Trump Suspends Some Asylum Rights, Calling Illegal Immigration ‘a Crisis’

For the Conservatives arguing for closing the loophole in the Safe Third Country Agreement that does not return asylum seekers entering outside regular border crossings (i.e., Roxham Road) to the U.S., the constraints on the U.S. government doing the same for its Southern border may be instructive:

President Trump proclaimed on Friday that the illegal entry of immigrants across the southern border of the United States was detrimental to the national interest, spurring tough changes that will deny asylum to all migrants who do not enter through official border crossings.

The proclamation, issued just moments before Mr. Trump left the White House for a weekend trip to Paris, suspends asylum rights for all immigrants who try to cross into the United States illegally, though officials said it was aimed primarily at several thousand migrants traveling north through Mexico in caravans.

“The continuing and threatened mass migration of aliens with no basis for admission into the United States through our southern border has precipitated a crisis and undermines the integrity of our borders,” Mr. Trump wrote in the proclamation.

As he left the White House for the overseas trip, Mr. Trump said, “We want people to come into our country, but they have to come into the country legally.”

The American Civil Liberties Union filed a lawsuit on Friday within hours of the president’s proclamation, urging a federal judge to prohibit Mr. Trump from moving ahead with his plans to deny asylum to thousands of migrants who may cross the border.

In a legal filing in United States District Court in San Francisco, the A.C.L.U. said that the president’s move was “in direct violation of Congress’s clear command that manner of entry cannot constitute a categorical asylum bar.” The lawsuit also alleges that the administration enacted the rule “without the required procedural steps and without good cause for immediately putting the rule into effect.”

The lawsuit could set in motion another clash between Mr. Trump and the judicial system over the power of the presidency to control the nation’s borders. Officials at the Justice Department and the Department of Homeland Security did not immediately respond to questions about the lawsuit.

Administration officials said on Friday that the suspension of asylum rights would be in effect for at least 90 days, but could end sooner if Mexico’s government would sign an agreement allowing the United States to return those who illegally cross the border from Mexico, regardless of their home country — a proposal that Mexico has long rejected.

For decades, immigration law in the United States has required that officials allow migrants who fear persecution in their home countries to seek asylum regardless of whether they entered the United States legally or illegally.

Mr. Trump’s proclamation is a radical departure from that tradition. With the exception of children arriving without parents, officials said that all migrants who cross illegally would automatically be denied asylum. Advocates for migrants condemned the policy shift as meanspirited and unconstitutional.

“Issuing a presidential proclamation effectively denying vulnerable families protection from violence is contrary to our laws and values,” said Kevin Appleby, a senior director at the Center for Migration Studies. “In the long run, it will not deter asylum seekers who are fleeing for their lives. On this one, the emperor has no clothes.”

Across the world, nations have for years agreed to consider asylum protections for those fleeing violence and persecution, even if they cross borders illegally. Human rights advocates said on Friday that the United States should be a leader in supporting that idea.

“One thing that unites a majority of Americans is a belief in the principle of asylum,” Ali Noorani, the executive director of the National Immigration Forum, said in a statement. “Eroding that principle means eroding a defining value of our nation.”

Administration officials insisted that the new rules would remain consistent with United States obligations to the rest of the world because seeking asylum is not the only way for someone fleeing persecution to receive protection.

Officials said migrants would be allowed to seek other protections if they could prove a risk of being tortured in their home countries. However, they conceded that those claims were purposely much harder to prove and that fewer people were likely to qualify to stay in the United States than would have by receiving asylum. The only way to seek asylum will be to arrive at an official border crossing.

But officials conceded that many of the crossings from Mexico into the United States — known as ports of entry — were over capacity and already had trouble processing the number of asylum claims being made by migrants there. Under the new policy, many more are expected to arrive at the crossings.

In the proclamation, Mr. Trump acknowledged the problem and directed his administration “to commit additional resources to support our ports of entry at the southern border to assist in processing those aliens.”

Mr. Trump’s proclamation drew on the same powers to control the nation’s borders that he cited when he banned travel from several predominantly Muslim nations shortly after becoming president. The Supreme Court upheld a later version of that ban after a nearly year-and-a-half legal fight.

The new proclamation is certain to ignite a similar legal battle.

For months before the midterm elections, Mr. Trump cast the group of migrants as a threat to national security, claiming — without evidence— that among them are criminals and “unknown Middle Easterners.”

Mr. Trump’s proclamation puts into effect regulatory changes announced Thursday afternoon that effectively overhaul deep-rooted asylum laws that sought to provide a safer life in America for people fleeing violence and persecution in their home countries. Officials said the changes would take effect early Saturday morning.

Most of the migrants in the caravan come from Honduras and other Central American nations, where they say they fear for their lives because of continuing violence.

Mr. Trump has been seething for months about the increase of immigrants crossing into the United States from Mexico and the caravan of several thousand migrants whose travels have drawn news media attention. The president ordered more than 5,000 active-duty troops to the border to prevent the migrants from crossing.

By early this week, that caravan still had about 4,000 or 5,000 people and had made it to Mexico City.

Government closely watching public opinion on asylum seekers, docs show

Duh!

The federal government has been closely monitoring public reaction to the influx of asylum seekers in Canada — regularly conducting national surveys and measuring discussions on social media.

Documents released to The Canadian Press under access-to-information law show department officials receive weekly internal updates on media coverage and public response to issues related to asylum seekers coming irregularly into the country across the Canada-U.S. border.

This monitoring includes internal polling conducted by the Immigration Department to track public opinion about asylum seekers.

Two mid-year surveys of 2,000 Canadians, conducted by the department in March, suggested Canadians were not overly confident about Canada’s ability to manage the border at unguarded points-of-entry and had little sense of obligation about accepting asylum seekers from the United States.

Fewer than half of respondents — 43 per cent in a telephone survey and 35 per cent in an online survey — agreed that Canada is taking appropriate steps to manage irregular border crossings.

Forty-two per cent of telephone respondents and just 18 per cent of those online indicated they felt the number of people coming to Canada and claiming asylum was at an appropriate level.

“Canadians are more receptive to refugees who have been selected by the government of Canada compared to those who come to Canada and claim asylum,” the internal document notes as one of its key takeaways from the public survey.

The documents also show the Immigration Department closely measures public comment about asylum seekers on social media. This includes a weekly average of how many times the issue is mentioned every day.

The government also measures the number of times media stories published about asylum seekers include “myths countering messaging.”

It also uses social media as a tool to disseminate information as part of its outreach efforts to discourage irregular migrants from coming to Canada.

A targeted advertising campaign using search engine marketing to reach key populations in the U.S. was launched on Dec. 18, 2017 and continued until March 17, 2018, which included “targeted messaging based on users’ search terms to users in select U.S. cities where larger temporary protected status populations are found,” the internal document states.

Canada first began experiencing an influx of “irregular” border crossers in early 2017, shortly after U.S. President Donald Trump announced he would end a program that offered temporary protected status to immigrants from several countries in the United States.

Over 36,000 asylum seekers have since arrived in Canada from the U.S., avoiding official border checkpoints where they would have been turned back to the U.S. under the Safe Third Country agreement between the two countries. Instead, they have been crossing the border along forest paths and fields, declaring their intent to seek refugee status once on Canadian soil.

The issue has sparked calls for Canada to suspend or amend the Safe Third Country Agreement as a way to stop the flow of irregular migrants.

Border Security Minister Bill Blair points to the fact that there was not a major surge in the number of irregular border crossers apprehended by RCMP this summer compared to last summer.

“Our senior officials are working hard, they are working hard and they are managing the situation quite ably,” Blair said Thursday.

However, year-over-year numbers show that overall, more people have crossed irregularly into Canada so far this year compared to the number of individuals who crossed from January to September of 2017.

Source: Government closely watching public opinion on asylum seekers, docs show

The six countries 300000 immigrants must return to with end of TPS program

Potential future waves of asylum seekers via irregular arrival border points (e.g., Roxham Road):

The Trump administration has been eliminating the Temporary Protected Status (TPS) program, which has allowed more than 300,000 people from countries hit by war and natural disasters to legally stay in the U.S. for decades.

To end TPS protections for 98 percent of those recipients, the Department of Homeland Security has claimed that conditions in those countries are now suitable for thousands of their residents to return home.

A federal judge this month ordered a temporary halt to the administration’s actions – a ruling the Justice Department is appealing – leaving TPS holders facing an uncertain future as they weigh their options.

Here’s a look at the current conditions in the six countries that have lost their TPS status, listed in order of their deadlines for immigrants to leave the U.S. All TPS populations are estimates from the Congressional Research Service.

Sudan

TPS ends: November 2, 2018

TPS first granted: 1997

Reason for TPS designation: Civil war

Estimated number of TPS recipients: 1,040

TPS was first granted to Sudan as the country was being torn apart by a decades-long civil war. When the country officially split in two in 2011, the U.S. granted TPS status to the newly-created South Sudan as well.

In the years since, deadly fighting has continued throughout South Sudan. Based on that ongoing conflict, the Trump administration announced in September that TPS status would be extended for that country.

But Sudan was cut off, with the administration arguing that armed factions are largely honoring cease-fire agreements that have been brokered in recent years. In its justification for ending TPS, the administration said armed conflict “is limited to” two southern provinces and the western province of Darfur, which rose to international prominence in the early 2000s when hundreds of thousands were killed and millions forced to flee as refugees.

The United Nations Security Council paints a more dire picture. A December report on the Darfur region found that food insecurity remains at crisis levels, human rights abuses continue, and the region is being flooded by people fleeing violence in South Sudan, with 89,000 refugees arriving in Darfur in 2017, further hindering the region’s recovery efforts.

Muna Ndulo, a law professor and director of the Institute for African Development at Cornell University, said the safety of returning Sudanese will depend on what specific corner of the country they’re from. If they go to the capital city of Khartoum or northern provinces, they should be fine.

“But if they’re from Darfur, they have nowhere to go,” Ndulo said. “The situation there is still very precarious. And my assumption would be that most of these (TPS holders) would be from that conflict area.”

Nicaragua

TPS ends: January 5, 2019

TPS first granted: 1999

Estimated number of TPS recipients: 2,550

Reason for TPS: Hurricane Mitch

The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights estimates that since April, at least 322 people have been killed in the violence, and hundreds more have been arrested. The White House even issued a round of sanctions in July against three Nicaraguan officials, accusing them of human rights abuses, and suspended the sale of any U.S. vehicles or equipment “that Ortega’s security forces might misuse.”

That nationwide dysfunction has sent the country’s economy, which was meager but had been one of the most stable in the region, into a free-fall. That combination makes Nicaragua a dangerous place for anybody to return to, according to Geoff Thale, vice president of the Washington Office on Latin America.

Thale recently spoke with a group of Nicaraguan priests who have been using churches and other buildings to hide protesters who have become targets of the regime. Thale said those are the very same priests who would help returning Nicaraguans safely reintragrate into society. But now, with the country beset by so much chaos: “They’re a little busy with other things.”

Nepal

TPS ends: June 24, 2019

TPS first granted: 2015

Estimated number of TPS recipients: 8,950

Reason for TPS: Earthquake

Sitting atop the Himalayas, Nepal was rocked in 2015 by a magnitude-7.8 earthquake that led to an avalanche on Mt. Everest and a major aftershock weeks later. The combination left nearly 9,000 dead and millions displaced.

The Nepalese government, with the help of more than $4 billion in international aid that has been pledged by donors, has taken many strides to rebuild the country, but conditions remain far from normal.

More than 270,000 homes have been rebuilt, but more than 800,000 are still listed as undergoing reconstruction from the quake, according to a May update from Nepal’s National Reconstruction Authority, a government task force created to oversee rebuilding.

The country has rebuilt more than 3,800 schools, about half of the agency’s target of 7,500. The country has only rebuilt 49% of its medical facilities, 21% of its security buildings, 18% of its drinking water systems, and 13% of its cultural heritage sites, which form the basis of much of the country’s tourism industry.

Prabha Deuja, president of the Virginia-based America Nepal Society, visited the region in January and said she saw construction efforts all around. But she said the country’s isolated location, and it’s limited government resources, has made it difficult to complete reconstruction and prepare Nepal for an influx of new residents.

“This is a third-world country. We have to get sand and supplies from different countries,” she said. If TPS holders had to return, “I can’t tell you what they will do. The job market, where they’re staying, it’s a really gray area.”

Haiti

TPS ends: July 22, 2019

TPS first granted: 2010

Estimated population: 46,000

Reason for TPS: Earthquake

Rioting in the Haitian capital of Port-au-Prince grew so intense in July that the U.S. sent in the Marines to secure U.S. interests there, according to CNN.

That unrest forced the nation’s prime minister to resign, just the latest step in a seemingly never-ending series of calamities plaguing the country.

First designated for TPS following the catastrophic earthquake in 2010 that killed more than 200,000, the country has since been hit by a cholera outbreak, an island-wide drought, and a direct hit by Hurricane Matthew in 2016 that created, in the words of the U.S. State Department, “a new humanitarian emergency.”

Frank Mora, director of the Kimberly Green Latin American and Caribbean Center at Florida International University, said all of those ensuing problems have exacerbated Haiti’s earthquake recovery and cannot be treated as separate, individual crises. “Haiti is still living with the consequences of the earthquake,” he said.

Throwing tens of thousands more Haitians back to the island right now, Mora said, will only strain the government’s limited resources and endanger the Haitians who will be returning to a country with problems at every turn. The majority live in South Florida and New York.

“They’ll have to face the constant political uncertainty, the energy crisis, the food distribution challenges that still exist,” Mora said. “If there’s any country in the Western Hemisphere where these people will be going into a near humanitarian disaster, it would be to Haiti.”

El Salvador

TPS ends: Sept. 9, 2019

TPS first granted: 1991

Estimated number of TPS recipients: 195,000

Reason for TPS: Earthquake

Using any metric, El Salvador is considered one of the most dangerous, deadly countries on the planet.

In 2016, the Central American nation was deemed the murder capital of the world with a homicide rate of 104 people per 100,000, the highest for any country in nearly 20 years, according to data from the World Bank. The homicide rate reportedly fell in 2017, but crime remains so rampant that only 12% of Salvadorans believed that drop, according to InSight Crime.

In July, the U.S. State Department issued a Level 3 Travel Warning (on a scale of 1 – 4) urging Americans to reconsider traveling to El Salvador. “Violent crime, such as murder, assault, rape, and armed robbery, is common,” the advisory read.

Yet that is where the Trump administration has decided to send the largest group of TPS recipients, nearly 200,000 of them.

Mora said the situation only becomes worse as the U.S. continues deporting gang members from the U.S. back to El Salvador, bolstering the ranks of the gangs and drug cartels that control so many aspects of day-to-day life.

“That situation is difficult for people who live in El Salvador, who’ve been living that situation day in and day out,” Mora said. “So you take someone who has lived in Miami or New York, and you’re going to throw them into that situation. No one has the tools to prepare themselves for that.”

Honduras

TPS ends: Jan. 5, 2020

TPS first granted: 1999

Estimated number of TPS recipients: 57,000

Reason for TPS: Hurricane Mitch

The homicide rate in Honduras dropped significantly in 2017, down to 42.8 per 100,000 inhabitants, the country’s lowest in a decade. But the country remains one of the most dangerous and politically unstable in the hemisphere.

The re-election of President Juan Orlando Hernandez to a second term in November led to violent protests that were met by intense government crackdowns.

Thale says the country remains in the grip of drug cartels who use kidnappings as a standard way to generate income. He said that makes any returning Honduran a “walking invitation for extortion.”

He said gangs will undoubtedly know who is returning to their neighborhoods, and will target people who are returning with cash after selling off their homes, cars, businesses and other goods before leaving the U.S. So how, Thale wondered, could anyone think that Honduras is in a position to successfully, and peacefully, welcome an influx of 57,000 people.

“No sane person thinks they can,” he said.

Source: The six countries 300000 immigrants must return to with end of TPS program

Immigration department changed ‘illegal’ to ‘irregular’ on webpage about asylum seekers as debate flared

Suspect someone finally noticed the inconsistency in language between the website and ministerial remarks:

The immigration department changed a web page about asylum seekers to swap the word “illegal” for “irregular” as a debate was erupting between the federal government and Ontario on the issue, CBC News has learned.

The change in July came 18 months after the web page, titled “Claiming asylum in Canada – what happens?,” was first published — and just one day after federal Immigration Minister Ahmed Hussen suggested the provincial Progressive Conservatives were mistaken in the way they were describing the status of people entering Canada at non-official entry points.

Throughout the web page, which is intended to provide information on Canada’s asylum laws, the words “illegal” and “illegally” were switched to “irregular” or “irregularly” in six separate instances on July 10, 2018.

A Wayback Machine snapshot shows that “illegal” was the word of choice on the immigration web page before it was changed 18 months later. (CBC News/Olivia Chandler)

On July 9, Hussen attacked Ontario’s newly-elected premier, Doug Ford, and provincial Social Services Minister Lisa MacLeod, who oversees the immigration file, over their use of the term “illegal border-crossers” when describing asylum seekers crossing at non-official border points.

As Hussen was telling a news conference Ford and MacLeod were wrong to call those border crossings ‘illegal’, his own department was still using that word to describe such crossings on the asylum web page. The next day, the wording was changed to “irregular.”

The change was not ordered by Hussen, said Mathieu Genest, the minister’s spokesperson.

Cached web page reveals change

The Wayback Machine website, an open online library that archives published internet pages, retains a snapshot of the immigration web page as it appeared on July 4, 2018 — when it was still using the word “illegal.” The backgrounder was published originally on March 2, 2017.

The web page lays out the process for seeking asylum or claiming refugee status after crossing the U.S.-Canada border at a designated port of entry, or after arrival at an unofficial crossing point.

Language used on the immigration department web page – “Claiming asylum in Canada – what happens?” – was modified on June 11, 2018. (CBC News/Olivia Chandler)

“The Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) and the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) play an instrumental role in protecting Canada’s border, deterring and intercepting irregular entry to Canada and keeping Canadians safe. CBSA, the RCMP and its domestic and international partners work together to intercept individuals who enter Canada irregularly,” the website now reads.

“Given significant confusion around the terminology, the department made incremental updates to all pages to minimize mischaracterization of asylum seekers as being in Canada illegally,” said Nancy Caron, spokesperson for Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada, in an email to CBC News.

“‎Until their claim is decided, or if they are found to be a refugee, a person will not be charged with an offence based on how they entered Canada.”

However, the change does not appear to be consistent across the department’s website. Another web page that provides monthly updates on the numbers on asylum claims and interceptions still refers to “illegal entry to Canada” and to the CBSA and RCMP’s efforts to “intercept individuals who enter Canada illegally.”

Conservative immigration critic Michelle Rempel dismissed the changes and said she’s more troubled that the government has not tabled a concrete plan to deal with the problem.

“They need to be focusing on solving this problem that’s being created by tens of thousands of people illegally crossing on the border into Canada after having reached the United States, and the strains that it’s placing on Canada’s social program and, frankly, the backlog it’s creating,” she said.

NDP immigration critic Jenny Kwan — who has pushed all levels of government to stop using the word ‘illegal’ in the context of asylum-seekers — welcome the department’s changes, but noted the government’s decision to do it under the radar.

“I think it’s very significant for that change to have been made, and for it to be acknowledged publicly really through their website. I guess I should say ‘quietly’ through their website, because the government loathed to admit that they are wrong,” she said.

“When we call asylum seekers ‘illegals’ we are denigrating them as people.”

Charged debate

The language surrounding the emotionally-charged political debate over border-crossers has been a source of friction and confusion.

(The CBC’s Language Guide allows for the use of both terms to describe border-crossings outside of official border points, depending on the context. See more below.)

Last March, Hussen was asked by Conservative MP David Tilson at a committee hearing which word he prefers to use to describe the act of crossing the border to claim asylum at an irregular crossing point.

“I have used the word ‘illegal’ and I have used the word ‘irregular,’ and I think both are accurate,” Hussen replied.

Weeks later, the immigration minister had changed his tune.

On July 13, Hussen called MacLeod’s approach to the issue of asylum seekers “not Canadian.”

Federal Immigration Minister Ahmed Hussen and his provincial counterpart from Ontario, Lisa MacLeod fall out over irregular migration at minister’s meeting in Winnipeg. 1:23

“Asylum seekers are processed in a separate queue at the IRB and all the other regular immigration programs are processed by IRCC, and conflating the two knowingly is irresponsible, it’s divisive, it’s fearmongering and it’s not Canadian. And it’s very dangerous,” he said.

MacLeod fired back.

“The minister should sit down, have a nice cup of tea, calm down a little bit, and maybe phone me and apologize for calling me un-Canadian,” she said.

“There is a problem at the border. The border must be enforced.”

Caron said that the department chose to standardize its terminology on the website “to underscore that it is not illegal for someone to enter Canada for the purpose of making an asylum claim at any point along the Canada-U.S. border.”

In late July, MPs held special “emergency” committee hearings that led to heated debates between the Liberals and opposition parties over the government’s handling of border-crossers.

Kwan has made repeated requests for all parties to stop calling asylum seekers “illegal” because it generates negative public opinion.

“The immigration refugee protection act clearly states when a person crosses over to the border directly or indirectly for the purposes of seeking asylum, they are not committing a criminal offence,” she said.

According to the RCMP, authorities intercepted 14,125 border crossers at the border between Jan. 1 and Aug. 31, 2018.

CBC uses the terms “illegal crossing” or “illegal migration” when referring to the act, but does not describe the individual making the crossing as an “illegal migrant” or “illegal border crosser.”

Crossing into Canada outside a formal border point is against the law under the Customs Act.The UN Convention on Refugees acknowledges throughout its statutes that some refugees cross borders illegally and states that they should not be prosecuted for it if they are legitimately seeking asylum.


The CBC Language Guide on border crossings:

Illegal border crossing, irregular border crossing

It’s against the law to enter Canada without the proper papers, and without going through an official port of entry during designated operating hours, according to the federal Customs Act. Asylum seekers are not prosecuted for such illegal crossings, pending a review of their refugee applications, according to the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act. But this does not make the crossing, itself, lawful. The government reserves the right to pursue charges later. Applicable international law uses similar language. For example, the UN Status of Refugees Convention and Protocol specifically refers to such unauthorized border crossings as “illegal entry.” The convention goes on to state that countries “shall not impose penalties” on refugee claimants solely because of “their illegal entry” as long as they “present themselves without delay to the authorities and show good cause for their illegal entry or presence.” For this reason, it’s OK to use terms such as “illegal border crossings” and “unlawful border crossings”.

Some politicians and refugee activists prefer the term “irregular border crossings”. While the word “irregular” is becoming more common, choosing between “illegal” and “irregular” is now also seen by some as a partisan decision. CBC News strives to avoid taking sides in political debates over language. We believe the modifier “illegal” is generally preferable because it is accurate and entrenched, and so, instantly helps our audience understand the story. “Irregular” is less familiar and more bureaucratic, but there’s no ban against using the word as long as a given story’s context makes its meaning clear. Just be sure to explain or define “irregular border crossing” if you use the term (e.g., “refugee claimants entering Canada without going through official border points”). It’s worth noting that “irregular” is a statutory designation found in Section 20.1 of Canada’s 2001 Immigration and Refugee Protection Act. The once-obscure jargon started becoming more widely used by federal officials in 2017.

Illegal migration

Be aware that while the modifier illegal is an entrenched and acceptable way to describe the general act of unlawful movement across borders (e.g., illegal immigration and illegal migration), it’s viewed by many as a poor way to describe people themselves. Instead of using a term such as “illegal immigrant,” therefore, prefer specific detail (e.g., “entering or living in a country illegally”). Another option is to use a neutral modifier that applies to a given set of facts (e.g., undocumented worker). The same principle applies to asylum seekers and refugee claimants. While it’s OK to describe an act as technically unlawful (e.g., an illegal border crossing), we should not call people “illegal border crossers.” Avoid shorthand such as “an illegal” or rounding up “the illegals,” which reduces the identities of human beings to a criminal act they’re accused of

Source: Immigration department changed ‘illegal’ to ‘irregular’ on webpage about asylum seekers as debate flared

Globe editorial: Ottawa is missing the point when it comes to the border issue

Kind of revealing that after two full-page editorials, all the Globe can come up with is the need for more funding for the refugee determination process and no legal analysis of its legitimate question regarding possible streamlining of the refugee determination process for irregular arrivals and limiting appeals for those refused.

Thin gruel, highlighting the difficulties in finding solutions that address legitimate public concerns regarding numbers and perceive abuse in a manner that will withstand legal challenge.:

….That won’t be easy, since every person who makes a refugee claim in Canada is legally entitled to an oral hearing. As well, courts in Canada have repeatedly protected the rights of refugee claimants, including those coming from countries deemed to be safe.

But there must be a way to find a compromise between respecting those rights while giving the government the ability to limit abuses of the refugee system and to show determination in controlling our borders. For instance, could Ottawa pass legislation that gives it the discretion to deny appeals to people whose refugee claims are refused, and who didn’t come into the country at a legal port of entry?

At the very least, the government needs to signal that it is looking at long-term solutions. What Mr. Trudeau fails to understand, and politicians in Germany have come to rue, is that dismissing concerns about border security is unwise. The Prime Minister needs to demonstrate that he is willing to act decisively and take away the incentives that have led to this moment.

Source: Globe editorial: Ottawa is missing the point when it comes to the border issue

Federal stats show slight increase in irregular migrant claims in August

Numbers may be stabilizing but will need to see full year numbers to assess. But government must be relieved with significant drop in numbers from summer 2017:

The number of irregular border crossers seeking asylum in Canada increased slightly in August, but were far below the record spikes seen last summer.

Statistics published Tuesday by the federal government shows the Mounties apprehended 1,747 irregular migrants between official border crossings in August, a jump of 113 from July, marking the second consecutive month of increases following a downward trend that began in May.

Overall, this summer saw less than half of the just over 8,800 irregular migrants who crossed into Canada during July and August last year.

Conservative immigration critic Michelle Rempel suggested the issue of irregular migrants has not gotten better, noting that the total number of asylum seekers so far for this year — 14,125, federal data shows — is higher than during the same period in 2017 when 13,221 irregular migrants were counted.

“The problem is getting worse,” Rempel said.

Rempel has repeatedly called on the Liberals to close a loophole in the Safe Third Country agreement between Canada and the United States, which has been cited as a major factor in the ongoing stream of asylum seekers crossing the Canada-U.S. border through non-official entry points.

The agreement prevents asylum seekers from asking for refugee protection when they present themselves at an official port-of-entry, which is why thousands have crossed the border on foot so they can get into the country and claim what they would likely be denied at an official entry point.

Border Security Minister Bill Blair said he has asked to meet with U.S. Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen to discuss ways to modernize the agreement and continued to defend the government’s handling of the border during the daily question period.

The issue of irregular border crossers has been an ongoing topic of heated debate and one that has become divisive among federal and provincial parties.

The federal and Ontario Tories have labelled the situation at the border a “crisis” and called irregular border crossers “illegal” — two terms the federal Liberals reject. The Trudeau Liberals insist the border is being managed in an orderly way and that Canada is accommodating asylum seekers as required under human rights obligations.

Ontario has also demanded millions in federal funding to cover unanticipated costs from the influx of refugee claimants and is refusing to co-operate in Ottawa’s plan to identify individuals or families willing to relocate to areas outside Toronto while awaiting the outcome of their refugee claims.

The government said a pilot project for this triage program started last week in the southwestern Ontario municipality of Chatham-Kent that will see five families relocated to the town just east of the border with Michigan, instead of Toronto. Blair’s office said the families chosen for the pilot were willing to go to Chatham-Kent, where temporary housing may be easier to find.

Speaking to reporters, Blair said the number of asylum seekers involved in this project is small, but it will allow the community the opportunity to see how families settle there and give the federal government a chance to learn from any successes — or failures.

Blair said he would have “very much preferred” to work with Ontario’s government on the triage program, rather than with individual municipalities, but he is hopeful about resolving the tension between the two governments.

Source: Federal stats show slight increase in irregular migrant claims in August

Asylum-seeker surge at Quebec border choking Canada’s refugee system, data show

Good in-depth analysis of the numbers:

The wait time for a refugee claim hearing in Canada increased more than a third over the past two years, to 19 months, as more than 30,000 asylum seekers arriving via unauthorized border crossings placed significant pressure on the system.

Overwhelmed by the number of migrants, the Immigration and Refugee Board (IRB) has only managed to finalize 15 per cent of the 27,674 asylum claims made by people who illegally entered Quebec – where the majority of the crossings took place, mostly at a single location near St. Bernard-de-Lacolle – between February, 2017, and this June.

The resulting backlog has created a growing queue for any and all asylum seekers. Under the Supreme Court’s landmark 1985 Singh decision, all refugee claimants on Canadian soil are entitled to an oral hearing.

Asylum seekers who cross illegally at the U.S.-Canadian border eventually face the same questions as all other refugee claimants: Are they genuine refugees, fearing persecution in their home countries? Data from the IRB show that less than half of the claimants in finalized cases – 1,885 – have been accepted as legitimate refugees in Quebec, significantly lower than the proportion for all refugee cases in Canada.

Canada has only deported a small number of the nearly 30,000 asylum seekers who
illegally entered Quebec through unauthorized border crossings since last year, accord-
ing to statistics from the Canada Border Services Agency.

The majority of border crossers have entered Canada through Quebec, mostly at an
unauthorized port of entry in St. Bernard-de-Lacolle. While a breakdown of adjudicated
cases was not available for Quebec, national statistics paint a picture of a refugee deter-
mination system that has been slow to finalize asylum claims.

But a separate data set from the Canada Border Services Agency shows that only a handful of those who have been denied refugee status have been deported. The CBSA said it had removed just 157 people who entered Quebec through unofficial border crossings since April, 2017 – about one in every 200. It said another 582 are being processed for deportation.

Canada-wide, the CBSA said it has deported 398 of the 32,173 people who crossed into Canada illegally since April, 2017. Of those, 146 were sent back to the U.S., while the rest were deported to 53 other countries, including Haiti (53), Colombia (24), Turkey (19) and Iraq (15).

Refugee lawyer Lorne Waldman said the relatively low number of deportations is simply an indicator of the system.

“It doesn’t surprise me because it takes a while for cases to make their way through the system. So people who came a year ago, if the system works efficiently, they should be at the end of the system and subject to removal if their claims are rejected,” he said.

But the situation at the border has put pressure on Canada’s already-strained refugee determination system. The projected wait time for a refugee claim hearing is currently 19 months, up from 16 in September, 2017, and 14 in September, 2016 – just before the influx of asylum seekers.

Tens of thousands have flooded the Canada-U.S. border since last year. Initially, many of the border crossers were Haitians who had been living in the U.S. under a temporary protected status (TPS) they had been given after the massive 2010 earthquake in Haiti. When the Trump administration announced its intention to end the TPS for Haitians, word spread among the community there that they could apply for refugee status in Canada if they headed north and found a way into the country.

But it wasn’t as simple as showing up at the border and claiming asylum. The Safe Third Country Agreement between Canada and the U.S. requires both countries to refuse entry to asylum seekers who arrive at official border crossings, as both countries are considered safe for refugees. However, since the agreement applies only to people who arrive at official points of entry, asylum seekers can avoid being turned away by entering between official border crossings – a loophole thousands have taken advantage of.

This year brought a new wave of asylum seekers in St. Bernard-de-Lacolle: Nigerians travelling on valid U.S. visas. It’s not exactly clear why Nigerians choose to travel on U.S. visas instead of Canadian ones, but Mr. Waldman said the U.S. visa system is seen as more generous than Canada’s. Many of the Nigerian asylum seekers obtain visitor visas and use them to fly into the U.S. They then head north to the Quebec border, cross into Canada and apply for asylum.

Earlier this year, Immigration Minister Ahmed Hussen and senior government officials travelled to Nigeria to raise their visa concerns directly with U.S. officials there. Mr. Hussen said the Nigerian government also pledged to discourage its citizens from claiming asylum in Canada after crossing between official points of entry along the U.S. border.

The IRB has finalized just 4,181 asylum claims made by border crossers in Quebec between February, 2017, and June of this year (more current data were unavailable), of which only 45 per cent – 1,885 – were accepted. Another 1,614 claims were rejected, and 682 were abandoned or withdrawn.

That number of accepted claims is significantly lower than the Canada-wide acceptance rate for all refugee claims. As of June, the IRB had approved 7,831 of 13,687 – 57 per cent – of all processed asylum cases made since Dec. 15, 2012, including claims made by asylum seekers who crossed illegally into Canada. Another 55,567 claims were still pending. A small number of refugee claims made before 2012, when the refugee determination system underwent significant changes, are documented separately.

As a part of the 2018 federal budget, the government invested $72-million in the IRB, which will be used to hire 64 new decision-makers in an effort to improve processing times.

Montreal refugee lawyer Mitchell Goldberg said he is optimistic processing times will start to decrease as the government dedicates more resources to the matter.

The deportation process can take even longer, especially if an asylum seeker chooses to exhaust all their appeal options – a source of concern for the Conservative opposition.

“It’s completely unreasonable for our asylum system to be backlogged for years and then for us to not have a functioning system to remove people who don’t have a legal reason to be in Canada,” said Conservative immigration critic Michelle Rempel.

However, NDP immigration critic Jenny Kwan said the former Conservative government, in which Ms. Rempel served as a cabinet minister, is also to blame for the delays at the IRB.

“There’s been pressure on the system for many, many years, from the Conservatives to the Liberals. Successive governments have not resourced the IRB accordingly so that they can get the job done,” Ms. Kwan said.

Asylum seekers waiting for their cases to be heard have had to find accommodation, with thousands heading to Toronto, where the city has paid to house them in hotel rooms, dormitories and shelters for the homeless. Ottawa has pledged $50-million to defray the costs incurred by the provinces, with Quebec receiving $36-million, Ontario $11-million and Manitoba $3-million. But Toronto and Ontario have been pressing the federal government to pay much more, with the provincial Progressive Conservative government demanding a reimbursement of $200-million.

Mr. Waldman also said the government must do more to address the IRB delays, as the long wait times serve as a “magnet” for illegitimate asylum claimants who know they can potentially spend years in Canada while their cases linger in the system.

Source: Asylum-seeker surge at Quebec border choking Canada’s refugee system, data show

Canadian border agency has deported 398 ‘illegal migrants’ out of 32,000

The latest numbers:

Nearly 400 people who crossed the U.S. border illegally for asylum in Canada have been deported since authorities began tracking irregular migration in April of last year.

That number is a small fraction of the 32,173 so-called “irregular migrants” who came through unguarded land borders from the United States during the period ending in late August. Most are still waiting for their asylum claims to be heard.

Of the 398 failed refugee claimants Canada has deported, 146 were sent back to the U.S., where 116 of them have citizenship, according to data provided to the Star by the Canada Border Services Agency. The rest were deported to 53 countries, with most sent to Haiti (53), Colombia (24), Turkey (19) or Iraq (15).

The deportees, 48 of whom were under the age of 17, included 238 males and 160 females, said the border enforcement agency.

“What happens is people come to the U.S., establish themselves and have children while they try to regularize their immigration status,” said Ottawa immigration lawyer Betsy Kane.

“The number of deportees captures these American-born children who accompanied their parents to Canada for asylum.”

The Canadian border agency said the decision on where an individual is deported depends on from where they came into Canada, their last permanent residence, their citizenship and country of birth. All deportees have seen their asylum claims rejected by the refugee board and exhausted all legal avenues of appeal and due process.

All 32,173 irregular migrants have been declared inadmissable simply for crossing the Canadian border illegally, including six who failed the criminal checks, said border agency spokesperson Nicholas Dorion.

Queen’s University immigration law professor Sharry Aiken said she was not surprised by the low number of deportations as the majority of asylum claims by border-crossers are still to be determined by the refugee board. That board has long been underfunded and only recently got the money from Ottawa to hire additional decision-makers.

Of the 12,190 overall claims processed in the first six months of this year, 64 per cent were granted asylum.

“When removal orders become effective and are not enforced, it undermines the integrity of the system and the confidence in the system,” said Aiken. “But due process does take time with other legal remedies when a claim is refused. We shouldn’t say something must have gone awry because only 400 people have been removed.”

The latest refugee board statistics show it still had 55,567 new claims in the backlog by the end of June after 13,687 had been processed and finalized — 7,831 claims being accepted, 4,359 rejected, and the rest either abandoned or withdrawn. The backlog includes claimants from other countries who didn’t come through unguarded land borders via the U.S.

Source: Canadian border agency has deported 398 ‘illegal migrants’ out of 32,000

HYDER: No crisis with newcomers arriving in Canada

Good commentary by Goldy Hyder of Hill+Knowlton Strategies and board member of the Century Initiative.

Perhaps more important is that this appeared in the Toronto Sun to provide a different perspective than their usual contributors (just as the Star and Globe could benefit from a broader range of views):

Over 25 years ago, I wrote my master’s thesis on how the crisis label applied to public policy is both an opportunity for governments and a problem for its citizens.

The example I used to make the point was the “refugee crisis” generated by the dramatic boat arrival of 174 Sikhs off the coast of Nova Scotia in August 1986. This was preceded in equally dramatic fashion by 155 Tamils also arriving on a boat a year earlier.

In the first case, the government of the day responded with openness, generosity and willingness to embrace those who claimed to be fleeing persecution.

The public response was less generous, particularly upon learning that the boat and its occupants were in fact arriving not from India (hardly a refugee producing country) but in fact a safe country (Germany) that could have and should have applied its own refugee laws to determine legitimacy of the claims.

An RCMP officer standing in Saint-Bernard-de-Lacolle, Que., advises migrants that they are about to illegally cross from Champlain, N.Y., and will be arrested, Monday, Aug. 7, 2017.

When fate afforded the government a do-over upon the next boat arrival, the response by the same government — clearly feeling both duped by the circuitous manner in which the first boat arrived, and with the full knowledge of public sentiments on such arrivals — was to label the issue as a “refugee crisis.”

This dominated headlines, debate in Parliament and the public’s attention. It allowed a government under pressure on other issues to leverage the advantages that a “crisis” label affords any government: Namely the public’s demand and expectation that the government will — as a matter of priority — focus on and put an end to the “crisis.”

In 2018, history is repeating itself.

It was no more a crisis in the aforementioned incidents than there is one today from a purely statistical perspective. But that didn’t matter then and it doesn’t matter now.

There are many reasons we stand to be worse off if the debate heads in the direction it currently is driven by emotion, stoked by political agendas on both sides.

Canadians, I believe, are smarter than that. But, they must be heard.

We know our history. Unless Indigenous, we are all immigrants. What we cherish as a value is fairness and rule of law. We do not like our generosity and compassion to be abused.

While much attention goes to how the so called “alt-right” or those labelled racists, the fact is that masks what is taking place much more broadly in society albeit less overtly.

In the modern era, these debates cannot be suppressed, nor do they function uncomfortably underground. Rather, they play out in the open and that, frankly, is an opportunity.

Migration in all its forms has long been used as an issue to debate because it is deeply personal and goes to who we are as a people and as a nation. We need to be reminded from time to time about the role immigrants, refugees and migrants (not all the same thing) have played in making Canada what it is today.

We know study after study has proven time and again that immigrants put more into the system than they take out of it. Yet, people here in Canada, and in many other countries, are reaching a point of saying either “no more” or “not so many.” Whether there is a crisis or not (there isn’t), this is an opportunity to hear the voices of Canadians, left and right and those in between to understand what is driving their emotions.

If there is one thing I have learned about we Canadians, it is this: Given the right information, provided an opportunity to speak and be heard, there is a collective wisdom in the Canadian public consciousness that usually gets the answer right in the end.

Source: HYDER: No crisis with newcomers arriving in Canada

Former Toronto police chief Bill Blair takes charge of Canada’s borders

Reasonable political and operational management approach to address the influx. Having a more dedicated junior minister, with law enforcement experience, won’t change the fundamentals of the impact of US policies but may help both internal government discussions and public debates:

Former Toronto police chief Bill Blair has been given the task of managing the migrant crisis at the border as part of his new cabinet appointment – a move that will require him to work directly with Ontario Premier and long-time adversary Doug Ford.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau chose Mr. Blair, an experienced senior public servant, to lead the new ministry of Border Security and Organized Crime Reduction as a part of a federal cabinet shuffle Wednesday. Mr. Blair will oversee the surge in asylum seekers at the Canada-U.S. border, gun violence and the cannabis file. Mr. Trudeau said he trusts Mr. Blair to counter the “politics of fear” that he says the Conservatives have been using, especially when it comes to asylum seekers.

“I am reminded of the very first conversation I had with Bill Blair years ago when I was asking him to think about running for the Liberal Party,” Mr. Trudeau told reporters in Ottawa on Wednesday.

“One of the things he said stuck with me and certainly echoes in my mind today as we give him these new responsibilities − he said the No. 1 enemy of public security is fear.”

Mr. Blair’s new role puts him on a potential collision course with Mr. Ford, with whom he has a fraught history. Mr. Blair infuriated Mr. Ford in 2013 when the then-Toronto police chief said he was disappointed by a video of Mr. Ford’s brother and then-Toronto mayor Rob Ford smoking crack cocaine. Doug Ford, a city councillor at the time, unleashed on Mr. Blair and called on him to step down as police chief.

Nearly five years later, now in new political jobs, the pair will face off once again. As a part of his irregular migration portfolio, Mr. Blair will have to navigate a tense relationship between the Trudeau and Ford governments over the resettlement of asylum seekers who cross the border illegally. Earlier this month, Mr. Ford withdrew the province’s support for the resettlement, saying that the federal government created the problem and should pick up the tab to fix it.

Speaking to reporters in Ottawa on Wednesday, Mr. Blair said he looks forward to working with all three levels of government, which “have a responsibility for the safety of their communities and to uphold the rule of law.”

In a statement, Mr. Ford’s office maintained the the federal Liberals are to blame for the influx in border-crossers.

“Premier Ford is hopeful that Minister Blair will be interested in standing up for respect of the law, and encourages his Liberal colleagues to take responsibility for the mess they’ve created,” spokeswoman Laryssa Waler-Hetmanczuk said.

The Prime Minister’s Office said Mr. Blair will head up the government’s work on the migrant issue, while working closely with Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale, who is responsible for the border agency, and Immigration Minister Ahmed Hussen, who will still oversee the refugee determination process.

Conservative immigration critic Michelle Rempel said the appointment of a new cabinet minister to the migrant file is yet another sign that the Liberal government is “normalizing” the situation at the border. More than 31,000 asylum seekers have entered Canada between authorized points of entry since January, 2017. She invited Mr. Blair to testify to the House of Commons immigration committee this summer when it holds a series of emergency meetings on asylum seekers.

Refugee advocates expressed concern about the government’s decision to put the migrant issue under the ministerial umbrella of border security and organized-crime reduction.

“Now they are going to have an enforcement approach, to be stronger at the border,” said Francisco Rico-Martinez, co-director of the FCJ Refugee Centre in Toronto.

“Don’t forget that people in the middle are human beings, refugee claimants … . Don’t blame them.”

via Former Toronto police chief Bill Blair takes charge of Canada’s borders – The Globe and Mail