les politiques humanitaires de soutien aux demandeurs d’asile.

Il a donc fallu se tourner vers les tribunaux pour savoir si Québec avait erré en décidant de proposer une nouvelle lecture de l’article 3. Fin mai dernier, le juge Marc St-Pierre, de la Cour supérieure, a décrété que oui. « [Le Tribunal] déclare que l’article 3 du Règlement sur la contribution réduite a été adopté sans habilitation législative et est par conséquent ultra vires et nul », a-t-il conclu, ce qui a provoqué un immense soulagement du côté des organismes qui s’agitaient depuis quatre ans pour ce revirement de situation. La victoire fut de courte durée, car le 7 juillet dernier, Québec a décidé d’en appeler de la décision. C’est navrant.

À l’approche d’un 3e Sommet de l’immigration, qui doit normalement se tenir en novembre prochain, il serait intéressant de valider la cohérence de l’ensemble des politiques d’immigration et des pratiques de terrain, car l’ensemble de l’oeuvre laisse poindre nombre de ratés et d’invraisemblances qui nuisent aux objectifs économiques et aux politiques sociales du Québec. On a fait grand cas des seuils d’immigration, résumant le dossier à une affaire de chiffres, alors que le coeur du travail se trouve dans l’intégration — ratée — de ceux qui y sont.

La souque-à-la-corde qui se joue entre Ottawa et Québec autour de ce dossier crucial ne vient d’aucune manière donner de l’air au Québec, il faut le rappeler. Ottawa est empêtré dans une lourdeur administrative et des délais qui font honte, et dont pâtit le Québec. Mais celui-ci doit honorer ses promesses envers les personnes à qui il ouvre sa porte et leur permettre d’accéder de la manière la plus rapide et la plus digne au marché de l’emploi.

Source: Demandeurs d’asile largués

Quebec’s Roxham Road on track to see record number of asylum seekers — but they face delays and despair in post-pandemic Canada

As do many others…

In Pascal’s Canadian dream, he becomes a doctor.

He’s only been in the country a month. He has a long way to go. But consider how long he’s been running, and how far he came to get here.

He left his home in Cap-Haïtien, on the north coast of Haiti, for the Dominican Republic, which occupies the eastern half of the island of Hispanola, right next to Cuba.

From there, he travelled with others in a car to Brazil. From Brazil, west to Peru, then north, through Ecuador, Colombia and Panama, where they were set upon by thieves who stole pretty much everything — except for the money that Pascal had hidden in a hollowed-out deodorant container.

This money allowed him to continue his northward journey, through Costa Rica, Nicaragua, Honduras, Guatemala, Mexico and the United States, said 39-year-old Pascal, who requested that his last name not be published for security and privacy reasons.

On May 21, he arrived at the Canada-U.S. border, where more than 13,000 people so far this year have been arrested by Royal Canadian Mounted Police as they take their first hesitant steps along a dirt path at the end of Roxham Road onto Canadian soil.

Technically a dead-end street, Roxham Road is a sleepy country route watched by high-tech border surveillance cameras. The passage that starts in New York state and continues into Hemmingford, Que., stands as the worst-kept secret of those seeking refuge from despots, disasters and all manner of dire circumstances, including North American immigration laws.

Thanks to the lifting of COVID-19 restrictions on border crossings, the return of air travel and a general increase in the numbers of people seeking asylum, 2022 is on track to become a record year for the controversial crossing point.

The federal government, which screens newcomers to determine their eligibility to make a refugee claim, is now straining to keep pace with the flow.

The result is delay and despair: a months-long wait during which asylum seekers receive social assistance payments but are denied a temporary work permit in a country struggling to meet its labour needs.

“They want to work,” said Stéphanie Valois, president of the Quebec Association of Immigration Lawyers. “They’ve got nothing — no money, no furniture. They’ve got nothing and they need it.”

This could also be a decisive and pivotal moment for a haphazard arrangement that allows refugee claimants to cross at Roxham Road, make their asylum claim while already on Canadian soil, and thus bypass the terms of the Canada-U.S. Safe Third Country Agreement, which obliges asylum seekers to make their claim in the first country they reach.

The Quebec government, facing a fall re-election, wants Ottawa to plug the hole in the nearly 9,000-kilometre Canada-U.S. border, saying that it has neither the resources nor capacity to deal with the flow of migrants.

Meanwhile, the Supreme Court of Canada has agreed to hear a constitutional challenge to the Safe Third Country Agreement which, if successful, could allow asylum seekers to make a claim at any official Canadian border crossing — spreading Quebec’s burden more equitably across the country.

“We have an obligation to examine the cases of people who seek protection here,” says Wendy Ayotte, founder of Bridges not Borders, a support group for asylum seekers.

“Of course it is correct to say that it isn’t a fair distribution of people entering irregularly into Canada. Obviously it’s not fairly distributed across the country, but surely the response … is to call for the end of the (Safe Third Country Agreement) and then people can go anywhere.”

The Star met Pascal, a community organizer who said he was beaten and threatened by members of a local Haitian political party, at Maison d’Haïti, a Montreal community centre where he had come, immigration documents in hand, to consult Peggy Larose, a social worker.

From her cramped office behind the reception desk and the centre’s coffee bar, Larose helps Haitian refugee claimants complete their myriad forms and find housing, food and jobs, all while listening to the thoughts that weigh heavily on their minds.

“They are long stories and difficult stories. There are stories that rip you apart, that make you want to scream and cry out,” she said, recounting the plight of one couple who told her how their young daughter had been struck and killed by a truck while they travelled through Mexico, and was buried where she died.

Evidence of the great distances and hardships that people endure to get to Canada lies in the high grass on either side of Roxham Road.

The two halves of an identification card for a 25-year-old woman who stayed at a homeless shelter in Portland, Maine; part of a bright yellow Bancolombia bank card; the four ripped quarters of a blue plastic pass issued to a Nigerian man upon his admission to to a U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement processing centre in Tacoma, Wash.

Relics, secrets or the shame from past lives that people hope to leave behind.

Last Sunday, a group of seven people — three men and four women — boarded American Airlines Flight 1280 from Phoenix to New York, paying $378.60 (U.S.) each for the second-to-last leg of their journey to Canada. Their tickets were recovered floating in the water of a stream that runs alongside Roxham Road.

The next day, Monday, a woman named Jakelina boarded an Adirondack Trailways bus in New York City at 6:30 p.m., arrived in Plattsburgh, N.Y., at 1:20 a.m. on Tuesday and made her way toward Roxham Road, discarding the receipt for the $77.25 trip moments before starting a new life in a new country.

Roxham Road owes its popularity among those fleeing their homeland to the immigration policies of former U.S. president Donald Trump.

In January 2017, Trump signed an executive order banning Syrian refugees and blocking citizens of seven majority-Muslim countries from entering the United States — the so-called Muslim ban.

Later that year, 58,000 Haitians living in the U.S. learned of Trump’s plan to let their “Temporary Protected Status” expire, depriving them of protections under the special programs for migrants from countries deemed unsafe or which had suffered humanitarian emergencies, as Haiti did during the 2010 earthquake.

These policies prompted a flight to Canada with little modern precedent as asylum seekers took advantage of a loophole in the Safe Third Country Agreement that allowed them to avoid being forcibly returned to the U.S. by crossing into Canada at a spot between official border posts — something known as an “irregular border crossing.”

In 2017, 18,836 people were intercepted by the RCMP crossing irregularly into Canada in the province of Quebec, compared to 1,018 who were intercepted in Ontario and 718 in British Columbia, 14 in Saskatchewan and six in Alberta.

The phenomenon — and the provincial ratio — continued in 2018 and 2019 but dropped sharply with the arrival of COVID and the closure of the Canada-U.S. border.

“If you crossed at Roxham Road, you were given a notice by the Canadian government known as a ‘direct back’ notice, which means that we’re not willing to hear your claim right now, we’re going to send you back to the U.S. and at some later date when we think the time is good we will allow you to return to pursue your claim,” says Janet Dench, executive director of the Canadian Council for Refugees.

She says that some of those who wanted to make refugee claims in Canada were subsequently detained in U.S. immigration detention centres and, in at least a few instances, were deported to their country of origin.

When the Canada-U.S. border reopened in November 2021 asylum seekers returned almost immediately to Roxham Road.

Compared to October 2021, when there were 96 RCMP interceptions, 832 people were picked up after crossing in November and 2,778 in December. That monthly tally has remained steady through to May 2022 — the last month for which statistics are available — when 3,449 people entered through the Quebec crossing.

In response to questions from the Star, a spokesperson for Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada said that federal officials “continuously monitor conditions and developments in other countries to inform our planning.”

The government declined to speak about the possible reasons for the increased volume of people crossing the border, though others attribute it to the newfound freedom of movement that people around the world are experiencing after lengthy pandemic lockdowns

“I think it’s just normal that — like everyone else — people are starting to move again. These are people who were blocked in their home countries or in transit on their way to Canada,” says Valois, who practises immigration law in Montreal.

“Looking at the bigger picture, there are many more people entering the United States each day and there is also an increase in the number of asylum seekers who arrive in the U.S., so the percentage of those who make it to Canada is really small.”

Not so small that they escaped the attention of Quebec Premier François Legault.

In mid-May, Legault, who casts himself as a fiscally conservative nationalist whose policies are guided by common sense, complained about the “unacceptable” number of people crossing the border into the province and the strain it was placing on the province’s resources.

“We are the only province that has a wide-open road named Roxham, and the federal government, which is responsible for controlling the borders, is not doing its job,” he said.

Legault added that there is a long delay in making an initial eligibility assessment to determine whether there are sufficient grounds for a refugee-claim hearing. During this time, the province is obliged by law to provide health-care services and financial assistance to asylum seekers, he complained.

“A good number of these people aren’t real refugees,” the Quebec premier said in a news conference. “A refugee is someone who faces physical risk in their country, but the majority are not refugees and eventually, when their case is analyzed, they are refused and returned to their country.”

Data from the Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada from February 2017 to March 2022 on refugee claims made by irregular border crossers such as those who enter Canada through Roxham Road would appear to contradict Legault’s claim.

Of more than 63,000 claims, nearly 28,000 were accepted and 19,000 rejected while some 6,000 were abandoned or withdrawn. More than 11,000 claims are waiting to be heard.

But government statistics show that refugee claims made by individuals from the two largest source countries of irregular border crossers — Nigeria and Haiti — find their demands for protection from Canada rejected more often than they are accepted.

Marjorie Villefranche, Maison d’Haïti’s general manager, says Haitians are compelled to come to Canada not so much due to the widespread poverty in the country but because of the violence and insecurity in their native land.

“They say, ‘If I remain here, I will die. I will die with my children.’ What family would accept to stay and die?” she asked. “Anyone would try to do whatever they can to save their lives and to save the lives of their children.”

Villefranche says that it was “exaggerated” to claim that a wealthy country such as Canada could be overloaded by an influx of 20,000 or 30,000 refugee claimants, as the Quebec government claims.

“I think that, as a rich country it’s the least we can do to receive a certain number of refugees,” she says. “There are even poor countries that receive a million or two million refugees across their borders.”

Post-pandemic, Canada is nevertheless struggling to keep up with the flow of asylum seekers.

Upon arrival on Canadian soil, people undergo an initial interview where border agents record their identities, take fingerprints and make biometric recordings. Once their file is created, they are able to receive health care and social assistance.

But it is not until a more thorough admissibility investigation is conducted that a refugee claimant is eligible to receive a temporary work permit.

Dench, from the Canadian Council for Refugees, says a delay that was once limited to several days has now stretched to a months-long wait because officials conduct more extensive security checks that include the exchange of biometric data with other countries.

“They are so keen to exclude people from the refugee determination system that they make a system that is unworkable and starts accumulating these huge backlogs,” she says.

In response to the Star’s questions about delays, a spokesperson for the Canada Border Services Agency said the time required to complete an eligibility check depends on the complexity of the case, the availability of information and the amount of research required.

Legault, the Quebec premier, put this delay at 14 months. Pascal, the Haitian asylum seeker who arrived in May, says he was told he would have to wait until March 2023 before he would receive an eligibility ruling — meaning he will not legally be able to work for 10 months.

Valois, the immigration lawyer, said the delay in receiving an admissibility hearing was “relatively new” and “really problematic.”

“The client wants to work. They want to get moving. They want to have a hearing. They want to be heard. The delay is not to their advantage.”

In an post-pandemic economy that is experiencing desperate labour shortages, the delay in approving work permits for people ready and willing to work is not to the country’s advantage either.

“It’s so ridiculous when you see that so many employers are wanting to employ people and yet the federal government is keeping people in this kind of limbo state because they can’t even get them through the first part of the process,” says Dench.

Another young Haitian couple arrived in Canada in April after a seven-month period in the U.S. during which they were held in detention and the man was forced to wear an ankle bracelet to track his movements.

He wants to find work as a driver, eventually. She said she would like to train to become a caregiver in a hospital — a line of work that, by some estimates, up to 2,000 asylum seekers in Quebec took up during the COVID-19 pandemic, when the needs were greatest.

The couple did not want to provide their names, nor would they discuss the reasons they had for seeking refugee protection from Canada.

But they were happy to share the details of their first Canadian victory — finding an apartment of their own that will allow them to finally leave the downtown Montreal shelter that they and hundreds of other refugee claimants call home.

It’s a studio apartment. It will cost them $850 a month, not including utilities. That will leave them less than $300 a month to eat, to support themselves as well as the baby boy due to enter the world this fall.

Source: Quebec’s Roxham Road on track to see record number of asylum seekers — but they face delays and despair in post-pandemic Canada

There are legitimate concerns regarding the undue burden on Quebec given that over 99 percent of irregular arrivals occur there (2022 to date):

The federal government is starting to relocate asylum seekers who have crossed irregularly into Quebec from the United States, following a rise in the number of would-be refugees at the border.

Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada says that as of June 30, officials have started to transfer a “small number” of asylum seekers to Ottawa and Niagara Falls to help reduce the pressure on Quebec. The department didn’t give details.

More than 13,250 refugee claimants were intercepted outside official points of entry in Quebec by border agents between January and May, mostly at Roxham Road — a rural road leading from the U.S. into the province.

That is more than double the number of people who crossed irregularly into Quebec during the same period in 2019, before the entry points into Canada were closed because of the COVID-19 pandemic. Roxham Road was reopened to would-be refugees in November 2021.

Premier François Legault has asked the federal government to shut down Roxham Road because of the pressure the rise in asylum seekers is putting on Quebec’s ability to care for the newcomers.

The Canada Border Services Agency says it has increased its capacity to temporarily house asylum seekers at the Roxham Road crossing, to 477 people from 297.

Source: Ottawa starting to transfer ‘small number’ of asylum seekers to Ontario from Quebec

Chouinard: L’indolence d’Ottawa

Fairly representative of Quebec commentary. Challenge of course is likely USA disinterest in closing loophole given their immigration debates:

Le premier ministre François Legault a raison de s’impatienter face à l’indolence du gouvernement fédéral dans le dossier du chemin Roxham. Ce poste d’entrée terrestre est devenu une véritable voie de contournement pour des dizaines de milliers de demandeurs d’asile refoulés aux frontières en raison d’un accord désuet liant le Canada aux États-Unis. Cette situation doit changer.

Faut-il fermer le chemin Roxham ? Si Québec en arrive à cette demande un brin draconienne, à laquelle Ottawa a d’ailleurs immédiatement opposé une fin de non-recevoir, c’est que la voie de la raison n’aboutit pas. En effet, la renégociation de l’Entente sur les tiers pays sûrs (ETPS) traîne en longueur, ce qui a pour résultat de créer un refoulement de demandeurs d’asile aux portes du Canada. L’ETPS, en vigueur depuis 2004, permet au Canada de refuser les demandes formulées à un poste frontalier canado-américain officiel, et de retourner les réfugiés vers les États-Unis, considéré comme un pays « sûr ».

Conséquence ? Au poste frontalier non officiel situé non loin du passage de Lacolle, une centaine d’entrées irrégulières par jour se font au Québec, selon les données avancées par le ministre québécois de l’Immigration, Jean Boulet. Si le ministre plaide pour la fermeture des vannes, c’est qu’il a sous les yeux des données qui annoncent une flambée des passages. Depuis la réouverture du chemin Roxham, le 21 novembre dernier, 13 600 personnes ont traversé au Québec pour échapper aux États-Unis et à la crainte d’être retournées dans leur pays d’origine. Sur ce nombre, 10 800 ont formulé une aide financière de dernier recours, selon les données de Québec.

Le Québec déploie donc énergie et ressources financières pour assurer aux réfugiés toutes les bases de la survivance — un toit, de la nourriture, un revenu minimum, des soins médicaux. Si au moins le processus de régularisation du statut de ces arrivants était fluide et efficace ! Mais non, Québec affirme devoir attendre en moyenne 11 mois chaque fois qu’un permis de travail est demandé. En pleine pénurie de travailleurs, il ne peut même pas bénéficier immédiatement d’une main-d’œuvre pourtant disponible. La situation est doublement absurde.

En 2018, 18 500 personnes sont passées par le chemin Roxham. L’année suivante, quelque 16 000. Après deux ans de fermeture du chemin pour cause de pandémie, la réouverture de l’automne a déjà permis le passage de plus de 7000 personnes. Québec extrapole qu’il pourrait devoir ouvrir sa porte à 35 000 personnes cette année, bien qu’on n’en soit pas certains.

Dans le dossier délicat et complexe de l’immigration, où le Québec et le Canada ne cohabitent pas sur un terrain d’harmonie parfaite, il est facile d’opposer les vertus humanitaires aux arguments de nature économique : pas assez de soutien financier, pas suffisamment de logements, pas de permis de travail ne pèseront pas lourd dans la balance à côté d’une menace de mort planant sur certains demandeurs d’asile dans leur pays natal. Le sort incertain de ces personnes, si d’aventure elles étaient retournées là d’où elles viennent, est préoccupant, tel que l’a démontré la juge Ann Marie McDonald dans un jugement de la Cour fédérale de juillet 2020.

En demandant la fermeture de cette route non officielle, devenue par défaut un poste-frontière bidon, le Québec milite dans les faits pour le retour aux règles de l’art. Ça n’annonce pas la fermeture des portes, mais plutôt un encadrement qui pourra éviter qu’il se retrouve avec un flux incontrôlable de citoyens dont il doit prendre soin, le temps que leur demande soit analysée en bonne et due forme. C’est là aussi que le bât blesse, car les processus d’immigration encadrés par le gouvernement fédéral sont ralentis par un manque de ressources et d’inadmissibles lourdeurs administratives.

Bien que la réputation du Canada soit enviable dans le monde quant au processus équitable de traitement des demandes d’asile, ces manquements concrets ont fini par créer un corridor d’attente aux conséquences lourdes tant pour les individus que pour les autorités responsables, comme le Québec. Cela fait des années que la crise migratoire mondiale a créé un peu partout des zones de réfugiés positionnés aux frontières du pays d’accueil en attente d’un statut, d’une réponse, d’un avenir. La voie parallèle créée sur le chemin Roxham, en réaction à un accord bilatéral qui n’a plus raison d’être, n’est pas si différente.

Reste en trame de fond une querelle historique entre le Québec et le Canada autour du dossier de l’immigration, qui est de compétences partagées, n’en déplaise à François Legault. Son espoir de posséder en cette matière les « pleins pouvoirs » a essuyé une récente rebuffade, mais sa préoccupation d’être plus en contrôle, ne serait-ce qu’en vertu d’un désir de sauvegarde du français, est justifiée. Tout comme son souhait de voir se régler le dossier du chemin Roxham.

Source: L’indolence d’Ottawa

Closing Roxham Road border crossing will not stop arrival of asylum seekers: Trudeau 

For the record:

Closing an unofficial border crossing in southern Quebec will not slow the arrival of asylum seekers, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said Thursday.

“If we close Roxham Road, people will cross elsewhere,” he told reporters in Ottawa. “We have an enormous border, and we’re not going to start arming or putting fences on it.”

On Wednesday, Quebec Premier Francois Legault called for Trudeau to close the makeshift crossing south of Montreal, saying that the province doesn’t have the capacity to care for migrants as they wait for their refugee claims to be processed.

Trudeau said intercepting irregular migrants at Roxham Road, where an RCMP post has been set up, allows Canadian authorities to conduct security verifications and to ensure that migrants are not “lost and illegal inside Canada.”

Negotiations are ongoing with the United States, Trudeau said, to change the Safe Third Country Agreement, which has led to the irregular crossings.

Under that agreement, which has been in place since 2004, asylum seekers who enter the U.S. must claim refugee status there and can be turned back if they attempt to enter Canada through an official border crossing to make a refugee claim. However, asylum seekers who cross the border irregularly can make a refugee claim once they are in Canada.

Discussions with the U.S. to change the agreement are “advancing well,” Trudeau said, but he added that the subject is delicate for the Americans, because they are worried about the impact any changes could have on the country’s border with Mexico.

The RCMP have intercepted 7,013 asylum seekers who have crossed irregularly into Quebec from the United States since the beginning of the year, according to data from Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada. In 2019, more than 16,000 asylum seekers were intercepted by the RCMP after crossing irregularly into Quebec.

Source: Closing Roxham Road border crossing will not stop arrival of asylum seekers: Trudeau 

Le conflit Québec-Ottawa au sujet du chemin Roxham se poursuit

Not surprising. More comprehensive article than in English press:

Justin Trudeau n’a pas mordu, mercredi, aux demandes renouvelées de Québec, qui réclame la fermeture du passage frontalier du chemin Roxham. La situation est pourtant insoutenable, selon le gouvernement de François Legault.

Québec prévoit qu’au rythme actuel, plus de 35 000 demandeurs d’asile se présenteront à ce point de la frontière canado-américaine cette année. C’est beaucoup trop, soutient le gouvernement Legault, qui a appelé mercredi le fédéral, pour une deuxième fois en moins de cinq mois, à « arrêter ce flux quotidien ».

« On veut que [les passages] se fassent de manière ordonnée, régulière et légale. On est rendus à un stade où on excède nos capacités », a indiqué le ministre québécois de l’Immigration, Jean Boulet, à l’Assemblée nationale.

L’élu de la CAQ évalue la capacité d’hébergement du Québec à 1150 demandeurs. « On y est, ou à peu près », a-t-il dit en mêlée de presse. Et, avec l’été, le gouvernement Legault ne s’attend pas à voir le flux de migrants diminuer. « Il y a une augmentation actuellement », a souligné le premier ministre mercredi.

« [Roxham], c’est une passoire ; c’est reconnu à l’échelle internationale, a déploré le ministre Boulet. Ça ne peut pas continuer comme ça. »

Nouvel accord en immigration ?

À Ottawa, le gouvernement de Justin Trudeau n’a pas voulu s’engager, mercredi, à barrer la route aux migrants qui se présentent au sud de la Montérégie.

Il assure que les négociations avec les États-Unis en vue de la signature d’une nouvelle entente en immigration vont bon train. « Je sais qu’il y a des progrès avec les ressources qu’on a mises sur ce point [de passage] particulier à la frontière », a précisé en point de presse le ministre fédéral de la Sécurité publique et ex-ministre de l’Immigration, Marco Mendicino. Il assure que le chemin Roxham est « un dossier qui est très important » pour son gouvernement, et dit qu’il « collabore toujours avec le gouvernement Legault ».

Son collègue de l’Immigration, Sean Fraser, a répété que le gouvernement devait « respecter les droits des demandeurs d’asile » et suivre « des normes légales » quant à leur accueil.

En chœur, les quatre principaux partis à l’Assemblée nationale ont exigé qu’Ottawa revoie l’Entente sur les tiers pays sûrs, l’accord qui régit la traversée des demandeurs d’asile au Canada.

Entré en vigueur en 2004, le pacte autorise le Canada, dans les faits, à refuser toute demande d’asile effectuée à un poste officiel à la frontière canado-américaine sous prétexte que les États-Unis sont un pays « sûr ». Ne pouvant donc pas passer par les postes douaniers qui parsèment la plus longue frontière terrestre du monde, les migrants ont historiquement été refoulés vers des points de passage irrégulier comme celui du chemin Roxham, ce qui concentre donc leur arrivée au Québec.

Jean Boulet veut voir le gouvernement fédéral à la table de négociation avec les États-Unis au plus vite afin qu’ils revoient cette entente. Or, jusqu’ici, Ottawa s’est traîné les pieds, a-t-il avancé mercredi. « Cette entente-là, ou on la met de côté, ou on la redéfinit, ou on la modernise. Et à cet égard-là, Ottawa a énormément de travail à faire », a-t-il affirmé.

Des appuis à la position caquiste

En exigeant la fin des demandes d’asile au chemin Roxham, la CAQ rejoint les arguments du Parti québécois (PQ), qui insiste depuis le début de la semaine pour que soit réglée la situation dans ce coin de la Montérégie. « Qu’on encourage les passages illégaux seulement au Québec et que ça atteigne des dizaines et des dizaines de milliers d’entrées par année, c’est de faire porter au Québec un fardeau administratif […] qui n’a aucune logique », a clamé le chef péquiste, Paul St-Pierre Plamondon, en matinée.

Le Bloc québécois a entrepris de transposer les demandes du gouvernement québécois à Ottawa. Le parti d’Yves-François Blanchet a déposé une motion devant le Parlement, mercredi, pour demander au gouvernement qu’il suspende cette entente avec les États-Unis « et qu’elle réclame le passage des migrants par les voies régulières partout au Canada et, conséquemment, la fermeture du chemin Roxham ».

La motion a été battue, faute d’obtenir l’unanimité.

« La capacité d’accueil responsable de l’État québécois a des limites dont il faut tenir compte — sauf si on veut, en effet, faire déborder la capacité québécoise en [matière] d’accueil, d’intégration et de francisation », a expliqué le chef bloquiste, Yves-François Blanchet.

Le Parti conservateur du Canada a aussicritiqué l’approche du gouvernement libéral, jugée trop laxiste. « Si nous voulons limiter l’arrivée de toutes ces drogues et armes illégales, nous avons besoin d’investir plus dans nos points d’entrée et de sécuriser le chemin Roxham », a déclaré la députée conservatrice manitobaine Raquel Dancho.

Des bémols

Pour le Parti libéral du Québec, la position défendue par le gouvernement caquiste, le PQ et le Bloc a quelque chose d’« inhumain ». « La moindre des choses, ici, c’est à mon avis de démontrer une certaine humanité face à des personnes qui sont démunies », a soutenu le député libéral Carlos Leitão.

Québec solidaire craint pour sa part qu’une fermeture unilatérale du chemin Roxham ne fasse que mettre en danger les quelques dizaines de milliers de demandeurs d’asile qui se présenteront à la frontière québécoise cette année. « Ça [déplace] le problème vers des endroits inconnus, ça [fera] encore davantage de demandeurs d’asile qui vont traverser n’importe où, sans aucun contrôle », a signalé le porte-parole du parti en matière d’immigration, Andrés Fontecilla.

Québec n’en est pas à sa première sortie pour demander la fermeture de ce passage frontalier. En décembre, le ministre Boulet était passé par Twitter pour dénoncer la menace que poseraient les arrivées par ce point sur le système de santé québécois. L’élu s’était partiellement rétracté dans les jours suivants, et avait admis que « la qualité humaine » de son message n’était « pas optimale ».

Plus de 10 600 demandeurs d’asile se sont présentés au chemin Roxham depuis le début de l’année, selon les données du ministère de l’Immigration, de la Francisation et de l’Intégration.

Source: Le conflit Québec-Ottawa au sujet du chemin Roxham se poursuit

Globe article:

Quebec is asking the federal government to close a popular, unofficial border crossing south of Montreal because the province can’t handle the number of asylum seekers entering the country, but refugee advocates are rejecting Quebec’s claims.

More than 100 refugee claimants are entering Quebec every day from the United States through a rural path called Roxham Road, Premier François Legault told reporters Wednesday.

“It’s unacceptable,” Legault said at the legislature. “It’s impossible because we don’t have the capacity.”

The federal government takes 14 months to study an asylum claim and in the meantime, Quebec has to house and care for would-be refugees and school their children, the premier said.

“We cannot afford to give services,” Legault said, adding that if the current pace continues, Quebec will not have adequate housing for 36,000 new arrivals.

Refugee advocates, however, say they don’t accept the premier’s claim.

“What is Quebec’s capacity for compassion? For justice? It’s maybe not unlimited, but the capacity is there,” Paul Clarke, interim executive director of Action Réfugiés Montréal, said Wednesday in an interview.

Clarke, whose group sponsors and offers services to refugees, said that while it can be difficult for asylum seekers to find shelter in Montreal, he doesn’t think the situation is any better in other Canadian cities.

Quebec needs people, advocate says

Janet Dench, executive director of the Canadian Council for Refugees, said that during the pandemic, many people who had crossed the border at Roxham Road found work in Quebec’s long-term care homes.

“We not only have the capacity, but we also have the need, in fact, for more people,” she said in an interview Wednesday.

Part of the problem, she said, is the length of time it takes the federal government to issue work permits to asylum seekers.

“The federal government could alleviate things tremendously simply by giving work permits shortly after people arrive, so that they can get to work, and there are many jobs that they could very usefully fill,” Dench said.

The irregular border crossing at Roxham Road reopened in November after it was closed during the pandemic. Since the beginning of the year, the RCMP have intercepted 7,013 asylum seekers who have crossed irregularly into Quebec from the U.S. That number is up from 4,246 last year.

In 2019, more than 16,000 asylum seekers were intercepted by the RCMP after crossing irregularly into Quebec.

Legault said many of those who cross irregularly are ultimately not able to stay in Canada.

“You have to understand, the problem is that many of these people are not really refugees,” the premier said. “A refugee is someone who is physically at risk in their country. But the majority are not refugees; eventually, when the file is analyzed, they are refused, returned back home.”

Clarke said it’s not possible to determine which refugee claimants will be successful. “To say half of these people aren’t going to make it, well, which half, Mr. Legault?

“If he’s saying that, then he is acknowledging that people are coming to Canada and they do need protection. So how do you figure out which half?”

Under the 2004 Canada–United States Safe Third Country Agreement, refugee claimants who enter Canada outside an official port of entry must be processed in Canada and cannot be immediately returned to the U.S. Claimants who come through official entry points of entry, however, are sent back to the U.S.

Dench said closing the Roxham Road entry point would merely push people to cross at other points of entry — which would make it more difficult for the federal government to process asylum seekers.

“The reason they’re concentrated in Quebec is simply a matter of geography, because there is a large land border between the U.S. and Canada that people can cross over,” Dench said.

Federal Public Safety Minister Marco Mendicino told reporters Tuesday that a balance needs to be found.

“Resources have been provided for that particular issue at the border,” he said. “We are also in discussions with the U.S. to regulate the movements of any asylum seekers. This is part of the strategy in order to both defend the rights of refugees while at the same time protecting Quebec citizens.”

Source: Quebec asks feds to close Roxham Road, says province can’t handle influx of refugees

Falconer and Damian Smith: Asylum-seeker smuggling is a symptom, not a root cause

Good arguments in favour of a managed approach to asylum seekers (as Canada largely has with even Roxham Road given how the government processes claims). On the other hand, just as “cracking down” incentivises more crossings between official points of entry, so does having “unofficial” points of entry like Roxham Road, with the important and real difference that they are known and identified, and have to go through the official process.

So the hard part is ensuring a quick, efficient and fair efficient determination process that is subject to enforcement, without the endless appeal processes that undermine confidence among Canadians:

Earlier this month, the Patels – a family of four from India – died of cold exposure trying to walk south through the Canada-U.S. border, near Emerson, Man.

But rather than look at how policies incentivize such irregular migration and produce such tragedies, Canadian politicians and news media have been quick to parrot rhetoric from other rich countries, speculating about the responsibility of criminal smugglers and wider networks of nefarious actors. “It is so tragic to see a family perish like this, victims of human traffickers, misinformation and people who have taken advantage of their desire to build a better world,” Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said.

Just three months earlier, the U.K.’s Interior Minister blamed smugglers for the death of 31 peoplewhen a boat capsized in the English Channel, and vowed to pass laws to make it illegal to claim asylum. And the U.S., which for decades has forced irregular migrants to make deadly desert crossings, has criminalized humanitarian groups as smugglers.

But while the Florida man arrested in the Patels’ case allegedly sought to profit from their desperation, he did not cause it.

What the political rhetoric around irregular migration misses is that human smuggling is a symptom of the friction between the desire to migrate or find protection, and the absence of safe and legal pathways to do so. Prohibition in the face of high demand only fosters illicit markets, and “cracking down” on small-time criminals addresses symptoms, not the causes.

The number of U.S. green cards offered every year has been capped at 675,000 since 1991, resulting in an average wait time of 7.5 years for eligible immigrants. But it varies by country; for an Indian professional, wait times to enter the U.S. can reach up to 50 years. Roughly 14 per cent of potential applicants will die of old age before receiving a green card.

The U.S. has taken an even more restrictive approach to asylum. The Biden administration has continued a series of Trump era policies to expel asylum seekers without a hearing, or force them to remain in Mexico until it is heard. That led the backlog to surpass 1.6 million last December, pushing wait times to more than five years.

While Canadian immigration quotas are larger per capita – 421,000 for 2022 – the federal government has taken a similar approach to asylum. The majority of asylum seekers are recognized as refugees; they differ from resettled refugees, such as those from Afghanistan and Syria, only by the manner in which they arrived. Nevertheless, they are often unfairly assailed as “queue jumpers” or “bogus refugees,” or accused of “asylum shopping.” These accusations miss the entire point of why people migrate.

Since 2004, Canada and the U.S. have returned asylum seekers to each other under a Safe Third Country Agreement (STCA), which applies only to official ports of entry, leading to what is often called a “loophole” in the agreement. In fact, governmental discussions in 2001 recognized that sealing the border would mean more smuggling and a larger undocumented population.

Many asylum seekers have crossed between border points to avoid being returned to the U.S., where they would likely face imprisonment and deportation. The route the Patels were using developed precisely because the STCA incentivized irregular crossings.

In 2017, Canada established an informal humanitarian corridor at Roxham Road, but from March, 2020, to November 2021, it turned back almost every asylum seeker on public health grounds. Inland claims increased significantly. Most will be from people on visas, but many have been forced to bypass new restrictions through clandestine crossings.

Canada has stated that it is now in the process of “modernizing” the STCA. While details are murky, it will likely mean expanding measures to turn back asylum seekers. This is particularly troubling with the Supreme Court of Canada set to rule on the agreement’s constitutionality.

Because a reformed STCA would limit asylum access, rather than affect demand, there will only be more clandestine journeys, more organized smuggling and more dangerous modes of border crossings. Enforcing an expanded STCA will also require massive expenditures to surveil and police the border, resulting in more incarceration, a larger undocumented population, and corruption among border guards. Securitization is a self-fulfilling policy.

Canada is at a crossroads. It can choose hard line policies to the benefit of the Canadian security establishment and create more smugglers, even as its politicians heap blame on them when tragedy strikes. Or it can choose to manage the border by investing in a timelier, fairer asylum system and rethinking how it responds to demand for migration.

Robert Falconer is a research associate at the University of Calgary’s School of Public Policy. Craig Damian Smith is a senior research associate at the Canada Excellence Research Chair in Migration & Integration program at Ryerson University.

Source: https://www.theglobeandmail.com/opinion/article-asylum-seeker-smuggling-is-a-symptom-not-a-root-cause/

More migrants seek asylum through reopened Canadian border

Highest level ever since 2017. Will likely become political issue again:

Whenever a bus arrives at the Greyhound station in Plattsburgh, New York, a small band of taxi drivers waits to drive passengers on a half-hour trip to a snowy, dead-end dirt road.

There, at the border with Canada, refugees pile out of taxis or vans several times a day, and Royal Canadian Mounted Police officers warn that they will be arrested for illegal entry if they cross, which they do. Most are soon released to pursue asylum, living and working freely while awaiting a decision.

“We have the hopes of everyone — be successful and have a change of life,” Alejandro Cortez, a 25-year-old Colombian man, said as he exited a taxi last week at the end of Roxham Road in Champlain, New York. The town of about 6,000 is directly across the border from Saint-Bernard-de-Lacolle, Quebec.

Cortez joins a renewed stream of migrants seeking refuge in Canada after a 20-month ban on asylum requests designed to prevent the spread of COVID-19. Families are once again lugging suitcases and carrying children across a remote, snow-covered ditch to the border.

Canada’s decision to lift the ban on Nov. 21 stands in marked contrast to the approach in the United States, where the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has extended indefinitely a similar restriction on the border with Mexico that will enter its third year in March.

On Wednesday, a Justice Department attorney vigorously defended the ban against sharp questioning from federal appeals court judges about the scientific basis for such a far-reaching move against asylum.

The U.S. expelled migrants nearly 1.5 million times from March 2020 through November under what is known as Title 42 authority, named for a 1944 public health law that the Trump and Biden administrations have used to deny migrants a chance to seek asylum on grounds that it will curb the spread of the coronavirus. That accounts for about two of three arrests or expulsions at the border, most involving single adults and some families. Unaccompanied children have been exempt under President Joe Biden.

Fully vaccinated travelers have been able to enter the U.S. and Canada since November, but Canada went a step farther by reinstating a path to asylum.

Cortez arrived in the United States on a tourist visa five months ago. He said he couldn’t go back to Colombia because of violence and the disappearance of thousands of young men.

“All of that hurts a lot,” he said. “We have to run from our country.”

Asylum-seekers on the Canadian border began appearing at Roxham Road around the time Trump became president. How it became the favored place to cross into Canada isn’t clear, but the migrants are taking advantage of a quirk in a 2002 agreement between the U.S. and Canada that says people seeking asylum must apply in the first country they arrive in.

Migrants who go to an official crossing — like the one where Interstate 87 ends just east of Roxham Road — are returned to the United States and told to apply there. But those who arrive in Canada at a location other than a port of entry, like Roxham Road, are allowed to stay and request protection.

Nearly 60,000 people sought asylum after illegally crossing the border into Canada from February 2017 through September, many at Roxham Road, about 30 miles (50 kilometers) south of Montreal, Canadian government statistics show.

Of those, more than 45,000 claims have been finalized, with almost 24,300 approved, or almost 54%. Another 17,000 claims were rejected while over 14,000 are still pending. Other claims were abandoned or withdrawn.

In December, the number of asylum-seekers at the border in Quebec jumped to nearly 2,800. That’s up from 832 in November and 96 in October, according to the statistics.

Canada lifted the asylum ban with little fanfare or public backlash, perhaps because the numbers are small compared with people crossing into the U.S. from Mexico.

Biden’s decision to keep the Trump-era ban in place has come under scathing criticism from the United Nations refugee agency, legal scholars and advocates.

Under the ban, people from Mexico, Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador, are bounced back to Mexico before being afforded rights under U.S. and international law to seek asylum. People from other countries are flown home without a chance at asylum.

Scientific arguments for Title 42 have met with skepticism from the start.

The Associated Press reported in 2020 that Vice President Mike Pence called CDC Director Dr. Robert Redfield in March of that year and told him to use the agency’s special legal authority to slash the number of asylum-seekers allowed into the country.

Pence made the request after a top agency doctor who oversees such orders refused to comply with the directive, saying there was no valid public health reason to issue it.

Dr. Anne Schuchat, the second-highest CDC official when she departed in May, told a congressional panel last year that “the bulk of the evidence at that time did not support this policy proposal.”

On Wednesday, Justice Department attorney Sharon Swingle insisted the ban is based on scientific expertise and prevents disease at crowded Border Patrol holding facilities. Facing persistent questioning from judges on a three-member panel in Washington, she acknowledged there were no affidavits in court records to explain the order’s scientific foundation.

Within hours of the November change by the Canadian government, immigrants started arriving in large numbers at Roxham Road, said Janet McFetridge, of Plattsburg Cares, a group that provides hats, mittens and scarves to people crossing the border in the dead of winter. She said people are eager to cross while they can.

“There definitely is a fear that it’s going to close suddenly,” she said while waiting on Roxham Road for the next group of migrants.

A Canadian officer said in French to a woman and her traveling companion, who was carrying a baby, that it was illegal to enter Canada there.

“If you cross here, you will be arrested,” he said.

“Yes, it’s not a problem. It’s not a problem,” the woman said as her companion started to pull a suitcase across the border.

Source: More migrants seek asylum through reopened Canadian border

Tories break ranks on immigration to demand safe routes to UK for asylum seekers

Potentially significant:

Senior Tories have demanded a radical overhaul of the asylum system to allow migrants to claim refuge at UK embassies anywhere in the world – rather than having to travel to the UK – in a bid to cut the numbers attempting dangerous Channel crossings.

Ex-cabinet members David Davis and Andrew Mitchell are among those calling for the change, which marks a stark challenge to the punitive approach taken by Boris Johnson and Priti Patel, who are demanding tighter controls on French beaches and are threatening to “push back” small boats at sea.

Mr Davis, the former shadow home secretary and Brexit secretary, and Mr Mitchell, the former international development secretary, also poured scorn on the home secretary’s plan to take on powers through her Nationality and Borders Bill to send migrants arriving in the UK to camps in third countries overseas for processing – something that has already been ruled out by Albania after it was named as a potential destination.

Writing for The Independent, Pauline Latham, a Conservative member of the Commons International Development Committee, said that allowing migrants to claim asylum at embassies abroad was “the only viable alternative to the tragedy of deaths in the Channel and the chaos of our current approach”.

Twenty-seven migrants, including three children and a pregnant woman, drowned off the coast of France in November when their boat sank, marking the single biggest loss of life of the crisis so far.

The Home Office is opposing an opposition amendment to the borders bill, due for debate in the House of Commons this week, which would allow migrants to seek “humanitarian visas” in France, allowing them to be transported safely across the Channel to claim asylum.

Source: Tories break ranks on immigration to demand safe routes to UK for asylum seekers