Canadian newcomers resent illegal immigrant queue-jumpers

Not particularly surprising. Mirrors what I hear anecdotally:

Those who legally enter Canada from other countries have a disdain for illegal immigrants who jump the queue, according to research by the country’s immigration department.

According to the government administration news website Blacklock’s Reporter, a survey conducted by Ipsos Public Affairs stated there’s an “underlying sense of unfairness when compared to experiences of other immigrants.”

“Some felt this situation was unfair, that these individuals are jumping what they view as an immigration queue,” the survey noted.

An official estimate pegs the federal government has lost $1.4 billion in three years thanks to illegal immigration.

Between January 1, 2017 and October 1, 2019, the RCMP has picked up 52,097 people entering the country illegally, Blacklock’s Reporter reported. Those individuals mainly composed of Haitians and Nigerians.

Hosting the illegal immigrants comes with a cost — which includes food, shelter, transportation and schooling. According to the Parliamentary Budget Office, about $1.1 billion in direct federal costs were spent on hosting, with an additional $371.5 million paid to authorities in Ontario, Quebec, British Columbia and Manitoba in cost compensations.

The Ipsos survey, entitled 2018-19 Annual Tracking Study, got feedback from landed immigrants who participated in focus groups. The groups called the number of asylum seekers “a significant number” with some Chinese participants noting the number is “disproportionately higher than Canada’s population can absorb.”

Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada paid Ipsos $249,823 to conduct the survey.

Ipsos interviewed 4,004 people in 14 focus groups in Toronto, Mississauga and North York, Ont., Winnipeg, Vancouver and Moncton. Participants were from Chinese, Filipino, Middle Eastern, Caribbean and African descent.

One of the participants reportedly told Ipsos researchers that there’s an apparent “loophole in the system” that allows illegal immigrants to “cross (the border) and just put in their papers.”

“They can lie to the Canadian government,’ another told researchers, according to Blacklock’s Reporter.

Others in the focus groups told researchers they worked really hard to get here and there was no support and no help”, or that they are angered that “everybody is coming in.”

One citizen survey noted: “Your English has to be good, you do all these tests, your health has to be good, then you land in Canada and find people here who don’t speak English and you wonder, are there double standards?”

Those surveys felt the federal government was doing a poor job at regulating illegal immigration and felt the United States should take some responsibility to prevent irregular crossings in order for Canada to “effectively screen asylum seekers.”

Blacklock’s Reporter noted officials previously told the Senate national finance committee that asylum seekers spend an average of two years in Canada waiting to hear if they will be deported.

Associate deputy immigration minister Michael MacDonald said the processing time for illegal immigrants has gone up to about 24 months.

In testimony to the Commons immigration committee in March 2018, Immigration Minister Ahmed Hussen told MPs he considered asylum seekers as illegal immigrants.

“I’m happy to use ‘illegal’,” he said. “I have used the word ‘illegal’ and I have used the word ‘irregular’ and I think both are accurate. I have no qualms in using the term.”

Source: Canadian newcomers resent illegal immigrant queue-jumpers

Asylum seekers turned away by Canada at the border will get the chance to explain why they feel U.S. is unsafe for refugees

A case to watch given its implications for both asylum seekers and the government:

She knocked on Canada’s door and begged for protection. Instead, she was turned away, handcuffed and jailed — and no one even cared to ask her why she fled her native Burundi.

Then, in a cold cell at Clinton Correctional Facility in upstate New York, she was handed a flimsy prison jumpsuit and put in solitary confinement while waiting for the results of a mandatory TB test. Behind two panes of glass, she ate, slept and used the toilet in plain sight of the guards and anyone walking by. She was held for 51 days.

More than four years after the “horrific” detention experience she said still haunts her, this asylum seeker and others like her who were turned away by Canada at the Canada-U.S. border will finally have their day in court to explain why they feel the United States is not a safe country for refugees.

Starting Monday in Toronto, the Federal Court of Canada will hear a constitutional challenge to the Canada-U.S. Safe Third Country Agreement, under which both countries consider themselves a safe haven for refugees and agree to block would-be claimants from attempting to enter either country at official border crossings. Arguments will be heard over five days before Justice Ann Marie McDonald.

The Burundian woman, who cannot be named but spoke to the Toronto Star, will be one of the witnesses.

“I preferred death in my country than this treatment like a criminal in the U.S. If I were to die, I should die at home,” she said.

The bilateral pact, implemented in 2004, was originally touted by both Canadian and U.S. officials as a way to curb “asylum shopping.” However, critics have long argued that the U.S. asylum system is cruel and inhumane, especially now under President Donald Trump.

Trump’s anti-migrant policies have spurred an influx of so-called irregular migrants skirting asylum restrictions by crossing outside of Canada’s official ports of entry, where restrictions apply. More than 50,000 asylum seekers have come here that way via the U.S. over the past two years. Once here, after passing initial medical and security screenings, refugees can work and access health care pending a decision on their asylum claims.

In 2007, three advocacy groups — the Canadian Council for Refugees, Amnesty International and the Canadian Council of Churches — took Ottawa to federal court and successfully had the U.S. declared unsafe for refugees, but the decision was later overturned on appeal, largely on the grounds that the groups failed to find a lead individual litigant who was directly impacted by the policy.

After Trump’s election in November 2016 with an anti-immigration agenda, Canadian and American non-governmental organizations and refugee lawyers renewed their effort to challenge the legality of the asylum restrictions.

In 2017, they connected with a Salvadoran woman in the U.S. who sought asylum after she was raped and threatened by the notorious Mara Salvatrucha gang in El Salvador, and agreed to be the lead litigant.

The other litigants include a Syrian family of four and a young Ethiopian woman, all of whom were denied access to asylum in Canada. The three Canadian rights groups also enlisted nine other witnesses, including the Burundian woman, to provide evidence in support of the litigants’ arguments.

“This litigation is significant because this is a way for us to collectively take a position on the human rights abuses and violations against refugees and migrants in North America,” said Janet Dench of the Canadian Council for Refugees.

“Canadians are horrified by what’s been happening in the U.S., with (migrant) children separated from their families, refugees turned away at the Mexico border, the Muslim travel ban and all these measures in the U.S. The litigation is a way of standing up against these policies we don’t and can’t approve of.”

The litigants are expected to present evidence of human rights violations and Canadian Charter breaches in U.S. detention and asylum practices, and highlight the impact of the Safe Third Country Agreement on the most vulnerable refugees fleeing gender-based persecution and gang violence, who are singled out by the Trump administration to be excluded from the U.S. refugee definition.

“Refugee claimants that Canada turns away at our borders are exposed to grave risks of detention and mistreatment in the U.S.,” the litigants claim in their court submissions. “Refugee claimants are being detained indefinitely, in conditions that are nothing short of cruel and unusual, simply for seeking protection.”

In response to the claim, the Canadian government said the Canada-U.S. agreement is no different from similar deals in other refugee-receiving countries in response to rising global migration and forced displacement. Ottawa conducts regular reviews of the pact in order to ensure fair access to asylum, it said in a written response to the litigants’ claims.

“Claimants are returned to a highly developed asylum system that grants protection to large numbers of persons every year, and is subject to both administrative and judicial checks and balances,” it argued. “The U.S.A. complied with its international refugee protection and human rights obligations, notwithstanding debate both in the U.S.A. and internationally with respect to certain aspects of American policies and practices.”

However, the Burundian witness, who is only identified as “Morgan” because her identity is protected by the court, told the Star in an interview her experience in the U.S. tells a different story.

“With their accents, and English not being my first language, I had tremendous difficulty understanding them. They were treating me like I was trying to commit a crime,” recalled Morgan, 28, who said she had been threatened by government militia in Burundi after she and the civilian group she belonged to reported voter registration fraud in the 2015 election. Her cousin, also a member of the group, was shot and killed, she said.

“(American officials) were accusing me of fraud because my visa was for students. But I never intended to lie. All I wanted to do was leave a country where I could die any time,” added Morgan, who said getting a student visa was the only way she could get to the U.S. as a pathway to Canada.

Morgan, who has a degree in business administration back home, said she wanted to flee to French-speaking Canada, but since Ottawa does not have a visa post in Burundi she went to the U.S. consulate instead. She arrived in Pittsburgh in May 2015, before taking an overnight bus to Plattsburgh, N.Y., and from there to the official Canadian border post at Lacolle, Que.

She said she did not know about the asylum restrictions and was denied entry to Canada and detained in the U.S.

In addition to the lack of privacy in detention, Morgan said U.S. officials were “aggressive and rude” and did not help her fill out forms. She said with the one call she was allowed from jail she contacted a friend of a friend in the U.S., who found her a lawyer.

After 51 days behind bars, including 10 days in solitary confinement, she was released and had to couch-surf at the homes of people she barely knew while waiting for an asylum hearing to be scheduled. She said she was unable to support herself because immigration officials held her ID and she couldn’t get a work permit.

More than a year later, Trump won the U.S. presidential election, leaving Morgan to wonder if she would ever get asylum south of the border. When she learned people were bypassing the asylum restrictions at Canadian border crossings, she followed in the footsteps of those “irregular migrants” by crossing at Roxham Rd. in Quebec in August 2017.

However, she is still deemed inadmissible and ineligible to seek asylum in Canada because she had already been denied entry once — in 2015. Meanwhile, Canada cannot deport her to Burundi because of the current humanitarian crisis there.

“I am a victim who needs protection. It doesn’t make sense to call the U.S. a safe country,” she said. “I see how bad the consequences of this agreement are. I still can’t apply for refugee status in Canada because of this. This has to stop.”

Source: Asylum seekers turned away by Canada at the border will get the chance to explain why they feel U.S. is unsafe for refugees

Changing U.S. Policy and Safe-Third Country “Loophole” Drive Irregular Migration to Canada

Good in-depth study:

Nearly 50,000 asylum seekers entered Canada irregularly via land crossing from the United States over a two-year period beginning in spring 2017—contributing to a doubling in the overall number of asylum requests seen in 2016. Most make their way into Canada via Roxham Road, an unofficial crossing at an otherwise unremarkable country road along the New York-Quebec border.

The surge in asylum filings is the result of a few factors, perhaps most notably U.S. policy changes that have made the United States less hospitable and growing recognition of a “loophole” in the 2004 Canada-U.S. Safe Third Country Agreement (STCA). While the treaty was designed to manage asylum-seeker processing by requiring individuals to apply for protection in the first of the two countries entered, it allows those who reside in or transit through the United States to claim asylum in Canada if they enter between official ports of entry.

Box 1. Methodology

This article presents findings from semi-structured interviews with 290 asylum seekers from more than 50 countries, with a representative sample by country of origin. They had been in Canada from a period of only a few days up to two years. Interviews were conducted from December 2018 to October 2019. They took roughly one hour, and were conducted in the respondent’s language of choice at shelters and community organizations in Toronto, Hamilton, Ottawa, and Montreal.

Recruitment took place using posters and communication through social workers and volunteers. Respondents were identified by their first name only, and offered the choice to use a pseudonym. No identifying or contact information was collected.

Interviews were also conducted with two dozen lawyers, social workers, civil servants, and personnel from government and law enforcement in Canada and the United States.

The majority doing so, according to research undertaken by the author and his research team, only briefly transited the United States before crossing into Canada. Around 60 percent of the 290 asylum claimants interviewed—from a diverse mix of countries including Haiti, Nigeria, Colombia, and the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC)—had spent an average of five days before moving on to Canada. The remainder had lived in the United States for an average of six years.

The increase in asylum seekers has proven a politically and morally fraught issue for the Trudeau government in the lead-up to the October 21 federal election, offering opposition parties and civil-society groups on the right and left alike reason to criticize the centrist Liberals in power. It also has placed new scrutiny in Canada on the Safe Third County Agreement, criticized by conservatives for its role in fostering more asylum claims and on the other side of the spectrum by lawyers and refugee-rights advocates who question whether the United States remains a “safe” country.

This article, which draws from the first year of the “Understanding Emergent Irregular Migration Systems to Canada” research project, presents findings from interviews to explore asylum claimants’ motivations for claiming asylum, information sources, and experiences along their journey and after arrival. It also analyzes the effects of the recent arrivals on Canada, especially regarding the political implications. The goal is to fill a research gap by providing empirical evidence for the drivers of irregular migration to Canada.

U.S. Policy Change as a Driver of Migration to Canada

Increasing irregular arrivals to Canada may be attributed to many factors, including (mis)information spread about the STCA “loophole” through social networks and international media. Insights from interviews with asylum claimants suggest that U.S. policies are a major driver of irregular migration to Canada—though the relationship is not always linear. An increase in arrivals after change in U.S. policy is not unprecedented: discrepancies between U.S. and Canadian refugee determinations in the 1980s led to a “border rush” of predominantly Central and South American asylum seekers. The ensuing backlog in Canada’s asylum system led to the creation of the country’s Immigration and Refugee Board (IRB) and motivated Canada to seek an STCA in the first place.

Causes of the Recent Uptick in Asylum Seekers

The Trump administration’s decision not to extend a long-standing Temporary Protected Status (TPS) designation for some 46,000 Haitians was the catalyst for the drastic increase in asylum claims in Canada in 2017. In April 2017, just 140 Haitians crossed into Canada at Roxham Road. The following month, the number increased to 1,355, and to 3,505 that June. Roughly half of the 6,500 Haitians who arrived during the April 2017 – June 2019 period examined, were U.S. residents, with the rest arriving from Haiti and third countries, particularly Brazil. Thus an announced U.S. policy change resulted in roughly 7.5 percent of all Haitians in the United States with TPS choosing Canada rather than risking deportation, moving to a third country, or remaining unauthorized in the United States.

Figure 1. Number of Asylum Seeker Claims on Roxham Road, April 2017-June 2019

Source: Data provided to the author by Immigration, Refugees, and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) under a memorandum of understanding.

A commensurate number of TPS recipients from countries other than Haiti have not sought asylum in Canada, even as the Trump administration has also moved to end designations for Salvadorans, Hondurans, Nicaraguans, and others. The lack of similar movement may owe to a number of factors, including the fact that U.S. courts have at least temporarily blocked the upcoming terminations. Obama-era Department of Homeland Security (DHS) officials, advocates, and asylum seekers interviewed also noted that Latino immigrants are more politically organized and committed to resisting Trump administration policies.

Still, more than 300,000 people risk losing TPS in early 2020, and in an environment of hostility toward asylum seekers and unauthorized immigrants, more may aim to cross irregularly into Canada, particularly if it appears the courts will not continue being a brake on Trump administration immigration actions.

Table 1. Temporary Protected Status (TPS) Populations in the United States and Expiry Dates

Note: A grant of Temporary Protected Status (TPS) provides recipients protection from removal from the United States, as well as work authorization.
Source: D’Vera Cohn, Jeffrey S. Passel, and Kristen Bialik, “Many Immigrants with Temporary Protected Status Face Uncertain Future in U.S.” Pew Research Center FactTank blog, March 8, 2019, available online.

Beyond the initial rush of Haitians in mid-2017, many others have made the journey after being in the United States for only a short period of time. Roughly 60 percent of respondents used the United States only as a transit state, spending an average of five days. They learned of the crossing from a range of sources, often through social media, YouTube, or word of mouth. Some early respondents, mostly from Nigeria, were reticent to admit that they had planned to come to Canada, and said they had no knowledge of Roxham Road before arriving in the United States. These respondents also offered similar, almost verbatim reasons for asylum. The researchers thus revised their interview structure to focus on the source of information for the Roxham Road route. Several described purchasing asylum narratives from “story sellers” or “travel agents,” typically based on persecution for gender and sexual orientation. While these types of claims are long-standing, narratives also included Donald Trump’s anti-migrant pronouncements and the specter of family separation as the reason for spontaneous transit to Canada. Thus, decisionmakers in Canada must now contend with U.S. policy in assessing claims.

However, most respondents planned to use Roxham Road from the outset. “My husband had Canada in mind for years. He wanted to do it legally, like fill out the forms online. But once he heard about Roxham Road he decided to send us,” said Hadiza, a 39-year-old woman from Niger. “It was a difficult decision. It was me and three kids. My husband had to stay behind. He sent us first and maybe he can come later.”

For these migrants, the unlikelihood of protection contributed to their choice not to remain in the United States. Roughly 20 percent had been denied visitor or skilled immigrant visas to Canada but were able to obtain or already had U.S. visitor visas. Several, predominantly from the DRC, Angola, and Pakistan, said they obtained visas by bribing U.S. consular officials. Restrictive U.S. asylum procedures, more open visa regimes, and corruption thus impact asylum claims in Canada.

Roughly 40 percent of respondents had resided in the United States for a period of years, mostly unauthorized residents who had overstayed a visa or received a negative asylum decision. Unlike many who transited through the United States in days, this group explicitly stated that their reasons were directly tied to U.S. policies.

“This word ‘illegal’ is weird to me, even if I use it about myself,” said Derrick, a 22-year-old from Gabon. “Every day people tell you to go back to your country, that if you’re struggling you should just go. That’s not a life. I’m not a criminal, I don’t hurt people. I just want to work and study.”

Among respondents’ fears were the threat of workplace immigration enforcement operations or law enforcement status checks. The most common catalysts for the decision to use Roxham Road were that a relative or community member had been incarcerated or deported, or that they were running out of funds or appeals in lengthy U.S. asylum procedures. Several said they abandoned claims because of a 2018 policy to schedule new cases in immigration court before older ones, a “last in, first out” policy DHS implemented to deal with the rapidly rising Central American caseload. Regardless, most reported a growing fear from the Trump administration’s anti-immigrant discourse, more frequent discrimination, and anxiety about the fate of their children should they be apprehended. Finally, around 3,500 U.S. citizens had crossed the border during the April 2017-June 2019 period, according to Immigration, Refugees, and Citizenship Canada (IRCC), signaling the displacement of mixed-status households with unauthorized immigrant parents and U.S.-citizen children.

Many who arrived in late 2018 or in 2019 had actively researched Roxham Road, which had garnered significant media attention in 2017, often through online searches and conversations with community members, but considered it a last resort. Interview questions asked respondents who resided long term in the United States where Canada ranked among options including return to their country of origin, relocation to a third country, or move elsewhere in the United States, particularly a sanctuary jurisdiction. Most were incredulous about the notion of returning to their country of origin, but would have preferred to remain in the United States were it not for the Trump administration. Canada offered the simplest and safest option.

Transnational Border Crossers

Irregular migration to Canada rapidly became more transnational after receiving attention from mainstream and social media. By late 2017, Nigeria overtook Haiti as the top country of origin, and the number of nationalities diversified significantly.

Table 2. Top 20 Countries of Origin of Roxham Road Asylum Claimants, April 2017- June 2019

Source: IRCC data provided to the author under a memorandum of understanding.

For most who transited the United States over a short period of days, the decision to seek asylum in Canada has less to do with U.S. policy and more to do with finding a solution for a precarious situation. To take one example, many claimants who are considered Yemeni, Palestinian, or Sudanese in official data were born and lived in Saudi Arabia. “Saudi-ization” policies—aimed at increasing the share of native-born Saudis in the workforce—resulted in the termination of these workers’ residence permits. For Yemenis, this means risk of deportation to a country with which they have no connection and one experiencing a humanitarian emergency. Many Palestinians would be rendered stateless. Respondents coming from these types of situations relayed how their social networks were abuzz about the U.S. route to Canada as early as May 2017, offering a new means to fulfill pre-existing desires for mobility.

While those with financial means often fly to the United States, an increasing number, predominantly from Africa, undertook multimonth and even multiyear overland journeys from Brazil, through Central America, to the United States. This comports with global findings that the first people in irregular migration systems are often those with the capital to move quickly, while those with fewer resources take more precarious routes.

The less well-heeled or those unable to secure U.S. visitor visas recounted harrowing danger, including violence and extortion by state security services, criminals, and smugglers; capsized boats on the coast of Colombia; horrific experiences in the Darien Gap jungle in Panama; predation from gangs in Mexico; and waiting in dangerous conditions at the U.S. border. “The jungle in Panama was very, very hard. You’re walking past dead bodies. You spend ten days or two weeks. You have to walk through rivers, over mountains. There are snakes and bandits… You walk for days, from the time the sun comes up until it goes down, and you sleep wherever you lay,” said Naomi, a 22-year-old from Angola. “If a child dies, the parent leaves it behind. If your husband dies, you leave them behind. Because if not, it’s you who will be left behind. It was the most difficult thing I’ve ever done.”

(Mis)Information and Social Networks 

Social networks play a strong role in would-be migrants’ decision-making. In the case of Nigerian claimants, for example, Pentecostal churches play a key role planning travel and social connections once in Canada. Refugee claimants from Yemen, Colombia, and a range of African states receive detailed instructions from community members who have already arrived. Some respondents said U.S. aid organizations encourage people to move on to Canada after release from detention.

As in other irregular migration corridors, misinformation and rumors seem to have a strong influence. Whispers of impending enforcement actions in the United States served as a catalyst for several respondents. More often, rumors are spurred by minority-language media and are amplified and distorted through social media. These often have some basis in fact. Recent arrivals reported rumors that the Canadian border will be closed if the Conservatives win the October election, spurring people to hurry on their journeys.

When Trump announced a ban on refugees from certain Muslim-majority countries within days of taking office Prime Minister Justin Trudeau tweeted: “To those fleeing persecution, terror & war, Canadians will welcome you, regardless of your faith. Diversity is our strength #WelcomeToCanada.” A number of respondents cited this juxtaposition as a prominent example that Canada was “saving” refugees from the United States. “I was hearing a lot of things about the Prime Minister of Canada. My friend told me they’re welcoming people there. And I thought ‘this is the place I’m supposed to go’,” said Bilal, 25, from Yemen.

It would be disingenuous, however, to claim a tweet was the direct catalyst for migration. The irregular movements to Canada instead owed in a broader sense to the erosion of protection and retreat from norms of asylum in the United States, against which people measured their chances in Canada.

Interviews illustrate that claimants had accurate information about the route, yet little knowledge of the asylum process in Canada. Respondents were surprised by the scale of the flow, wait times for hearings, not immediately receiving housing, and the difficulties in finding child care and work. And while only a few respondents said they would have made a different decision, interviews and DHS data suggest that over the past two years dozens or hundreds of asylum seekers had either returned to their country of origin or used smugglers to re-enter the United States.

A Surprising Lack of Criminality at the Border

In comparison to other irregular migration corridors—and indeed on other legs of the journey—there is remarkably little criminality at the U.S.-Canada border. The route existed long before Roxham Road made headlines. It generally consists of transit by bus or private car to Plattsburgh, New York, and taxi companies transporting people to the border. Individuals with large families or health issues, or those who fear interactions with U.S. immigration enforcement, use a network of private drivers. None of this activity amounts to smuggling under U.S. or Canadian law, and there is very little evidence of abuse while people move within the United States.

A small number reported intimidation by taxi drivers in Plattsburgh. In the early days, taxi companies overcharged for the 25-mile drive to Roxham Road. In May 2019, the New York attorney general convicted the owner of one company of systematically overcharging. This trend has abated, and most respondents relayed either no meaningful interactions or acts of kindness from drivers, who calm agitated people and explain the process at the border.

The most significant exploitation is in Canada, particularly by immigration consultants and lawyers. In several cases—in collaboration with agents in the United States—consultants from migrants’ national or linguistic community convinced individuals to come to Canada. Such consultants offer a “full-service” fee, including transportation to the border, access to a safe house in Canada (which is unnecessary), and promises to circumvent Immigration and Refugee Board (IRB) wait times (which is not possible). They then extract as much money as possible before abandoning claimants. Other respondents, primarily from Latin America, have reported lawyers charging exorbitant rates for paperwork that could be covered by legal aid organizations. As Nadya, a 35-year-old woman from Colombia, explained: “The agent charged us $1,500, and put us in touch with a lawyer in Canada, [who] said it was $6,000, then $1,500 each to get a work permit. He said could get us work and we could pay him back. Once we got to Montreal there was a group of Latino lawyers, [who] explained we would get free legal aid. We asked, ‘How much do we have to pay [for] a work permit?’ It’s then we realized he was trying to take advantage of us.” Finally, there is some evidence that Mexican and Nigerian claimants arrive owing debts for passage and are immediately recruited to work under the table for temporary labor agencies.

These types of exploitation pale in comparison to the abuse and danger reported along irregular migration routes elsewhere around the globe. Most interviewees reported positive experiences with Canadian officials and consider the system fair despite long wait times. Understood in a global context, claiming asylum in Canada remains a safe process.

Impacts on Canada

The backlog at Canada’s IRB, a tribunal that hears refugee claims, had grown to more than 79,000 cases as of August 2019, with average wait time of two years for first hearings. A 2019 auditor general’s report found that wait times could increase to five years by 2024 if the number of claims remains constant. The increase has strained shelter capacity in major cities, particularly Montreal and Toronto. Polling by the Angus Reid Institute suggests that while most Canadians remain in favor of welcoming refugees and asylum seekers, they overestimate the number of refugees present, see irregular migration as a crisis, and those entering at Roxham Road as “queue jumpers” or “bogus refugees.” Attacks on shelters and demonstrations against housing asylum seekers in Toronto, and far-right protests at shelters in Montreal and on the border in Lacolle, Quebec have occurred.

The opposition Conservative Party of Canada has accused the government of losing control of the border. In late 2018, the party took a page from the playbook of Europe’s far-right populists, claiming the Global Compact for Safe, Orderly, and Regular Migration would mean ceding sovereignty to the United Nations. The Ontario Progressive Conservative Party refused to cooperate with the federal government over shelters and housing for asylum seekers, and made the unprecedented move of canceling legal aid for refugee claimants, which is a crucial part of the asylum process. The goal was to foster chaos in the lead-up to the election and shift the burden to Quebec, a crucial electoral battleground.

It has also been expensive. After lobbying from the legal and advocacy community, the federal government announced CAD $26.8 million in funding to address the legal aid shortfall. The 2018 budget allocated $72 million for capacity-building at IRB, and the 2019 budget an additional $1.2 billion over five years. Providing shelter space for asylum seekers has cost cities somewhere in the range of $150 million. The political challenge is that effective policy requires administrative solutions, while critics can mobilize narratives of economic migrants gaming the asylum system as a result of uncontrolled borders.

The government has sought to balance capacity building with restrictive policies. In 2018 it created a new Minister of Border Security and Organized Crime Reduction, appointing a tough-on-crime ex-police chief from Toronto. It also changed the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act to prevent asylum shopping by denying access for people who previously sought protection in the United States, Australia, New Zealand, or the United Kingdom. The change was roundly criticized by refugee-rights advocates and has caused significant uncertainty for both asylum seekers and the legal community. Officials interviewed on the condition of anonymity confirmed it is a pre-emptive measure in case of U.S. policies that might spur more migration, particularly in the lead-up to the 2020 U.S. presidential election.

Loophole or Safety Valve?

Much of the asylum debate in Canada has been about closing the STCA “loophole.” The left-leaning New Democratic Party and many academics, lawyers, and refugee advocates have called for Canada to suspend the accord, on grounds the United States is no longer a safe country for asylum seekers. Amnesty International and the Canadian Council for Refugees are challenging its constitutionality. The Conservative Party has taken the opposite position, promising to extend the agreement to what has been long heralded as the “world’s longest undefended border.”

Applying the agreement between ports of entry would require vast new funding for federal police, who would be tasked with apprehending and detaining thousands of people. The result would create more criminalized smuggling markets, make migrants vulnerable to trafficking, create precarious undocumented populations, and push people to more dangerous routes. It would also fundamentally damage Canada’s global identity.

On the other hand, suspending the Safe Third Country Agreement would likely result in more asylum claimants, given peoples’ decisions have been significantly affected by ever-more hardline U.S. policies and rumors of more open Canadian ones.  Those arriving at regular ports of entry would still increase IRB backlogs. And the move would likely backfire politically, with voters potentially rewarding anti-refugee political platforms, as in Europe and the United States.

Restrictive policies are unlikely to stem the flow of people, and Canada has no leverage in negotiations with the White House over the STCA. Likewise, unilaterally suspending participation in the accord risks riling the U.S. government at a time when the Trump administration is limiting access to asylum and attempting to compel other states to take on the responsibility for hosting refugees.

While perhaps counterintuitive, the status quo with regards to the Safe Third County Agreement is a viable option. Roxham Road is well managed. The Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) and Canadian Border Services Agency (CBSA) conduct routinized security screening and first-line admissibility checks. The majority of interviewees took pains to mention they were treated humanely, in sharp contrast to experiences at other borders. Volunteers who monitor the crossing relayed that while there were instances of intimidating behavior by the RCMP in 2017, they are now rare because of the standardization of procedures, permanent infrastructure, and observation by volunteers. People arrive safely, and without criminal networks.

While politically fraught in the current context, Canada receives a small number of asylum seekers in comparison to other refugee-receiving countries. It has an established and well-funded settlement sector, and refugee-status determination procedures are largely fair. Staying the course until the 2020 U.S. elections would allow for capacity-building and long-term planning that bucks the global trend of reactionary policies in liberal democracies.

Acknowledgments

This article is part of a research project, “Understanding Emergent Irregular Migration Systems to Canada,” funded by the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council and hosted by the Centre for Refugee Studies at York University and the Global Migration Lab at the Munk School of Global Affairs & Public Policy, University of Toronto.

Experts say Scheer’s plan to close border loophole ‘doomed to failure’

More political positioning than realistic options for many of the reasons listed:

Conservative Party Leader Andrew Scheer says that, if elected, he would close the loophole in the Safe Third Country Agreement (STCA) that allows people to make refugee claims in Canada even if they enter the country at an unofficial border crossing.

The Conservatives also aren’t ruling out creating detention camps at the border to house irregular migrants while their claims are being processed.

Asked directly if detention camps were something a Conservative government would create at the border, the Conservatives said the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act provides criteria for detaining asylum seekers. This leaves the option of creating detention camps at the border open.

Scheer’s pledge, made Wednesday at Roxham Road in Quebec, came with few details on exactly how he would close the loophole.

Scheer said his “preferred option” would be to renegotiate the STCA with the U.S., but when pressed on what he would do if U.S. President Donald Trump refused to make a deal, Scheer was light on details.

“There are other options. There are other tools available to the government that we will also be exploring,” Scheer said.

The rising rhetoric around refugees is fuelling many falsehoods about whether these new arrivals pose a threat

One of these options is to declare the entire Canada-U.S. border an official port of entry. This way, people entering the country would be covered by the STCA and — if they do not qualify for an exemption under the agreement — would be sent back to the U.S.

Scheer suggested this is one of the options he’s looking at when he said “we can apply the principles of the Safe Third Country Agreement at other points along the border.”

But migration experts, border security officials and the government have questioned whether this is possible.

Sharry Aiken, a Queen’s University law professor, says any plan to scrap the loophole in the STCA without agreement from the U.S. is “doomed to failure.”

Meanwhile, she says expanding the agreement to cover the entire border is nonsensical because Canada does not have the resources to enforce this type of mass “securitization” of the border, nor is this type of strategy effective.

Aiken points to the U.S.-Mexico border as an example of why increased security does not mean fewer irregular migrants.

“As we can see in relation to what’s going on with respect to America’s efforts in relation to Mexico, they’re an abysmal failure,” she said. “People are still crossing, just at higher costs and at peril to their lives. People are dying all the time.”

A Conservative spokesperson later clarified Scheer’s comments on this issue. The Conservatives said it’s not their policy to expand official port of entry status to the entire border. Instead, they would “pursue a regulatory approach to ensure that the principles of the Safe Third Country Agreement are applied and people are not able to jump the queue.”

Promise would require new legislation

Since spring 2017, there has been a significant influx of asylum seekers in Canada, many of whom entered the country irregularly at unofficial border crossings.

The total number of asylum claims made in Canada in 2018 was 55,000, of which about one-third crossed the border irregularly. This was up from 23,500 total claims two years earlier.

In addition to pledging to close the loophole in the STCA, Scheer said he would move existing judges from the Immigration and Refugee Board (IRB) closer to the border and widely used unofficial crossings to speed up the processing time for claims and make crossing “illegally” less attractive.

But Aiken and others say Scheer could not do this without first introducing new legislation to change the IRB’s mandate. That’s because the IRB operates independently of the government, and administrative decisions are strictly the authority of the IRB’s chairperson, she said.

Raoul Boulakia, a Toronto-based immigration lawyer, says moving refugee judges to the border would also make it a lot harder for asylum seekers to access a lawyer — a right they are guaranteed under Canada’s Constitution.

Meanwhile, Craig Damian Smith, director of the Global Migration Lab at the Munk School of Global Affairs and Public Policy, said Scheer’s pledge lacks vital details.

For example, he wonders if Scheer would create detention camps at the border for asylum seekers who enter the country irregularly to be held while their claims are processed.

Scheer claims asylum seekers are ‘skipping the line’

Smith also questions the logistics of the move. The IRB isn’t just made up of judges, he said. There are translators, administrative staff, offices and other things needed in order for claims to be heard and judges to be able to do their jobs.

Smith says holding asylum seekers at the border while their claims are processed — no matter how quickly this is done — presents other problems, such as limiting their ability to work, pay taxes and receive health care.

The Conservative Party, meanwhile, says that if elected, it will amend existing immigration legislation and regulations to make sure IRB judges can be deployed to irregular crossing “hot spots.”

The money needed to relocate IRB judges will come from existing budgets, Conservatives say, adding that there are no plans to change current work-permit rules for people whose asylum claims are allowed to go forward.

Ex-minister under Hussein made refugee claim in Canada

Conservatives point out that immigration detention already takes place in Canada. However, there are currently no immigration detention centres at the border. Instead, would-be refugees who cannot prove their identity, are a flight risk or who could pose a security risk are detained at facilities in Montreal, Toronto and Vancouver.

Some asylum seekers are also held in long-term detention in provincial jails. According statistics from the Canada Border Services Agency, the average stay in immigration detention in 2017-18 was 14 days.

Under current rules, asylum seekers are allowed to move freely within Canada once their claims are made and so long as they are not detained. Unless laws are changed, Smith said, moving IRB judges to the border would not change this and likely will not speed up the hearing process.

Scheer has repeatedly said closing the STCA loophole would make Canada’s immigration system fairer, more orderly and more compassionate.

Source: Experts say Scheer’s plan to close border loophole ‘doomed to failure”

Migrants irréguliers: Ottawa verse 250 millions à Québec

Hard to disagree with the principle.

However, important not to forget that Quebec has a sweetheart deal with respect to the amount transferred annually for economic immigrant selection and settlement services (all categories) that is based on the percentage of of Quebec’s population, not the percentage of immigrants.

Given the current cuts in Quebec levels, and the increase in Canadian ones, the imbalance continues to increase:

À l’approche des élections fédérales, le gouvernement Trudeau sort le chéquier pour régler un différend avec Québec: il versera à la province 250 millions de dollars en guise de compensation pour les coûts liés au soutien des milliers de migrants qui ont franchi la frontière de manière irrégulière en 2017 et en 2018.

Le ministre des Finances, Bill Morneau, a confirmé cette décision par voie de communiqué jeudi après-midi, permettant ainsi au gouvernement Trudeau de tourner la page sur un dossier qui avait provoqué des frictions entre les deux capitales.

Depuis 2017, quelque 43 000 personnes sont entrées au pays de manière irrégulière. Plus de 90% d’entre elles ont franchi la frontière canado-américaine en passant par le chemin Roxham, près du poste frontalier de Lacolle.

«L’augmentation au cours des deux dernières années du nombre de migrants irréguliers qui entrent au Canada par le Québec a imposé au gouvernement du Québec des pressions particulières et sans précédent. Nous apprécions sa collaboration pour la gestion de cet enjeu», a affirmé le ministre Morneau.

Selon lui, le financement accordé au gouvernement du Québec devrait permettre de défrayer l’ensemble des couts extraordinaires liés à l’afflux de demandeurs d’asile en 2017 et 2018.

À Québec, le gouvernement Legault a fait savoir que l’entente conclue avec Ottawa ouvre la porte à d’autres compensations pour les dépenses liées au passage de demandeurs d’asile pour l’année en cours, une fois que leur nombre total sera connu.

En outre, les fonctionnaires de Québec et d’Ottawa poursuivent les négociations afin d’établir un mécanisme de répartition qui doit permettre de rediriger plus rapidement les demandeurs d’asile vers leur province de destination après leur arrivée à la frontière canadienne.

«Pour le Québec, il était primordial de compenser toutes les dépenses extraordinaires encourues pour les demandeurs d’asile au cours des années 2017 et 2018. Après plusieurs mois de négociations, nous avons obtenu le remboursement complet de nos dépenses pour les années 2017 et 2018 ainsi que l’engagement du Canada de rembourser les sommes encourues pour 2019. Il s’agit d’une avancée majeure et cela confirme le rôle du Québec en matière d’immigration», a affirmé le ministre de l’Immigration, de la Diversité et de l’Inclusion, Simon Jolin-Barrette,

Dans le passé, les partis de l’opposition ont accusé à plusieurs reprises le gouvernement Trudeau d’avoir perdu le contrôle de la gestion de la frontière avec les Etats-Unis.

«Le gouvernement du Canada vise d’abord et avant tout à assurer la bonne gestion du système canadien d’immigration et d’asile et à faire en sorte que les flux de migration soient gérés de façon sécuritaire et ordonnée. Le gouvernement du Québec a été et continue d’être un partenaire extraordinaire. Nous sommes impatients de poursuivre notre étroite collaboration avec lui», a pour sa part déclaré le ministre de la Sécurité frontalière et de la Réduction du crime organisé, Bill Blair.

Dans le passé, les partis de l’opposition ont accusé à plusieurs reprises le gouvernement Trudeau d’avoir perdu le contrôle de la gestion de la frontière avec les États-Unis.

Dans un rapport publié en novembre dernier, le directeur parlementaire du budget Yves Giroux estimait que cet afflux de migrants qui traversent la frontière de façon irrégulière a coûté pas moins de 340 millions de dollars au gouvernement fédéral seulement en 2017-2018.

Source: Migrants irréguliers: Ottawa verse 250 millions à Québec

CBSA has increased deportations, though removals of irregular asylum seekers remain low

Some useful numbers in this update:

The Canada Border Services Agency has ramped up deportations of failed refugee claimants and other foreign nationals and permanent residents who have lost the right to stay in Canada, amid concerns about the ability of Canada’s asylum system to respond quickly to spikes in refugee claims.

Removals from Canada have dropped significantly in the last several years, from more than 19,000 people in 2012-13 to around 8,000 in recent years. But that number climbed to roughly 9,500 people in 2018-19, following an internal effort to speed up the pace of deportations.

Despite the overall increase, the numbers remain low for removals of failed irregular asylum seekers — those who enter Canada from the U.S. between official border crossings, but who are unsuccessful in claiming refugee status — even though Ottawa has said it is prioritizing their removal.

A spokesperson for Border Security Minister Bill Blair told the National Post that anyone to be deported from Canada is given due process. “But once legal avenues have been exhausted, individuals are expected to respect our laws and leave Canada, or as per our commitments, be removed,” said Marie-Emmanuelle Cadieux in an email. “We are re-investing in the agency to ensure that processing continues to happen in a manner that is fair, fast and final.”

Last fall, the CBSA confirmed it had set a target of 10,000 removals for the 2018-19 fiscal year, a notable increase over the previous three years, when removals ranged from 7,900 to 8,600. At the time, Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale said the agency needed to “pick up the pace” of removals, and pointed to $7.5 million in funding allocated to the CBSA in Budget 2018. “We’ve provided some extra resources for CBSA to do the work that’s necessary,” Goodale said. The agency has now confirmed it removed a total of 9,584 people last year.

Backlogs in Canada’s immigration system have been the subject of increased scrutiny since an influx of asylum seekers began crossing the Canada-U.S. border between official ports of entry after the 2016 election of U.S. President Donald Trump. Since January 2017, about 45,000 people have entered Canada in this way, using a loophole in the Canada-U.S. Safe Third Country Agreement that generally requires asylum seekers to make a refugee claim in whichever country they get to first.

In May, the auditor general found that Canada’s asylum system is unable to cope with such surges, with refugee claimants waiting two years for decisions on their claims. The backlog of asylum seekers numbered about 75,000 at the time and will likely continue to grow. However, the number of people entering Canada illegally has dropped considerably, and is currently only half what it was at this time last year.

The government is taking steps to speed up the entire system, from claim hearings to removals. Budget 2019 earmarked $1.18 billion over five years for border security and processing of asylum claims.

The CBSA also says it is now prioritizing the removal of irregular asylum seekers whose claims have been denied, as it does people who are deemed threats to national security or who are involved in organized crime, crimes against humanity or other types of criminal activity. However, Canada has still deported only a small minority of the tens of thousands of irregular asylum seekers who’ve entered the country in the last two years. According to figures the CBSA provided to the Post, the agency removed just 723 irregular migrants with failed refugee claims between April 1, 2017 and June 21, 2019.

This is largely because asylum seekers must exhaust all legal avenues of appeal before they can be removed, which takes time. The agency also pointed to a number of other factors that can delay removals, including the fact that Canada temporarily halts removals to countries in armed conflict or experiencing environmental disasters — such measures are currently in place for Afghanistan, the Democratic Republic of Congo and Iraq. A lack of valid travel documents and medical issues can also delay removals.

“The CBSA is firmly committed to meeting its mandate under the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act to conduct removals as soon as possible,” a spokesperson told the Post in an email, adding that the agency has increased staffing levels and improved co-ordination with other branches of the immigration system to speed up removals. The agency said there are currently just under 3,000 people with an “actionable removal order” in Canada, meaning with no barrier to deportation.

Still, Janet Dench, executive director of the Canadian Council for Refugees, said setting quotas for deportations like the CBSA’s target of 10,000 removals can be problematic. “One of the concerns is who ends up being a priority for removal,” she said. When border officers are given targets they need to meet, there’s an incentive to prioritize families over criminals because officials can remove a number of people at once, often with less effort, she said.

Dench said the removal process can often feel arbitrary, with some people getting calls from the CBSA almost immediately, while others wait years before being asked to leave.

Source: CBSA has increased deportations, though removals of irregular asylum seekers remain low

A growing source of Canadian asylum-seekers: US citizens whose parents were born elsewhere

Sean Rehaag, who has done some good work analyzing trends of decision making by IRB adjudicators, looks at the recent rise in the number of asylum seekers from the US:

Jokes about moving to Canada became common among progressives in the United States during Donald Trump’s presidential bid. When he won, a spike in U.S. citizens seeking information about how to relocate crashed Canada’s immigration website.

I’m a scholar of Canadian immigration law and will soon become the director of the Centre for Refugee Studies at York University in Toronto. My friends and colleagues in the United States, who still make those jokes, are often surprised when I fill them in on how U.S. immigration patterns in Canada have changed during the Trump administration.

Overall, the number of U.S. citizens who have immigrated to Canada for any reason rose from 7,522 in 2015 to 9,100 in 2017. In contrast with this modest 21% increase, the number of U.S. citizens applying for refugee protection during the same two years spiked by more than 1,000%. It grew from 69 in 2015 to as much as 869 in 2017.

The more than 1,500 U.S citizens who have sought a safe haven in Canada are mainly the children of people fearing deportation due to a change of their immigration status after spending years in the United States. Even with the recent increase, they still account for a small share of total applicants for refugee protection in Canada – only 1% in 2018, for example. Nonetheless, the dramatic growth in the number of refugee claims by U.S. citizens illustrates some of the differences between Canadian and U.S. immigration policies.

Long history

People from the U.S. have been seeking asylum in Canada since at least the 18th century.

Fearing mistreatment in the newly established United States, and drawn by offers of free land, as many as 100,000 British Loyalists fled to what is now Canada during and after the American Revolution.

Many enslaved people seeking liberty via the Underground Railroad, prior to the Civil War, headed to Canada. Around 20,000 to 40,000 made lives for themselves there.

In the 1960s and 1970s, some 100,000 young U.S. men, many with wives and children, came to Canada during the Vietnam War to avoid being drafted into military service – or in some cases after deserting. Canada enacted a law that let these “draft dodgers” immigrate with lawful status. Even though President Jimmy Carter issued a blanket pardon for them when he took office, about half remained in Canada.

More recently, dozens of U.S. soldiers who had voluntarily enlisted in the military and served in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan sought asylum in Canada to avoid jail time when they deserted because they came to object to those wars. This time, the Canadian government denied most of their refugee claims, saying that they could have possibly qualified for conscientious objector status back home. However, the Canadian public expressed substantial support for these war resisters.

Change of status

The more recent wave of asylum applicants is related to changes in U.S. immigration policy.

Before Trump took office, the U.S. had granted hundreds of thousands of immigrants without papers from Sudan, Nicaragua, Haiti, El Salvador and other countries temporary protected status. These policies protected formerly undocumented immigrants from deportation and let them work legally.

The Trump administration has tried to end temporary protected status for eligible immigrants of many nationalities, despite evidence that many of their countries remained dangerous or their economies were still too unstable for them to return.

For example, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, an autonomous agency of the Organization of American States, asserts that Nicaragua operates as “police state” with government-sponsored repression that is resulting in hundreds of deaths and thousands of injuries. The UN Refugee Agency estimates that 62,000 Nicaraguans have fled to neighboring countries in the past year.

For now, the fate of about 300,000 of these immigrants from multiple countries awaits resolution in the courts.

A big share of the families with U.S. citizen-children seeking asylum in Canada today are immigrants from Haiti and other countries who fear losing their temporary protected status. Some people with this status from Nicaragua and Honduras have had it since 1999. Qualifying Sudanese immigrants have been shielded from deportation since 1997. The U.S. granted 59,000 Haitians temporary protected status in 2010, following a big earthquake.

Canada will probably deny the refugee claims of the U.S. citizen children because the system requires applicants to prove a well-founded fear of persecution in their country of origin. In this case, that would be the United States rather than, say, Haiti, Sudan or El Salvador.

But parents who obtain refugee protection in Canada will be able to obtain permanent residence for their children as well, putting them on the path to citizenship in Canada. Many likely will succeed with their claims. Canada approved about half of the refugee claims made in 2018after migrants crossed the U.S. border.

Indeed, some of the families with U.S. citizen children seeking asylum in Canada may figure that they are more likely to succeed in Canada than in the U.S. For example, Canadian refugee law is more permissive than U.S. asylum law for people fleeing gender-based violence or gang violence – both common types of claims for Central American asylum-seekers.

Different policies

Canadian and U.S. immigration policies have always been distinct but the contrast is becoming more stark.

Trump campaigned on an anti-immigrant agenda, while Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau promised voters he would increase the number of resettled Syrian refugees welcomed in Canada. On the same day that Trump first decreed a Muslim travel ban, Trudeau famously tweeted out his hospitality: “To those fleeing persecution, terror & war, Canadians will welcome you, regardless of your faith.”

Under Trudeau’s leadership, the Canadian government has decided to boost the number of immigrants it grants permanent resident status yearly, from 286,000 in 2017 to 340,00 in 2020.

The U.S., with a population that is nearly nine times bigger than its northern neighbor, grants permanent resident status to 1.1 million newcomers. The Trump administration is trying to overhaul the nation’s immigration policy in ways that could cut that number considerably and it has slashed refugee admissions. In April 2019, Trump addressed the rising number of asylum-seekers arriving at the U.S.-Mexico border. “We can’t take you anymore,” he said. “Our country is full.”

As long as these sorts of divergences persist, I believe that immigrants who have been living in the United States for years, some with children who are U.S. citizens, will keep coming to Canada seeking asylum.

Source: A growing source of Canadian asylum-seekers: US citizens whose parents were born elsewhere

Irregular asylum claims in Canada drop nearly 50% from last year

Ironic, given the government’s plan to close the STCA loophole for those entering Canada outside regular border posts. And of course, still too early to see if this trend continues for the balance of the year:

The number of asylum-seekers crossing the border “irregularly” into Canada has slowed compared to early last year.

Statistics published by the federal government show the RCMP apprehended 3,944 irregular migrants between official border crossings in the first third of this year.

That’s a 48-per-cent decline compared to the more than 7,600 irregular border crossers intercepted between January and April 2018.

Despite this, Darrell Bricker of the polling firm Ipsos Public Affairs says data shows Canadians are increasingly concerned over immigration levels in Canada, due in large part to the influx of irregular migrants.

He and other experts who took part in an immigration summit in Ottawa last week are warning against rising populist sentiments that could harden Canadian attitudes against newcomers.

Fen Hampson, executive director of the World Refugee Council, says a key concern is that the public doesn’t differentiate between refugees and economic immigrants — and that Canadians may not realize Canada’s refugee influx is nothing compared to the migrant crises facing other countries.

Source: Irregular asylum claims in Canada drop nearly 50% from last year

Pollsters point to rising public racism, Quebec seats to explain Liberals’ U-turn on refugees

More takes on the change in approach:

The Liberal government’s move to toughen up the refugee system is a signal to voters that fairness is the party’s priority when it comes to foreigners entering the country, says a former Liberal insider, and it could be part of an attempt to outmanoeuvre the Bloc Québécois, or win over ex-Liberal voters who don’t want more people of colour in Canada, say pollsters.

The government wants to send a message to Canadians that migrants who cross the border between official points of entry to make a refugee claim will be treated the same as those who make a claim at a recognized entry point, said John Delacourt, a vice-president at Ensight Canada and former director of communications in the Liberal Research Bureau.

“That is the line I think that ultimately resonates here. ‘There will be no privileged treatment; it will be fair for everybody,’” said Mr. Delacourt.

Thus far, would-be refugees have been able to exploit a loophole in Canada’s international commitments, and make a claim for refugee status after crossing the border between official points of entry from the United States, while those who try to claim status at official border crossings are generally immediately rejected under the Safe Third Country Agreement with the U.S., which says a person seeking refugee protection has to do it at the first safe country they reach.

The government has been defending itself from near-constant criticism from the Conservative opposition for the past two years over its handling of the loophole, and the flow of thousands of migrants into Canada because of it. Those migrants have been given security, health, and safety checks by Canadian officials, then allowed to proceed into Canada’s urban centres to pursue a refugee claim.

Statistics from the Immigration and Refugee Board show that 38,646 claims were made by “irregular” border crossers between February 2017 and December 2018. Only 9,330 have been dealt with so far by the IRB, which has accepted a little less than half of them as valid claims, while the other half were rejected, withdrawn, or abandoned.

The government stick-handled the issue for nearly two years without major changes to the policy or legal framework, but changed tack with its 2019 budget last month and budget implementation bill earlier this month, which will block asylum seekers from making a refugee claim in Canada if they have already had a claim rejected in another country that Canada deems safe, including the U.S., a practice Border Security Minister Bill Blair (Scarborough Southwest, Ont.) called “asylum shopping.”

The 2019 budget described the change as an effort to “better manage, discourage, and prevent irregular migration.” Prime Minister Justin Trudeau (Papineau, Que.) told reporters April 10 that his government wants to ensure Canadians have “confidence in our asylum system, our refugee system” when asked about the changes. He said the change to government policy was a response to an increase in refugee claimants caused by global instability.

The government has also moved to renegotiate the Safe Third Country Agreement with the U.S. Canada wants to change the pact to close the loophole surrounding claims at non-official points of entry.

Mr. Trudeau’s government made international headlines in 2015 when it agreed to welcome 25,000 Syrians fleeing war in their country within a span of months. The sudden influx of border-crossers from the United States, however—many of them originating in Haiti and Nigeria—has put his government on the defensive over refugee policy since early 2017.

Canadian attitudes toward migrants have shifted dramatically over the past few years, said pollster Frank Graves, the president of Ekos Research.

“What we’re seeing in the public is that the attitudes to immigration, and particularly to things like visible-minority immigration, are becoming incredibly polarized in ways that they were not in the past,” he said.

“Attitudes toward immigration broadly, which includes refugees and asylum seekers, is now becoming a sorting variable…which is frankly kind of unprecedented in Canadian political history. We don’t usually make ballot-booth decisions on the basis of immigration policy.”

Mr. Graves said Ekos has done analysis that suggested to him that Liberal policies on refugees and immigrants had driven people who voted Liberal in 2015 to begin supporting the Conservative Party—specifically some non-university-educated, working-class males who believe “too many” of the immigrants who come to Canada are visible minorities.

“That view is shifting voters in ways that it never has before,” he said.

Nearly 40 per cent of respondents to an Ekos telephone poll of 1,045 Canadian adults between April 3 and 11 said that “too many” of the immigrants coming to Canada were visible minorities. Just shy of 43 per cent said an “about right” share of immigrants were visible minorities, while 11.5 per cent said “too few.”

Former Liberal immigration minister John McCallum reacted to Mr. Graves’ polling figures on Twitter April 13, writing, “Such a dangerous shift from when I was managing Syrian refugees and challenge was we couldn’t bring them in fast enough to satisfy sponsors. Only 3 years ago!”

Of those who said “too many” immigrants were racialized people, nearly 69 per cent identified as Conservative supporters, versus 15.2 per cent for the Liberal Party, and 27 per cent for the NDP. The margin for error for the poll itself was plus or minus three percentage points, 19 times out of 20, but the margins of error for the party-identification figures for that specific question were higher—between seven and 14 per cent—because the sample size shrinks when respondents are divided into smaller groups.

Some Canadians have been waiting years for their parents or grandparents to be allowed to come to Canada through the immigration system, but Canadians often conflate refugee and immigration issues, though they are considered as separate streams of migrants by the government, said Mr. Delacourt, who also worked as a staffer in the office of former Liberal immigration minister Joe Volpe in the early 2000s.

“They’re very different streams, and anybody who actually has a strong sense of policy in this area will tell you, ‘That’s mixing apples and oranges,’ in terms of the priorities and planning. But to Canadians, the optics … people do not see individual streams here. They see a strain on resources,” Mr. Delacourt said.

Border Security Minister Bill Blair has said the government’s move to block asylum seekers from making a refugee claim in Canada if they have already had a claim rejected in another country that Canada deems safe is meant to stop ‘asylum shopping.’ The Hill Times photograph by Andrew Meade

“I think part of the government’s course correction on this is about addressing this larger perspective on what’s ultimately fair. Of course, they’re not going to sacrifice what’s fair for individuals who are coming across, case by case. Of course everyone is going to get all the protection one deserves. But by the same token, there is this real concern that the optics of irregular migration creating a strain on resources. It’s not where a government going into an election campaign is going to think it’s a good idea,” said Mr. Delacourt.

The Liberals are likely worried about damage done by the spread of false information or misinformation about their work on the refugee file during the upcoming campaign, said Mr. Delacourt, pointing to a September report by the Canadian International Council that said there was “mounting evidence” of Russian troll accounts on social media spreading disinformation about positions on asylum seekers and refugees in Canadian politics.

The Liberal decision to get tougher on refugee policy could also be motivated by expected battles with the Bloc Québécois in smaller towns, cities, and rural areas in Quebec in the upcoming election, said pollster Greg Lyle, the president of Innovative Research.

More than half of Canadian adults surveyed in an Innovative poll in September said the government was “not aggressive enough” in its approach to immigrants crossing into Canada illegally, while six per cent said it was being “too aggressive,” 26 per cent said it was “acting appropriately,” and 15 per cent said they didn’t know.

The online poll surveyed 2,410 adult Canadians who were part of online research panels between Sept. 27 and Oct. 1. Online polls are not considered truly random, so a margin of error for the poll can’t be calculated.

Forty per cent of Liberal Party supporters said the government was not being aggressive enough on that issue, according to the poll, and 57 per cent of respondents in Quebec. “That, to me, is the big deal,” said Mr. Lyle.

More than 70 per cent of those surveyed said that “the issue of immigrants who are crossing into Canada illegally right now” was a serious problem, including 65 per cent of Liberal supporters, and 81 per cent of respondents in Quebec.

The Bloc Québécois is doing well in the regions of the province, said Mr. Lyle, and will differentiate itself from the Grits by opposing oil and gas pipelines, and contrasting its position with the Liberal government’s purchase of the Trans Mountain pipeline. The Bloc will also likely take a more “nationalist” approach to immigration policy, he said.

“It’s a very critical area for the Liberals to do well in. Moving on the migrant issue…shuts down that vulnerability.”

Source: Pollsters point to rising public racism, Quebec seats to explain Liberals …

Coyne, Patriquin and Furey: On the reversal on asylum seekers

Both Coyne and Patriquin being harshly critical and not appearing to believe that asylum shopping is a serious issue, the Globe and columnists like Furey  appear to be supportive of the government’s change in approach. Starting with Coyne:

Naturally, they put it in an omnibus bill.

Buried deep inside the 392 pages of Bill C-97, the budget implementation bill, is a package of amendments to the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act that would turn decades of Canadian refugee policy on its head.

The changes would disqualify from consideration refugee claimants who had previously made claims in “a country other than Canada.” (Also ineligible: those whose claims had already been rejected in Canada, or who had been granted refugee protection elsewhere.) What is more, this would apply even to those already on our soil, seeking asylum.

Ever since the Supreme Court’s landmark 1985 ruling in Singh v. Canada, refugee claimants under the protection of Canadian law cannot be deported without having their case heard before an independent tribunal — a recognition of the serious, possibly fatal consequences of sending a genuine refugee, with a “well-founded fear of persecution,” back to his country of origin. Under the new policy, the best that those affected could hope for would be an interview with an immigration official, as part of a “preremoval risk assessment.”

All this came as a complete surprise to refugee advocates. The only mention of it in the budget the bill claims to be implementing was this cryptic remark on p. 326: “The government proposes to introduce legislative amendments to the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act to better manage, discourage and prevent irregular migration.”

They could hardly have guessed what this would turn out to mean. The changes not only go far beyond the existing Safe Third Country Agreement with the United States, which allows Canada to turn back claimants arriving at official points of entry on our southern border — not once they have already crossed — but would extend it to a number of other countries with whom Canada has immigration “information-sharing” agreements.

Understand: the people whose claims Canada would summarily reject in this fashion would not necessarily have had their claims assessed and rejected by another country – it would be enough that they had made a claim. They would face deportation, what is more, not to the country in which they had earlier made their claim, but to their country of origin, to meet whatever fate awaited them there. All this, without even the right to an independent hearing.

This sort of draconian shift in policy would be shocking coming from any government; among other objections, the courts are almost certain to rule it is a violation of the Charter of Rights. But to find it proposed by the same Liberal government that had long congratulated itself for its commitment to refugee rights, while castigating critics as intolerant, racist and worse, is simply breathtaking.

This is not just the most extraordinary about-face yet — from #WelcomeToCanada to deportations without hearings, in the space of two years — from a government that has made a habit of them. It is a fundamental breach of faith.

“We will restore Canada’s reputation,” the Liberals boasted in the refugees section of their 2015 election platform, “and help more people in need through a program that is safe, secure and humane.”

“Canada once welcomed refugees openly,” it goes on, “but that proud history has faded after a decade of mismanagement under Stephen Harper. We will renew and expand our commitment to helping resettle more refugees, and deliver a refugee program that is safe, secure and humane.”

But that was then, and the refugees that made such useful props for Justin Trudeau in the last election have become an obstacle to his chances in the next, in the face of relentless Tory fear-mongering about the “crisis” on our border. So, over the side they go.

That this was accomplished via yet another mammoth omnibus bill compounds the sense of betrayal. The 2015 Liberal platform also denounced the Harper government for its use of omnibus bills “to prevent Parliament from properly reviewing and debating his proposals,” vowing to “bring an end” to “this undemocratic practice.”

When the bill comes to a vote, moreover, Liberal MPs will inevitably be whipped to support it — as a budget bill, after all, it is an automatic confidence matter. This turns yet another Liberal campaign pledge inside out.

The platform had promised that MPs would be free to vote as they pleased on virtually all questions; outside of confidence matters, the whips would be applied only to votes that “implement the Liberal electoral platform” or that touch on “the protections guaranteed by the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.” In this case, MPs will be whipped to vote for a bill that contradicts the platform and runs roughshod over Charter guarantees.

Mere hypocrisy or breach of faith, however, would not suffice to condemn the Liberal changes, if they were otherwise well-advised. It would be obtuse to hold a government to the course it had set out on, however disastrous, just for the sake of a foolish consistency. Those Conservatives who are now attacking the Liberals for adopting the very positions for which they had previously attacked the Conservatives – on top of the changes in the omnibus bill, the government was earlier reported to be in negotiations with the United States to extend the Safe Third Country Agreement to the entire border — are entitled, perhaps, to gloat. They are not entitled to claim vindication.

No, what is wrong about the new Liberal policy is not that it is hypocritical, but simply that it is wrong: arbitrary, inhumane, and vastly unnecessary. There is no emergency that could possibly justify rejecting refugee claimants out of hand, solely on the basis of having made a prior claim, — “asylum-shopping,” the Border Security minister, Bill Blair, called it, without apparent sense of shame — still less deporting them without a hearing. The numbers of those crossing the U.S.-Canada border irregularly are falling, not rising.

The emergency, rather, would appear to be in the falling numbers of those telling pollsters they intend to vote Liberal. For what is the risk of sending innocent people to their deaths, when there are marginal seats in peril?

From Patriquin:
As a term, “asylum shopping” is probably worthy of scare quotes. Though it’s not quite as loaded as “chain migration”— a term usually used to inspire fear of an unchecked immigrant invasion — it nonetheless invokes those darker stereotypes often ascribed to migrants. These people aren’t running from an immediate danger, you see. They’re seeking asylum in multiple countries, probing for the weakest point, if only to steal our jobs and harvest the bounty from our social safety net.

“Asylum shopping” didn’t tumble from the lips of Bill Blair, the Minister of Border Security and Organized Crime Reduction Minister — at least, not entirely. Nonetheless, he was the picture of consternation at the allegedly pervasive practice.

“We don’t want them shopping and making application in multiple countries. What we’re trying to do is to make sure the system is fair and efficient for those who truly need our protection,” Blair said this week. Cracking down on asylum shopping is a key part of the government’s $1.2 billion effort to reduce the number of would-be migrants coming into the country.

Fair enough.

The number of asylum seekers has nearly tripled since 2016, and addressing the issue, or at least further girding the system to deal with its reality, is a certainly a legitimate government goal. The problem is the rhetoric that Blair and others have attached to it. By first politicizing the idea of “asylum shopping,” then quickly promising to do something about it, the Trudeau government has shown how desperation tends to breed rank hypocrisy.

The latter-day Liberals are proof of the axiom that in politics, you inevitably become what you once professed to hate. Imagine the conspicuous indignation that would have emanated from 2015-vintage Liberal Party ranks had the Conservative government cooked up, in the crucible of Stephen Harper’s all-powerful PMO, a plot to try and override the country’s independent judiciary by jettisoning a certain Quebec-based engineering firm from likely legal catastrophe.

And yet in 2019, four years after winning an election by way of promises to do away with such Conservative overindulgences, the Liberals did just this — and through an all-powerful PMO of the type Trudeau himself vowed to dismantle, no less.

Though more visceral a topic, the government’s “asylum shopping” gambit nonetheless comes at the tail end of a similarly tortured ideological climbdown. The 2015-era Liberals chided the Conservative’s apparently heartless response to the Syrian refugee crisis.

“You don’t get to suddenly discover compassion in the middle of an election campaign,” Trudeau said of the Harper government’s reaction to the drowning death of Alan Kurdi, whose tiny body washed up on a Turkish beach.

Trudeau, Trudeau assured us, would do better. And to his great credit, he made good by allowing some 25,000 Syrian refugees into the country. About two years later, he became a notably photogenic counterpoint to Trumpian nativism by welcoming “those fleeing persecution, terror and war” by way of Twitter, just as The Donald was wishing them gone. Conservative criticism on migration was nothing short of “fear mongering,” as Trudeau put it late last year.

Ah, but that was before the churn of the next election cycle and the Liberal government’s increasing desperation in the wake of the SNC-Lavalin fallout, not to mention the corresponding bump in Conservative fortunes. The Trudeau government’s migration bon mots belie a certain truth: the steady tide of asylum seekers from the U.S. has eroded the Canadian welcome mat, according to a comprehensive Angus Reid poll conducted earlier this year.

This enduring and widespread sentiment is directly at odds with the Trudeau government’s pro-migrant spiel, peddled for the last four years. So as we approach the October election, the government has simply changed its tune, from “Canadians will welcome you” and “diversity is strength,” to “fair and efficient” and “asylum shopping.”

For any government, delegitimizing the plight of migrants is crass, bottom-feeder politicking. For the Liberals, whose rise to power was meant to be a rebuke to this kind of thing, it is even worse — particularly considering how asylum shopping isn’t a particularly widespread problem, as the CBC’s Kathleen Harris pointed out this week.

It’s just further evidence that the convictions of the current government ebb and flow with its re-election prospects.

Source: Delegitimizing the plight of migrants is crass, bottom-feeder politicking

From Furey (who no longer appears to be working for the Sun and features regularly with the online True North of former Conservative staffers and candidates):

Finally! The Liberals have done something to deal with the unsustainable influx of people crossing illegally into Canada, mostly at the Roxham Road crossing along the Quebec border.

The data shows that for both 2017 and 2018 there was a near constant flow of approximately 20,000 people per year. It was a troubling figure and one that showed no signs of decreasing. Thankfully the numbers for January and February of 2019 have shown a decrease but there’s no guarantee the numbers won’t rise again.

While refugee advocates wanted to characterize everyone crossing as genuine refugees fleeing war and famine, there was little evidence to support that.

The majority of asylum claimants came from Haiti and Nigeria – two countries that Canadians certainly wouldn’t consider ideal places to live but aren’t facing major wars displacing people and aren’t ravaged by recent natural disasters. All indication was that these were economic migrants – people who simply wanted to move to Canada. You can’t blame them, Canada’s a pretty great country, but there are rules and processes in place to come here and those need to be followed.

For two years, groups like True North, conservative politicians, various pundits and members of the legal community pointed all of this out, how it’s unsustainable and how there needs to be changes, and the Liberal response was to cry “racist” and other nasty labels.

Good luck with that strategy, I’d always thought.

The various polls over the years showed the majority of people didn’t support what was happening at the border. And there was no way they were going to buy into this cynical messaging that opposing legal immigration was somehow a wholesale racist statement. Meanwhile, recent immigrants and others whose family members were still waiting in the legal queue weren’t happy either.

It looks like the Liberals have realized that despite their Social Justice Warrior inclination towards open borders, the rest of the public aren’t going along with it. Maybe because they’re finally clued in or because of the upcoming election, they’ve decided to do something about it.

Buried within the 2019 budget omnibus bill are changes to the asylum system that aim to deny people have had an asylum claim already rejected in the United States (and other safe third countries such as the U.K.) from then going on to make one in Canada.

It’s to prevent what Border Security Minister Bill Blair calls asylum shopping. This means they wouldn’t be placed in the multiyear waiting line, where they receive government assistance while waiting to hear if their claim will be accepted. Instead they’ll more likely be fast-tracked for rejection and removal.

This won’t actually put that big of a dent in the numbers as the statistics show only about 10% of the current illegal crossers had previously applied for asylum in the United States.

It’s rather humorous to now watch as refugee lawyers and activists display their outrage towards Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, throwing the same sorts of words at him as he previously tossed at others and also threatening legal challenges.

But still, these changes are something and it’s a move in the right direction.

Here are the questions though: Why didn’t they do it sooner? Is this only for election purposes? Will they keep advancing on this file? And was all the name-calling and divisiveness over the past two years worth it?

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