Flee­ing to Canada

A ris­ing num­ber of Haitians, con­cerned about their sta­tus in the U.S., are en­ter­ing Canada il­le­gally

Vocable (All English) - - Sommaire - JAC­QUE­LINE CHARLES

Why Haitians are cross­ing the bor­der.

Thou­sands of Haitians sought refuge in the United States af­ter the dev­as­tat­ing earth­quake in 2010. Re­cently, the Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion cast doubt over their long term prospects there and the fear of be­ing de­ported next Jan­uary has led to large num­bers head­ing for Canada. Justin Trudeau’s gov­ern­ment is at­tempt­ing to dis­suade them from en­ter­ing il­le­gally.

The Face­book posts and What­sApp mes­sages promis­ing safe haven in Canada claim to have the bless­ing of the Cana­dian gov­ern­ment. Cre­ole-lan­guage ra­dio sta­tions of­fer up con­sul­tants giv­ing free and paid con­sul­ta­tions for Haitians seek­ing res­i­dency across the U.S. bor­der. Bor­der cities such as Mon­treal are wel­com­ing im­mi­grants with open arms, or so the sto­ries go. 2. Haitians in the US, fear­ful of the Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion’s crackdown on im­mi­grants but un­will­ing to re­turn to the grind­ing poverty of their home­land, have re­sponded by the thou­sands. They’ve quit their jobs, sold their pos­ses­sions and taken planes, buses and even taxis to the US-Canada bor­der.

3. The num­ber of mi­grants il­le­gally cross­ing into French-speak­ing Que­bec more than tripled in July, with an­other 3,800-plus en­ter­ing in just the first half of Au­gust. And now Canada is ag­gres- sively try­ing to stem the flow and dis­pel the myths that have trig­gered an un­prece­dented ex­o­dus of mostly Haitian asy­lum seek­ers.

4. Cana­dian con­sulates across the US have been mo­bi­lized. And Prime Min­is­ter Justin Trudeau dis­patched his na­tion’s only Haiti-born par­lia­men­tar­ian, Em­manuel Dubourg, to Mi­ami, home to the largest con­cen­tra­tion of Haitians in the US Armed with the Cre­ole lan­guage and his own per­sonal tale of mi­grat­ing to Canada from Haiti four decades ear­lier, Dubourg was clear ev­ery­where he went: There is no new

im­mi­gra­tion pro­gram for Haitians in Canada. “It’s not true that Canada is wide open,” Dubourg said, as he vis­ited Mi­ami’s Lit­tle Haiti Cul­tural Cen­ter Com­plex. “Cross­ing the bor­der … is no free pass.”

RU­MORS AND HOPE

5. Some asy­lum seek­ers have cited Tem­po­rary Pro­tected Sta­tus (TPS), the spe­cial hu­man­i­tar­ian pro­gram for Haitians that the Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion has sig­naled may end in Jan­uary, as their rea­son for flee­ing north. But Dubourg blamed “mis­in­for­ma­tion cir­cu­lat­ing” on so­cial me­dia.

6. One such mes­sage in French cir­cu­lated among Haitians on What­sApp. It read: “The Con­sul of Canada in the USA held a meet­ing in New Jer­sey for more than two hours. It in­vites and even en­cour­ages all Haitians (with or with­out TPS) to ap­ply for a Cana­dian res­i­dence.” It even pro­vided a phone num­ber to some­one pur­port­ing to be a Cre­ole-speak­ing at­tor­ney, along with a line: “The fees will be re­duced by the Cana­dian gov­ern­ment. In­form your­self and good luck.” But the num­ber doesn’t work.

7. Clau­dia Roger, a Haitian na­tional, said she shared the mes­sage on a What­sApp group be­cause she be­lieved it was a le­git­i­mate an­swer to many peo­ple’s prayers. “A lot of peo­ple are hav­ing this TPS prob­lem and they don’t know where to turn,” she said. “That’s not good. They are tak­ing ad­van­tage of it. (Peo­ple) are des­per­ate and they are scared.”

8. Dubourg said the Cana­dian gov­ern­ment has launched an in­ves­ti­ga­tion to un­cover who is be­hind the push to send Haitians north. Haitian lead­ers in Mi­ami and New York also be­lieve there’s a profit mo­tive. “I have Haitian peo­ple in New York in my dis­trict stop­ping me on the streets, com­ing to my of­fice to share with me their de­ci­sion to go to Mon­treal, be­cause they be­lieve that Canada has opened the door for them,” said New York City Coun­cil­man Mathieu Eu­gene. “Some of them say they heard that Canada is ac­cept­ing Haitian peo­ple with TPS. Some tell me that their friends are al­ready in Canada, fam­ily mem­bers are al­ready there, and are telling them, ‘You have to come over be­cause they re­ceived this, or they re­ceived that and Canada is go­ing to give them au­tho­riza­tion to stay,’” Eu­gene said.

AN UN­CER­TAIN FU­TURE

9. Eu­gene said he tells them the fight for a re­newal of TPS be­yond the Jan­uary ex­pi­ra­tion date is con­tin­u­ing. “They don’t want to hear it,” he said. “It’s very dif­fi­cult to change their minds.” When he vis­ited Haitian asy­lum seek­ers at a shel­ter in Mon­treal, Eu­gene said it be­came clear that many had made a rash de­ci­sion. “They were ask­ing me ques­tions, ‘What’s go­ing to hap­pen? Are they go­ing to send us back to the US? Are they go­ing to give us the au­tho­riza­tion to stay?’” he said.

10. Se­na­tor Bill Nel­son of Florida, speak­ing at the Lit­tle Haiti Cul­tural Cen­ter in Mi­ami, re­newed his call for an 18-month ex­ten­sion of TPS. The il­le­gal mi­gra­tion to Canada by Haitians, Nel­son said, was “an­other rea­son why the ad­min­is­tra­tion should ex­tend, right now, the Tem­po­rary Pro­tected Sta­tus for the 60,000 Haitians that are here, so they don’t feel like they have to flee to Mex­ico or Canada in or­der not to have to go back to Haiti.”

11. The steady stream of asy­lum seek­ers — 10,000 since the be­gin­ning of the year — sweep­ing into Que­bec has strained gov­ern­ment re­sources. With some Cana­di­ans now ques­tion­ing the in­tegrity of their im­mi­gra­tion sys­tem in the wake of the surge, Trudeau sig­naled a slightly tougher im­mi­gra­tion stance than he had ear­lier. Canada, he said, re­mains a “wel­com­ing and open” so­ci­ety to those flee­ing per­se­cu­tion and in need of pro­tec­tion but “we are also a coun­try of laws. En­ter­ing Canada ir­reg­u­larly is not an ad­van­tage. There are rig­or­ous im­mi­gra­tion and cus­toms rules that will be fol­lowed. Make no mis­take.”

(Carolyn Cole/Los An­ge­les Times)

The Royal Cana­dian Mounted Po­lice stop a group of Haitians at­tempt­ing to cross the bor­der il­le­gally, 28 Au­gust.

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