Critics question why Canada’s border officers need bulletproof vests to work with migrants

I would have more confidence in CBSA’s policy rationale and justification had they not earlier made officers within Canadian airports wear bullet proof vests within the arrivals area security envelope (i.e. people who have already passed departure security and flown to Canada):

Canada’s border-security agency will soon require all border-security officers working with detained migrants to wear defensive gear that includes batons, pepper spray and bulletproof vests — a policy that is drawing concern over a perceived “criminalization” of asylum seekers.

A new national policy on uniforms was adopted internally last year after the Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) began moving what it deems “higher-risk immigration detainees” from provincial jails, where they were being held for security purposes, into one of the agency’s three “immigration holding centres.”

The agency decided all officers working in these centres must be outfitted in protective and defensive equipment to ensure a “common operational approach” in light of the fact that these migrants previously were held in jails, according to a briefing note obtained by The Canadian Press through access-to-information law.

“This will require greater CBSA officer presence in managing detainee populations at the IHCs, including the ability to de-escalate and intervene physically if necessary,” the briefing note says.

“Ensuring that IEOs [inland enforcement officers] wear their defensive equipment will enable officers to protect/defend themselves and others if necessary in the IHC.”

The defensive gear they are to wear includes steel-toed boots, “soft body armour,” a defensive baton, pepper spray and handcuffs. They will not carry firearms.

The changes have sparked concern this will create an environment within immigration detention centres akin to jail conditions and encourage the perception that detained migrants in Canada, including some children, are criminals worthy of punishment.

Same tools as maximum-security facilities

A group of doctors, lawyers, legal scholars and human rights organizations wrote two letters last year to Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale urging him to cancel the policy — calls they say have been ignored.

“We applaud your efforts to reduce the number of immigration detainees held in provincial jails. But raising security measures in an administrative detention centre to mirror those of a criminal institution defeats the purpose of transferring immigration detainees from jails to IHCs,” says one letter, dated June 22, 2018.

“The proposed policy would arm CBSA officers with some of the same tools as correctional officers in maximum-security facilities … [which] is clearly disproportionate to any potential risk and is not warranted.”

Concerns have also been raised internally by the union that represents the security officers themselves, who are worried about the increased risks of having weapons in the mix if a high-risk situation or confrontation does arise.

Anthony Navaneelan, a lawyer with Legal Aid Ontario who also works with the Canadian Association of Refugee Lawyers, said it’s not every day the border-security union and migrant-advocacy groups agree.

Wearing defensive gear when dealing with refugees is “inappropriate and unnecessary,” Navaneelan said.

He pointed to a 2012 report by the UN special rapporteur on the human rights of migrants, François Crépeau, that said detention of migrants on the grounds of their irregular status should “under no circumstance be of a punitive nature” and should never involve prison-like conditions or environments.

“The idea of getting them out of jails is to recognize the fact that it can re-traumatize refugee claimants to be putting them in detention to begin with when they’ve committed no crime,” Navaneelan said.

“Also in terms of necessity, CBSA hasn’t identified for us any incidents that have happened at the immigration holding centres that would warrant these types of measures. Certainly I’d, at best, call this a proactive measure in anticipation of some future concern … but we certainly think escalating or creating an environment where officers are equipped with these types of measures is almost a solution in search of a problem.”

‘Balance’ between safety of officers and detainees

In a statement, CBSA spokeswoman Rebecca Purdy said the agency’s operating procedures say officers “must” wear the protective and defensive equipment issued to them while on duty.

The decision to equip officers working in migrant detention centres with uniforms and defensive gear was made “to ensure national alignment of CBSA standards for its operations and is consistent with practices implemented domestically and internationally as it relates to detention,” Purdy said.

As for the concerns raised by the lawyers, doctors, human-rights groups and the officers’ union, CBSA “ensured that there is a balance reflected between the safety and security of officers and other detainees,” Purdy added.

Asylum seekers in Canada can be detained for a number of reasons, including if CBSA officers have reason to believe they would be deemed inadmissible on grounds of security, criminality or records of violating human or international rights themselves.

A migrant also can be detained simply if a CBSA officer believes the person might be a no-show for his or her refugee-determination hearing. The vast majority of migrants detained by Canada are held for this reason, according to government statistics posted online. Last year, 81 per cent of detained migrants were held because they were deemed unlikely to appear for their hearings, including 40 children, most of whom were travelling with adults.

Janet Dench, executive director of the Canadian Council for Refugees, said her organization was assured that migrants detained for administrative reasons such as this would be separated from those suspected of criminality when held in Canadian detention centres.

She questioned why CBSA officers will be required to wear defensive gear in all areas of these centres, rather than only in wings where migrants suspected of being security or criminal threats are being held.

She also echoed concerns that wearing this gear is akin to treating refugees like criminals

“The CBSA should very much reduce the criminalization of those people who are detained,” Dench said.

Source: Critics question why Canada’s border officers need bulletproof vests to work with migrants

MPs prepare to head south to dissuade asylum seekers in U.S. from heading north once protected status expires

Part of the toolkit integrated into a social media strategy:

Members of Parliament are planning trips to the U.S. in the coming weeks to try to stem a potential new flow of asylum seekers to Canada.

Haitians who have been living in the U.S. under temporary protected status since the 2010 earthquake are facing potential deportation as of Nov. 22 unless the U.S. Department of Homeland Security renews their status, which it is not expected to do.

“We don’t know what the U.S. will do to remove those people so we are doing messaging and using social media,” said Emmanuel Dubourg, Liberal member of Parliament for the Bourassa riding in Quebec.

Dubourg said he and two other MPs will be going to the U.S. in the next two weeks to try to dissuade asylum seekers from Haiti, Africa, Central America and elsewhere from trying their luck in Canada in the same way that thousands of others have in the past year: by walking across the U.S.-Canada border at unofficial crossing points and applying for asylum once they get to Canada.

The RCMP has intercepted more than 15,000 asylum seekers crossing illegally between official ports of entry since January, the bulk of them in Quebec during the months of July through September.

Haitian-born Liberal MP Emmanuel Dubourg will be travelling to New York next week to meet with the Haitian immigrants who are likely to lose their temporary protected status later this month and whom he fears could try to cross into Canada illegally. (Fred Chartrand/Canadian Press)

“The main reason is to tell them we have a robust immigration law and that they should use the right channels to come to Canada instead of crossing in between the borders,” Dubourg said of his planned trip.

Canadian diplomats from a dozen consulates are also reaching out to non-governmental organizations, politicians and community groups, with a special focus on New York, Florida and California.

The government has recently issued blunt warnings that crossing into Canada illegally is not a free ticket to a new life. The Canada Border Services Agency has posted signs near irregular entry points to warn migrants against making an illegal crossing.

Canadian officials are also using social media to counter fake information that could be encouraging migrants to enter Canada. This was a significant factor in the surge of Haitians attempting crossings this summer so the government has started publishing videos online in Creole to push back against misinformation.

A Creole language pamphlet for Haitians in the U.S. spelling out legal ways to apply for asylum in Canada and advising against crossing illegally. Dubourg brought it with him when he visited the U.S. in the summer to meet with the Haitian community. (Emmanuel Dubourg)

Dubourg’s efforts will focus on the Haitian community in New York City, he said.

via MPs prepare to head south to dissuade asylum seekers in U.S. from heading north once protected status expires – Politics – CBC News

Number of people seeking asylum in Canada at levels not seen since 2009

Latest data:

The number of people seeking asylum in Canada is now the highest it’s been since 2009, driven in part by a surge in asylum seekers showing up at the Canada-U.S. border.

New statistics released Tuesday by Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada show that as of August, 27,440 claims for asylum have been filed in Canada, a peak since record highs of between 36,000 and 33,000 in 2008 and 2009.

And the numbers are expected to continue to rise.

During a briefing Monday with immigration organizations in New York City, Immigration Minister Ahmed Hussen said based on current trends, Canada could see 40,000 claimants by the end of the year, according to Conservative immigration critic Michelle Rempel, who was in the room. Hussen’s office confirmed her account.

“Given the global forced displacement and forced migration, this is now a public policy concern,” Rempel said.

“Nobody is saying that this is going to stop.”

At current levels, the federal and provincial governments are looking at a bill of at least $353.9 million to $548.8 million to process claims and provide the required services — the cost per claim ranges from $12,900 to $20,000, the Immigration Department says.

Those numbers don’t take into account the cost of deporting failed claimants, nor the special measures rolled out to manage the sudden summer spike in border arrivals — it’s too early to know that price tag, the department says.

Those measures were deployed in July and early August as upwards of 200 people were crossing into Quebec from New York state each day. Officials say the number of arrivals have since come back down.

“The numbers fluctuate,” said Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale.

“That’s one of the very obvious lessons that the statistics have demonstrated over the last seven or eight months while the situation has developed at the Canadian border.”

The full scope of the situation over the summer was reflected in the data released Tuesday — the RCMP intercepted 5,530 people crossing illegally into Quebec in August, up from 2,996 in July.

As of August, 13,211 people have been intercepted trying to make a similar journey and while the numbers are highest in Quebec, British Columbia registered a spike of its own last month. There, 102 people were stopped, up from 51 the month before.

A dedicated Immigration and Refugee Board team has been seconded to deal with large groups of arrivals claiming asylum from the same countries. The vast majority in Quebec are of Haitian descent; in Manitoba earlier this year, most were Somalian.

In B.C., settlement organizations say they saw refugee seekers from dozens of different countries last month, with Afghanistan, Iraq, Colombia, Mexico and Turkey leading the list.

The board has been warning for months, however, that they are ill-equipped to manage the ongoing rise in claims without creating lengthy backlogs, given existing budgets and staffing levels.

Source: Number of people seeking asylum in Canada at levels not seen since 2009 – The Globe and Mail

Number of asylum seekers dwindles as Ottawa’s messaging appears to pay off

Encouraging. But like all numbers, too early to say if an ongoing trend, as a result of better messaging and outreach, or a dip reflecting the start of the school year or, indeed, some mixture of the two:

An effort to inform potential asylum-seekers that crossing the border is no free ride to a new Canadian life appears to be working as their numbers continue to rapidly dwindle – but the start of the school year is also playing a role.

The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, which is monitoring the reception of asylum seekers at the most popular irregular crossing south of Montreal, says the number of processed claims has plunged to 10-50 on recent days from a peak of several hundred daily arrivals earlier in the summer.

Nearly 8,000 arrivals came in July and the first half of August in Quebec, the bulk of whom were Haitians who are threatened with removal from the United States by the Trump administration. The Quebec government says about 2,700 of them are under 18.

Jean-Nicolas Beuze, Canadian representative for the UNHCR, says while the information campaign has helped, other factors are also at play. The school year started in Quebec last week and will be in full swing in most of North America this week and it’s a major factor for migrant people who move around the globe.

“When you see the number of children, it helps explain the reduction,” Mr. Beuze said. “We see this everywhere. You don’t move with family during the school year unless bombs are falling on your head or you’re being individually persecuted.”

In recent weeks, the federal government and Haitian community leaders and media have spread word in the United States that asylum claims for Haitians who have lived long-term in that country are unlikely to succeed.

About half of Haitian asylum-seekers have been accepted in Canada in recent years, but those who have lived in the United States for six years or more under the country’s temporary protected status (TPS) permits will face questions about why they didn’t claim in the United States, hindering their chances.

“I think the message is getting through,” said Jean-Ernest Pierre, an immigration lawyer and community radio host in Montreal who has made appearances south of the border lately. “People understand better that nothing is guaranteed. Canada doesn’t want Haitians.”

Mr. Beuze, whose agency has conducted interviews with asylum claimants, said many are surprised to learn there are long delays for finding housing and getting work permits.

While conventional wisdom has taken hold that the vast majority of Haitian border crossers were among 50,000 holders of the TPS permit who have lived in the United States for 7-16 years with special permission, Mr. Beuze said more of them may have been just transiting through the United States than initially believed. He could not offer a statistical breakdown, however, nor have federal or provincial officials.

Wracked by a terrible economy, a massive cholera epidemic imported by UN troops, the fallout from a shattering earthquake and Hurricane Matthew in 2016, Haiti has had an exodus of people looking for a better life. Tens of thousands went to Brazil, Chile and Venezuela after hearing they might find work there. About 40,000 of them started making their way north mostly by land last year according to U.S. Homeland Security and about 10,000 have arrived in the United States through Mexico.

Steve Forester, an immigration policy co-ordinator with the Institute for Justice and Democracy in Haiti, said it is “premature and unwise” for TPS holders to head to Canada right now, but it’s a different story for Haitians who more recently landed in the United States and have no status or protection.

He said getting a fair immigration hearing in the United States is increasingly difficult, particularly for those in detention who don’t have access to translation and legal services. “It’s not insane for people without status to try their luck in Canada, given the Trump administration’s general attitude.”

Mr. Forester said the struggle to get the Trump administration to extend TPS protection beyond the January deadline “is an uphill battle,” but Haitians with status in the United States should stay put for now.

He also said the lifting of the TPS protection in January means holders return to their previous immigration status. They won’t all immediately be deported. “Having status in the U.S. will do nothing good for claims in Canada,” he said.

Mr. Beuze said getting good information on the precise origins and reasoning of the Haitian asylum-seekers in Canada has been challenging. Many of them are wary of authority figures and fear accidentally damaging their claims, he said.

Mr. Pierre hosted a public radio town hall for Montreal’s Haitian community on Sunday in front of hundreds of people, but he heard surprisingly few queries about the Haitian immigrants from the crowd.

The new arrivals are causing as much controversy among Haitian-Canadians as the wider community, he said. “They’re our compatriots, but they’ve imposed their presence here. People who have lived here for 20 or 30 years are Canadian through and through. Giving welfare to people who have never worked here isn’t that popular with them, either.”

Mr. Pierre, however, hammered home how dire the situation is in Haiti, given what Mr. Forester described as the “triple-whammy” of earthquake, cholera and hurricane. “People are starving after crops failed with the 2016 hurricane,” Mr. Pierre said. “They’re just doing what any of us would do.”

Source: Number of asylum seekers dwindles as Ottawa’s messaging appears to pay off – The Globe and Mail

How Canada can restore order to its immigration system: Anglin

Former deputy chief of staff to former PM Harper and chief of staff to former CIC/IRCC Minister Kenney Howard Anglin offers some suggestions to deal with the influx of irregular arrivals, rather than merely criticizing the government.

His first point, on joint border patrols, requires US agreement, as does the second point, amending the STCA to include irregular arrivals. Both are likely non-starters with the Trump administration as the border crossers are people they want to leave anyway. Anglin acknowledges that with respect to amending the STCA.

His other ideas are worthy of consideration although they will be anathema to some. If the government is confident about the US refugee determination system, as it has stated repeatedly, then accepting their determinations would be fully consistent with that confidence.

Equally controversial is his suggestion to deduct any increase in asylum seekers from the overall protected persons class (refugees) in order to maintain the overall share. But his logic is clear, even if Australia is not the best example to emulate regarding refugee (and citizenship) policy. But should, in the unlikely event the Canadian government would adapt this approach, it would retain the flexibility to change the numbers should circumstances warrant.

First, Canada should substantially increase joint border patrols with the U.S. to apprehend people attempting to cross illegally before they can. There is a precedent for this in the Shiprider program, in which the RCMP and the U.S. Coast Guard jointly patrol smuggling in the Great Lakes. This cooperation, which was formalized as part of the 2011 Beyond the Border Action Plan by then-president Barack Obama and former prime minister Stephen Harper, should be expanded to the land border at points of frequent illegal crossing. With a border as long and porous as ours, this will never be a complete solution, but even if it only slows the flow, it would give bite to Trudeau’s currently toothless request that migrants respect our laws.

Second, the Safe Third Country Agreement (STCA) should be tightened in two ways. Under the agreement, if an asylum-seeker presents himself at a regular port of entry on the Canada-U.S. land border, we will turn him back to make his asylum claim in the United States. But if he crosses outside a port of entry—even a few hundred yards to the side—he is permitted to make his asylum claim in Canada. To remove this incentive for law-breaking, the STCA should be extended, consistent with its underlying principles, to anyone coming directly from the United States, regardless of how or where they arrived.

We should also close the loophole allowing migrants coming from the United States to make an asylum claim in Canada if they have a family member here. The definition of “family member” in the STCA is much broader than the usual definition in Canadian immigration law, including not just parents and children but also siblings, grandparents, grandchildren, aunts, uncles, nieces, and nephews. That wide net is made even wider by lax enforcement. If you turn up at the border at Windsor claiming to have an uncle in Montreal, there’s not much CBSA can do beyond making some phone calls. We rarely require strict documentary proof from both parties, let alone DNA testing, as we should (and could, without U.S. approval).

Unfortunately, the likelihood of the United States agreeing to close these loopholes is slim. Previous requests have been rebuffed, and changes that mean more people will make asylum claims in the United States rather than Canada must be about as low as you can get on the American foreign policy agenda. Still, that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t continue to ask and even to tie them to other negotiations over matters our neighbours do care about.

There are, however, two changes to the asylum system that we could make unilaterally. We could start by amending our laws to recognize American courts’ asylum decisions. Today, if an asylum seeker’s claim is rejected in the United States, he can walk across the border and make another one here. With reciprocal recognition and access to American asylum records, we could deny serial claimants a second kick at the can here. Trudeau and Hussen have recently reaffirmed their faith in the independence of the American asylum system and the idea that it satisfies Canadian standards of due process underlies the STCA. It’s time we took that idea to its logical conclusion.

The government could also copy Australia and amend the way we categorize and count refugees. Currently, the government sets annual immigration targets each year by category, which it submits to Parliament each autumn. In 2017, for example, as part of an overall total of 300,000 new immigrants, the government set a target of 25,000 for refugee resettlement and 15,000 for successful inland asylum claimants and their dependents. Unlike other immigration categories, which are within the government’s control, this last one is always an estimate. If many more asylum-seekers arrive in Canada, then we have no choice but to process them and to accept all successful claimants, even if they are over and above the stated target.

If we were to combine the two categories into a single class of humanitarian immigrants, then we could adjust the number of resettled refugees we admit each year to compensate for any inaccuracies in our estimate for the category of inland claimants. Using this year’s combined total of 40,000, if we end up accepting 20,000 asylum claims instead of the 15,000 the government predicted, we would reduce the number of overseas refugees we resettle from 25,000 to 20,000, keeping us within the overall target. If it’s not possible to be that nimble in adjusting resettlement numbers on an annual basis, then the total could be spread over two years, with next year’s number reduced instead (or increased in a year when we receive fewer successful inland asylum claims than predicted). A combined annual cap on all refugee immigration wouldn’t directly address the current flood of migrants, but it would be an important step towards regaining control over total immigration to Canada.

The government may have been slow to react to the migrant problem, but it isn’t too late for Trudeau and Hussen to restore order and reassure Canadians that our immigration system is as law-bound as they claim on Twitter. It will, however, take action as well as words. Decisive action, of the kind described above—backed up with tough words, of the kind Trudeau usually prefers to avoid.

Source: How Canada can restore order to its immigration system –

Coyne: Blame Trudeau? Blame Trump? Truth is there are no easy answers to asylum-seekers

One of the better and realistic commentaries on the current influx:

If you are on the right, the sudden flood of asylum-seekers crossing the Canada-U.S. border is easily explicable as the inevitable consequence of Justin Trudeau’s online recklessness.

“To those fleeing persecution, terror & war,” the Hippie King advised his followers in January, “Canadians will welcome you, regardless of your faith. Diversity is our strength #WelcomeToCanada.”

Tory immigration critic Michelle Rempel was explicit this week that blame for the border “crisis” “lies solely at the feet” of the prime minister, whose “irresponsible” tweet had given “false hope” to asylum seekers in the U.S.

If you are on the left, the situation is just as easy to explain. It is all on account of Donald Trump, whose anti-immigrant rhetoric has left refugee claimants in the United States in terror that they will be sent back to their countries of origin. The Charlottesville rally of white supremacists, NDP immigration critic Jenny Kwan wrote in a letter to Immigration Minister Ahmed Hussen, “further challenges simplistic notions that the United States remains a safe destination for asylum seekers.”

There’s some truth in both notions. Each leader has in his own way signalled a differing level of receptivity to refugee claims. And yet in substantive terms, neither country’s policies have changed much in the interim.

Trump may have imposed, or attempted to impose, a temporary ban on travel from seven predominantly Muslim countries, but as the prime minister himself has said, the U.S. domestic asylum system remains “safe, has due process, has appeal rights.”

Of course, if Trudeau believes that, it makes it odd that he should have so ostentatiously contrasted Canada’s “welcome” with Trump’s approach. Especially since it isn’t particularly true. Canada has not thrown open its borders. The rules are unchanged. Asylum seekers are promptly detained by the RCMP on entry; their claims are subject to the usual assessment process, with deportation awaiting those found to be without basis.

Indeed, if either explanation holds, it makes it odd that the “crisis” took so long to develop. You’ll recall when the first asylum-seekers started sneaking across the border in the dead of winter, at great risk to life and health, many people (including me) were concerned that this presaged an enormous, unmanageable surge once the temperatures began to rise. Yet it wasn’t until late summer that the asylum-seekers became a story again. As of June 30, only about 3,000 asylum-seeker had entered Canada from the U.S., not far off usual numbers.

Almost all of the roughly 7,000 asylum-seekers to have arrived since then are from one country: Haiti. The reason for this is quite clear. Allowed to remain in the U.S. on “temporary protected status” in the wake of the Haitian earthquake in 2010, they face probable deportation once the program expires next January.

That’s not unusual: Canada’s own program expired last August. Those who have not applied for permanent residency status have been deported by the hundreds; of those who have claimed asylum, the government reports, one-half to two-thirds have been rejected.

It may fairly be charged, however, that the Trudeau government has not done enough to advertise this to the Haitian community in the U.S., an error the government is belatedly and wobbily seeking to repair. Too late — the Haitians have adopted the same strategy followed by earlier asylum-seekers: crossing the border on foot, rather than by air or sea, and over open country, rather than the usual crossing points.

The explanation for this is by now familiar: were they to cross by the normal routes, they would be promptly returned to the U.S. under the Safe Third Country (STC) agreement between our two countries, which stipulates that refugee claimants must apply in the first country they enter. But that agreement only applies at the official entry points. By crossing irregularly — or illegally, if you prefer — they instead become subject to the usual strictures of Canadian refugee law, under which they cannot be deported without having their claim heard.

This confounding dilemma has prompted its own search for easy answers, none offering the promised escape. On the right, initial demands for the government to “enforce the law” (it is), or to physically stop them from crossing (an impossibility), or “send them back” (the U.S. won’t take them), have subsided into calls for the STC to be expanded, if not to the whole of the border, then to more entry points. But the U.S. would have to agree to that, and so far shows no sign of being amenable.

The left shows no more signs of realism. The primary proposal is for the STC to be suspended, so as to remove the incentive for border crossers to evade the official entry points. But suspending the STC would amount to an open invitation to try your luck on the Canadian refugee process. At worst, you’d spend a few months in the resulting backlog, with the right to work and obtain social benefits in the meantime. And the longer the backlog, the greater the incentive to jump in the hopper.

I don’t want to minimize the situation: there are other groups in the U.S. whose visas will also soon expire, meaning potentially thousands more asylum-seekers crossing the border in the months to come.

At the same time, we should not overstate matters. The country is not being overrun. Those entering are being screened. We can afford to put up a few thousand asylum-seekers until their claims are heard. And even if that sticks in your craw, there isn’t much we can do about it — not unless we are prepared to suspend our own constitutional protections, at risk of sending legitimate refugees to their deaths.

This is difficult to admit: those of us in politics and the media are in the easy answers business. But some problems cannot be solved. They can only be managed.

Andrew Coyne: Blame Trudeau? Blame Trump? Truth is there are no easy answers to asylum-seekers

Chris Selley: Astonishing nonsense from the Liberals amid surge of asylum-seekers

Good column by Selley. Love the first para on the party differences.

His recommendation for more resources to speed up the determination process makes sense as the best feedback loop to discourage border crossings are quick determinations and removals as warranted:

When Conservative Canadian governments deport failed asylum-seekers and try to prevent them from arriving in the first place, they tend to boast about it. When Liberal Canadian governments deport failed asylum-seekers and try to prevent them from arriving in the first place, they tend to pretend it’s simply not happening. On migration policy, this is one of the key differences between our two natural governing parties. It basically boils down to branding.

The Trudeau government has taken traditional Liberal messaging considerably further, though. In March, amidst a global refugee crisis, having recently dropped the tourist visa requirement for Mexican citizens and with a surge of northbound border-crossers arriving concurrently (if not because of) the Trump presidency — and with hundreds of thousands of undocumented people in the U.S. who could theoretically join that surge — Prime Minister Justin Trudeau tweeted out this now-legendary piece of reckless, insincere nonsense: “Regardless of who you are or where you come from, there’s always a place for you in Canada.”

Spoiler alert: there isn’t.

In a press conference on Wednesday, Conservative immigration critic Michelle Rempel tried to frame the northbound exodus as a direct result of Trudeau’s shameless virtue signalling. Asked what her government had done or would do differently, she responded, essentially, that her government wouldn’t have all-but-explicitly encouraged people to give Canada a college try.

It’s a stretch; this is mostly about circumstances beyond any government’s control. But the extent to which this government refuses to speak in plain English is truly remarkable.

On Sunday, in a visit to the border region in Quebec, Transport Minister Marc Garneau said Canadian consulates in the U.S. would try to warn people thinking of heading north to claim asylum that their chances of success were far from assured. That’s a very good idea. Many of the current border-crossers are Haitians whose asylum claims failed in the United States. A temporary post-earthquake moratorium on removals having expired, they now face deportation. Reports suggest they are being sold garbage advice — in some cases literally — that Canada is a sure thing. To preserve Canada’s already stretched border resources, to maintain whatever public trust remains in the system’s integrity, and to save vulnerable people from extortion and financial ruin, the government should be warning people away in no uncertain terms.

Here’s what Garneau put on Twitter: “We are continuing to engage with diaspora communities in the U.S.A. — everyone deserves to know the facts about what it means to come to Canada.”

And on Wednesday, here’s what Trudeau put on Twitter: “We’re … reaching out to folks in the U.S. to make sure people who want to come to Canada understand the proper procedures to do so.”

For the love of God, man, there is no “proper procedure” with a snowball’s chance in Port-au-Prince via which a failed Haitian asylum-seeker in the United States can come “properly” to Canada. What you mean is “don’t come. We’ll probably deport you anyway.” So say it.

There’s no guarantee a blunt message would get the job done, mind you. No matter how often the Conservatives called asylum-seekers from European Union countries “bogus refugees,” the Immigration and Refugee Board kept recognizing their claims at a reasonable clip — 2,500 from Hungary alone over the last decade, for a roughly 18 per cent success rate.

Unlike Hungary, the now-famous unofficial border crossing in Quebec is just a Greyhound and a cab away from anywhere in the contiguous 48 states. If Canada’s consulates are indeed distributing “the facts,” then Haitians will know Canada has accepted nearly 50 per cent of claims from their fellow citizens over the last 10 years. Many claims that failed in the U.S. might well fail in Canada too — but it’s a safe bet quite a few would succeed. (The U.S. accepts a significantly lower percentage of claimants.)

If my options were (a) deportation to Haiti, where I have nothing, or (b) a $200 trip to the border, a longish stay in Canada during which I can legally work and make some money, a long-shot chance at permanent residency and then, at worst, deportation to Haiti anyway, I know exactly which one I would pick.

What can the government do about this? Without straying dramatically from traditional policy options, not a hell of a lot. But it could stray from traditional Liberal policy and not let a massive backlog build up. On Wednesday, citing a UNHCR official, Global News reported asylum-seekers arriving today won’t even get preliminary eligibility hearings until January. The longer a hopeless claim takes to be resolved, the greater the incentive to give it a whirl. The government could hire more people to deal with these claimants expeditiously, which the Liberals have said they will, thus reducing that incentive. But most radically, as off-brand as it would be, the Liberals might consider saying what they bloody well mean.

Source: National Post

Migrants with no status in the U.S. battle anxiety as they await Trump’s next move

Good analysis of potential future waves of border crossers – current measures and resources likely inadequate:

In the U.S. immigration debate, it’s called “twilight status,” and for many who hold it, the light is flickering and fading.

Unlike Canada or Mexico, which both routinely deport almost anyone without a valid visa, the U.S. government allows otherwise-illegal immigrants to remain without legal status — sheltered under various forms of government sufferance.

About 59,000 Haitians received Temporary Protected Status (TPS), a U.S. government waiver exempting them from deportation to their devastated homeland, after a catastrophic earthquake struck near Port-au-Prince in 2010.

That waiver was renewed several times by the Obama administration, which judged that Haiti was not ready to absorb returnees.

Then this summer, Secretary of Homeland Security John Kelly (now White House chief of staff) signed off on a very short renewal — six months — letting it be known that there would probably be no more extensions.

“This six-month extension should allow Haitian TPS recipients living in the United States time to attain travel documents and make other necessary arrangements for their ultimate departure from the United States,” he said.

Fuelled by rumours Canada would be more sympathetic, many Haitians headed north — crossing to Hemmingford, Que., at a rate of about 250 people a day.

The Haitians are just one group among many that could soon be shown the door in the U.S., and might then show up on Canada’s doorstep.

On Sunday, Prime Justin Trudeau spoke about the “situation at the border at Saint-Bernard-de-Lacolle,” saying “entering Canada irregularly is not an advantage,” and that rules will be enforced to safeguard against security risks.

The Government of Canada is planning outreach efforts with Haitian communities in both Canada and the U.S., said Nancy Chan, a spokesperson for Citizens and Immigration Canada (CIC).

“We are taking a number of proactive measures to counter misinformation regarding Canada’s asylum system, including using social media,” said Chan.

Living on a waiver

Life on a deportation waiver is not easy.

First of all, the waivers are not free. Haitians were asked to pay $495 US for their six-month extension if they wanted the right to work. That’s one reason many chose to invest the money in a ticket to Canada. (Some did renew their waivers, and Canada may see a second wave of Haitians arrive when their final deadline of January 22 approaches).

The waivers also do not provide a pathway to permanent legal residency. The Haitians who fled into Quebec have always known they were living on borrowed time.

‘The countries that are facing the end of their grant under TPS are the ones who feel most under the gun’– Julia Gelatt, senior policy analyst at the Migration Policy Institute

Citizens of ten countries currently hold TPS in the U.S.: El Salvador, Haiti, Honduras, Nepal, Nicaragua, Somalia, Sudan, South Sudan, Syria and Yemen.

Nicaraguans and Hondurans received protected status in 1999 as a result of Hurricane Mitch, but it applies only to people already in the U.S. when the hurricane struck.

All of those 10 waivers come up for renewal at some point in the next 13 months, and the Trump administration seems likely to allow at least some of them to die.

But Chan did not answer a question about how the Canadian government would deal with other groups: “We will not speculate on future scenarios.”

Cancelling waivers sending people north

An estimated 317,000 people live on TPS waivers. More than half of them are Salvadorans granted TPS following the earthquake of 2001; they are facing a renewal decision by March next year. The remainder are mostly Hondurans and Haitians, who both face a renewal decision in January.

But TPS is not the only kind of twilight status, says Julia Gelatt, senior policy analyst at the Migration Policy Institute in Washington.

“There are a number of other categories you could also put in there. There are people who are applying for different kinds of visas, such as a U visa for crime victims or a T visa for victims of trafficking.”

“A lot of people who are in these categories are pretty confident their visa is coming, as opposed to people in TPS whose programs are being reconsidered, and cancellation is a more imminent concern.”

Also in March next year, a different waiver program called Deferred Enforced Departure will come to an end leaving about 14,000 Liberians (most of whom fled their country’s civil war years ago) with a tough decision to make.

“The countries that are facing the end of their grant under TPS are the ones who feel most under the gun,” says Gelatt. “There’s this looming deadline.”

If those migrants suddenly lose their legal status in the U.S., they could head for Canada.

The ‘Dreamers’

These groups, however, are dwarfed by a class of people referred to as “Dreamers,” named for the oft-introduced but never-approved DREAM Act.

The Development, Relief, and Education for Alien Minors Act (DREAM), was crafted to help those brought to the U.S. as children by allowing them to live in the country where they grew up providing they graduate from school and have no criminal record. About 65,000 kids in this category graduate from U.S. high schools annually.

The DREAM Act has been struggling to become law since 2001, and has often seemed close to bipartisan success. But in recent years more Republicans have turned against it.

In the meantime, the Dreamers must get by with a less secure status called Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) — a temporary reprieve, renewable every two years (at a fee), with no path to citizenship.

There are about 840,000 young people living on DACA waivers in the US.

U.S. President Donald Trump repeatedly said during the campaign that he would end the DACA program, and since his inauguration a handful of Dreamers have been arrested and held in detention, despite having paperwork that says they are enrolled.

Most threatening of all for the Dreamers, though, is the lawsuit threatened by Texas and nine other states. They have given the Trump administration a deadline of September 5 to shelve the program or face a court challenge for executive overreach. (In over three-quarters of cases, Dreamers were brought to the U.S. from Mexico.)

If Trump keeps his campaign promise, and ends the DACA program, all of the people currently covered by DACA would lose their status over the next two years.

It is not difficult to imagine that many Dreamers, who typically speak English as their first language, might prefer to try their luck in Canada than face deportation to a homeland they can hardly remember.

Source: Migrants with no status in the U.S. battle anxiety as they await Trump’s next move – Politics – CBC News

Les migrants haïtiens doivent savoir ce qui les attend, croit un élu new-yorkais

Hopefully this kind of initiative, along with Canadian consulate outreach to Haitian and other communities in the USA, will reduce the flow:

Venu de la Grosse Pomme pour vérifier si le Canada est vraiment l’eldorado imaginé par de nombreux ressortissants haïtiens, le conseiller municipal new-yorkais Mathieu Eugène promet de remettre les pendules à l’heure auprès de la communauté en rentrant chez lui.

«Je vais pouvoir mieux informer mes frères et mes soeurs qui croient trouver ici la terre promise, a souligné M. Eugène. La perception des Haïtiens aux États-Unis, c’est que le Canada va accueillir à bras ouverts tous ceux qui ont un TPS [Temporary Protected Status], mais ils ne savent pas ce qu’est la réalité.»

L’élu était à Montréal mardi à l’invitation du conseiller de la Ville du district de Saint-Michel Frantz Benjamin, avec qui il a rencontré plusieurs leaders de la communauté haïtienne, en plus de visiter un centre d’hébergement de demandeurs d’asile.

Des gens paniqués

M. Eugène représente un quartier de Brooklyn où résident de nombreux citoyens d’origine haïtienne. Connu et respecté dans la communauté, il voit défiler dans son bureau des gens paniqués qui viennent d’apprendre que leur TPS, un statut de protection temporaire accordé aux Haïtiens après le tremblement de terre de 2010, viendra à échéance dans six mois, et qu’ils devront alors retourner dans leur pays d’origine.

Se fiant naïvement à de fausses informations qui circulent sur le web et sur les réseaux sociaux, ou à des rumeurs propagées par des connaissances, relate Mathieu Eugène, ils croient améliorer leur sort en gagnant le nord du 49e parallèle.

«Ils vivent du désespoir et de la désolation devant la menace d’être déportés en Haïti. Ils ont entendu dire que la situation sera peut-être meilleure ici. Confrontés à des difficultés, ils en sont rendus à penser que le Canada est la solution.»

«Je vais leur donner des informations justes et leur dire d’y réfléchir à deux fois, mais c’est difficile de les décourager ou de prévenir leur décision de venir au Canada. Je ne peux pas contrôler tous les Haïtiens», note-t-il toutefois.

Mathieu Eugène a l’intention d’organiser une conférence de presse à New York et même des rencontres d’information, pour expliquer aux migrants qui craignent l’expulsion du pays de Donald Trump que le même sort les attend peut-être dans la contrée de Justin Trudeau, même si les messages du premier ministre sur Twitter peuvent sembler très accueillants.

Mais pour lui, la priorité est cependant de poursuivre les pressions politiques aux États-Unis afin que soit prolongé le statut de protection temporaire pour les Haïtiens, ce qui n’est pas une mince tâche, étant donné les prises de position de l’administration Trump.

«C’est une lutte que l’on mène depuis longtemps, et on va continuer», a-t-il promis.

Nouvelle plongée dans l’incertitude

Dans la communauté haïtienne de Montréal, on espère que le message de M. Eugène sera entendu aux États-Unis, parce que bien des demandeurs d’asile risquent de voir leurs espoirs déçus, a expliqué Chantal Ismé, vice-présidente du conseil de la Maison d’Haïti, au visiteur new-yorkais.

«La plupart des personnes qui traversent la frontière actuellement ne répondent pas aux critères pour obtenir le statut de réfugié, a-t-elle fait valoir. Peut-être que certaines personnes seront acceptées, mais à cause du grand nombre de personnes qui arrivent et des délais qui s’allongent, les délais seront très longs avant d’avoir une réponse. Ces gens fuient l’incertitude pour être plongés dans une autre incertitude. Si leur demande est refusée, ils seront déportés vers Haïti, pas vers les États-Unis! C’est la précarité qui les attend à nouveau.»

«Le Canada les accueille temporairement, et notre approche humaine leur laisse peut-être croire que c’est le paradis ici, renchérit Ninette Piou, directrice du centre N A Rive. Mais la route est encore longue ensuite et le processus est plein d’écueils.»

Source: Les migrants haïtiens doivent savoir ce qui les attend, croit un élu new-yorkais | Isabelle Ducas | Actualités

Will Haitians force Trudeau into being hard-hearted? Andrew MacDougall

I always find MacDougalls’ (former Harper PMO Director of Communications) commentary valuable and thoughtful given his conservative perspective is expressed and argued in a largely non-partisan manner (in contrast to some former CPC staffers such as Candice Malcolm and Mark Bonokoski in Sun media).

This piece is no exception:

It’s summertime, and the border crossing is easy.

What was once a slow trickle of bodies from the United States to Canada threatens to become a steady flow. And instead of Muslims fleeing the imprecise scope of Donald Trump’s “Muslim ban” across the Manitoba border, it’s now worried Haitians who form the majority of those seeking sanctuary this summer in Quebec.

Why Haitians? Why now?

Essentially, those who fled Haiti in the wake of the devastating 2010 earthquake have been spooked by a change to their status in the United States under the Trump administration. And so they’re fleeing again. But it’s to a place where a similar change has already been made; Canada sends its failed Haitian claimants back to Haiti.

The particulars don’t matter; the Haitians are here, and more are coming because they think Canada is a soft mark. The Big O(we) in downtown Montreal is even being converted to a shelter for their arrival. And if they come in stadium-sized numbers it means a hard choice is coming for Justin Trudeau.

And it’s a choice (somewhat) of the prime minister’s own making.

When President Donald Trump unveiled his inaugural “Muslim ban” Trudeau responded with a tweet declaring: “To those fleeing persecution, terror & war, Canadians will welcome you regardless of your faith. Diversity is our strength. #WelcometoCanada.”

It got great headlines at the time, and isn’t strictly applicable to the Haitians now coming, but what Trudeau is now finding out is that tacking on a sieve or a barrier to the sentiment expressed in that tweet is hard to do, especially when your political brand is basically that of the world’s saviour.

The Haitians in question aren’t fleeing persecution, terror, or war; they’d mostly rather not go back to Haiti. And every place they occupy in our asylum system is one less for those who are genuinely suffering.

Trudeau, for now, is holding firm. “Canada is a country that understands that immigration, welcoming refugees, is a source of strength for our communities,” Trudeau repeated last week. He also added, “protecting Canadians’ confidence in the integrity of our system allows us to continue to be open.”

The second half of the prime minister’s statement was, in Liberal eyes, butt-covering. But for a lot of Canadians, including the opposition Conservatives, it’s the operative half of the equation.

And right now that half is showing signs of severe strain.

A recent memo on the state of the Immigration and Refugee Board (IRB) released under access-to-information highlights a massive backlog of claims and a system starved of needed resource.

The Trudeau government will either need to increase funding massively, turn down more people at the border, or — more likely — some combination of both to maintain “confidence in the integrity of our system.”

Doing so will be a tricky proposition for a government that has carefully cultivated its tolerant political brand. Any tightening of Canada’s policy under Trudeau could be seen as betrayal, no matter how justified it might be.

Fortunately, for Trudeau’s image anyway, there are no good policy options to stem the flow, at least not with a recalcitrant President Trump in the White House. Canada cannot do a rewrite of the laws on its own, and closing the loophole that allows the current arrivals would only force more people to official border posts, where dealing with migrants is even more difficult politically.

This situation would then seem to favour more cash to the refugee system, but no such funding was included in the most recent federal budget. The Trudeau government has instead opted for a “wide-ranging” review of the system, with a report due in the summer of 2018.

It appears, then, the Trudeau government is hoping to ride out the current situation, hoping the word eventually gets back to the tens of thousands of Haitians in the United States that things really are no better in Canada and that they should stay where they are. Then again, a years-long backlog for processing might still be the better alternative.

For their part, the Conservatives would do well to suggest a fix in addition to keeping up pressure on the government to act.

Who knows? Coming up with a helpful solution could help redeem Tories in the eyes of voters who might not trust them on these and other matters.

Source: Will Haitians force Trudeau into being hard-hearted? | Toronto Star