Sadrehashemi/Waldman: Four myths about Canada’s border crossings

While their arguments have a sound basis, I find them somewhat disingenuous.

One could, for example, designate Roxham Road as a port of entry, given that 91 percent come through there. Some would, or course, try other places to enter, and we may get into a game of “whack a mole”, but no need to patrol the entire border as in many places, geography still makes it harder.

And one could, as Howard Anglin has suggested earlier (How Canada can restore order to its immigration system – Macleans.ca), have any increase in asylum seekers count against the total number of refugees rather than merely be additive.

Whatever the option proposed, or options being considered by the government, there are no easy solutions. But however and ultimately, as Andrew Coyne has argued, viability depends on cooperation with the US (Andrew Coyne: Asylum problem will only be fixed … – The Victoria Star).

While I agree that some of the rhetoric regarding the influx if overblown, similarly downplaying the risks to public confidence in immigration is equally unhelpful:

Michelle Rempel, Conservative immigration critic, tweeted recently that the media was finally writing about “illegal border crossings” after she had been raising it for a year. The problem is that several recurring myths are shaping much of the coverage. Here are four of them:

The first myth is that Canada could designate the entire border as a port of entry. This is not a viable option. The public safety minister cannot legally designate the entire border as a “port of entry.” Under our law, a “port of entry” is a place designated open by the minister based on a number of factors, including the anticipated frequency of persons arriving at a particular location. Border officials must examine and process people seeking to enter Canada at ports of entry.

Imagine that all 8,891 kilometres of our border with the United States were a port of entry. Even if we only had one officer every 100 meters, we would still need more than 270,000 new officers to cover the border 24/7. This is not a serious policy proposal and should not be treated as one.

The second myth is that refugee claimants who are crossing into Canada at non-official border crossings are entering illegally. Canada is a signatory to the UN Convention on Refugees. Under international law, a refugee claimant cannot be punished for the way they enter into a country to seek asylum. Our immigration law does not make it illegal to enter Canada using informal border crossings, as long as a person reports to border services without delay. There is no legal basis to insist, as some have, that those who cross at non-official border points should be summarily deported, or that their refugee claims should be expedited since they will be refused. Underlying these suggestions is the assumption that people who are entering are not “real refugees.” The problem is that you cannot tell whether someone is a “real refugee” simply by the way they enter your country. In fact, in 2017, 53 per cent of those who crossed irregularly from the United States were found to be refugees.

The third myth is that people who are crossing from the United States are taking the spots reserved for refugees Canada would bring from overseas, somehow displacing them from a “queue.” This is comparing apples and oranges. Canada has a quota for the number of refugees it brings from overseas, either through the private sponsorship program or the government assisted refugee program. The quota is not determined by the number of refugee claims that are made in Canada. A rise in the number of refugee claimants arriving at Canada’s border does not push out refugees that Canada would accept from overseas camps.

Fourth, the rush to extreme, unviable policy solutions is predicated on the most egregious myth: the federal government has lost control of the border. This is far from true. The vast majority of those crossing the border, 91 per cent, are coming through one place, Roxham Road in Quebec, and immediately declaring themselves to Canadian authorities. There is no pressure to go “under-ground”; instead, there is a fair process to ensure proper adjudication of refugee claims. Security checks are expedited for these claimants, ensuring those who enter in this fashion do not pose a security threat. The government has also increased the capacity of border officials and refugee adjudicators.

While some try to raise alarm about a “crisis” at the border, the number of refugee claimants in Canada has to be put into a broader perspective. It is true that the number of refugee claimants has risen over the last year, but we also saw similar numbers in 2001. And globally, the same number of refugee claimants who came to Canada over all of last year entered Bangladesh in a single day. This is not the time to ignore our global duties and hastily throw up new barriers. Rather, by treating those who have crossed from the United States fairly and with compassion, according to law, Canada will merely be complying with its obligations as a party to the UN Refugee Convention.

via Sadrehashemi: Four myths about Canada’s border crossings | Ottawa Citizen

How Canada could prepare for potential new wave of asylum seekers: Anglin and House

Former CPC staffers offer their suggestions on how to stem asylum seekers (for Anglin’s earlier piece, see How Canada can restore order to its immigration system: Anglin), essentially having the RCMP escort asylum seekers to ports of entry, where the safe-third country agreement applies and they can be returned to the US (rather than helping them with their luggage).

Canada’s reputation as a refugee-protecting country was further burnished last Wednesday, when Immigration Minister Ahmed Hussen announced a multi-year plan that will see over 137,000 refugees and other persons deemed in need of protection settling in Canada by 2020. And, after a fraught few months, Canada is enjoying something of a respite from the illegal border crossings we saw over the summer. According to the Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA), by the end of the summer, they were processing “only” 50 to 100 claims a day, down from 1,200 a day earlier that same season.

Whether this is a trend or a pause, only hindsight will tell. But neither the generosity of Hussen’s plan nor the current respite should make us complacent about the problem of what to do about unplanned arrivals at the Canada-U.S. border. In fact, recent media reports in Canada and the U.S. predict that the issue could flare up again in the coming months.

Currently, there are 250,000 Salvadorans, Hondurans, and Nicaraguans living in the United States without valid visas who face reviews of their Temporary Protected Status (TPS) in the coming months—four times the number of Haitians who received notice earlier this year that their TPS would be lifted, prompting the mass migration north to Canada this past summer. On Nov. 6, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security decided that the Nicaraguans can be removed safely, while postponing for now a decision with respect to the Hondurans and saying nothing about the Salvadorans. Then there are the 800,000 beneficiaries of the Deferred Action on Childhood Arrivals, whose status remains in limbo.

To his credit, after first appearing to invite asylum seekers to try their luck in Canada, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau now seems to accept the problem it would pose to Canada if populations living illegally in the U.S. were to come north, rather than returning south to their home countries. Walking back his earlier message in a late-summer press conference in Montreal, he said: “Canada is an opening and welcoming society. But let me be clear: we are also a country of laws. There are rigorous immigration and customs rules that will be followed. Make no mistake.”

That’s the right message, even if it was belatedly delivered. But to be credible, it must be backed by action. Otherwise, migrant networks—including for-profit operations—will quickly notice that, despite tough talk, Canada is still an easy mark for opportunistic economic migrants. And so far, three months after Trudeau’s change of tone, there is little evidence of change on the ground.

The problem is the gap in enforcement created by the 2001 Safe Third Country Agreement. This agreement allows Canada to turn back an asylum-seeker coming from the United States who failed to make his claim first in that country, but only if he arrives at an officially designated port of entry. This gives asylum-seekers a strong incentive to simply avoid official ports of entry, crossing the border illegally along back roads and across farmers’ fields.

The government should use the RCMP more effectively to close gaps in our porous border. Just as the U.S. has Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) to police its borders, in Canada, the RCMP has the mandate to patrol between ports of entry run by CBSA. Mounties serving in this capacity are tasked with ensuring Canada’s immigration laws are observed and the border is secure. You’d hardly know this, though, from the widely shared images of the RCMP politely assisting asylum-seekers with their luggage. That bellhop service isn’t required by the law, but it has become a government policy—one that should change.

Since the spike in illegal crossings this summer, several ideas have been advanced about how to protect the border. But before we reinvent the wheel, engage new resources, or chart new legal territory, there is something the government could do right now—with no new resources or laws—to defend our border: Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale has the authority under Section 5 of the RCMP Act to direct the Mounties to respectfully but firmly stop migrants from illegally entering Canada.

At the border itself, the RCMP could direct migrants to the nearest Canadian port of entry via a route on the U.S. side of the border. If necessary, the RCMP, authorized as members of a joint Canada-U.S. Integrated Border Enforcement Team, could even escort them there personally. Once at a port of entry, the Safe Third Country Agreement would apply and most migrants would be returned to the U.S. to make asylum claims there.

This would be consistent with the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act of 2001, in which Parliament directed that RCMP officers cannot accept a claim for refugee protection (only a CBSA officer or a designated employee of Immigration, Refugees & Citizenship Canada can do that). That decision frees the RCMP to meaningfully protect the border between ports of entry, reestablishing control over the boundary between our two countries. In extreme cases, that could mean brief detention of the rare aggressive asylum seeker for transport to the nearest Canadian port of entry—but as incentives to run the border build, this would allow the RCMP to reestablish control over the boundary, meaning physically obstructing people will become unnecessary, and ensure that our border means something.

Canadians are generous and welcoming people, but our support for high and now increasing levels of immigration, including refugees, goes hand-in-hand with a belief that the immigration process is orderly and lawful. When Canadians feel their generosity is being abused, goodwill evaporates, as we saw in the backlash against the arrivals of the Ocean Lady and Sun Sea migrant vessels in 2009 and 2010.

If we are to maintain a political consensus in favour of current levels of legal immigration, the Prime Minister must show that his commitment to enforcing the law against illegal migration is more than a rhetorical feint. The government needs to send a clear message that we will enforce our laws and defend the sanctity of our border. And it needs to do so now, in this respite—before winter conditions again increase the danger to northbound migrants.

via How Canada could prepare for potential new wave of asylum seekers – Macleans.ca

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 – Macleans.ca