Canada read­ies for aliens in­flux as U.S. reins in

Trump im­mi­gra­tion changes send some from south north

Arkansas Democrat-Gazette - - INTERNATIONAL - ALAN FREE­MAN

OT­TAWA — In late Oc­to­ber, starkly worded warn­ing signs be­gan ap­pear­ing on the Cana­dian bor­der with New York and Ver­mont aimed at dis­cour­ag­ing would-be asy­lum seek­ers flee­ing the United States.

“Stop. It is il­le­gal to cross the bor­der here or any place other than a Port of En­try. You will be ar­rested and de­tained if you cross here.”

“Not ev­ery­one is el­i­gi­ble to make an asy­lum claim,” reads a sec­ond sign. “Claim­ing asy­lum is not a free ticket into Canada.”

As Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump’s ad­min­is­tra­tion sig­nals that it may soon re­move the Tem­po­rary Pro­tected Sta­tus des­ig­na­tion from more than 300,000 Cen­tral Amer­i­cans and Haitians, threat­en­ing them with de­por­ta­tion, Cana­dian of­fi­cials are brac­ing for a new wave of asy­lum seek­ers flood­ing over the bor­der.

Al­ready this week, act­ing Home­land Se­cu­rity Sec­re­tary Elaine Duke an­nounced that she was lift­ing pro­tected sta­tus for 2,500 Nicaraguans, ef­fec­tive Jan­uary 2019. And while she ex­tended the same pro­tec­tion for 57,000 Hon­durans un­til July 2018, she warned that pro­tec­tion may end at that time.

The U.S. gov­ern­ment de­cided to pro­tect both groups from de­por­ta­tion af­ter the dev­as­ta­tion wrought by Hur­ri­cane Mitch in 1999, and the mea­sures were re­peat­edly re­newed un­til this year. Duke said the orig­i­nal con­di­tions jus­ti­fy­ing that pro­tec­tion “no longer ex­ist.” Canada and its im­mi­grant-friendly poli­cies may be seen as a vi­able al­ter­na­tive for those re­luc­tant to return to their coun­tries of ori­gin.

In ad­di­tion to the new signs on the bor­der, the Cana­dian gov­ern­ment said it is in­creas­ing its out­reach in com­mu­ni­ties in the United States likely to be af­fected. It also plans to send Span­ish and Cre­ole-speak­ing mem­bers of Par­lia­ment to Los An­ge­les and Mi­ami to meet com­mu­nity lead­ers and ex­plain Cana­dian asy­lum rules. Canada’s 12 con­sulates in the United States have also been re­cruited to spread the mes­sage that asy­lum is not au­to­matic.

“We’re ab­so­lutely con­vinced that there will be an­other wave,” said JeanPierre Fortin, national pres­i­dent of the Cus­toms and Im­mi­gra­tion Union, which rep­re­sents 10,000 Cana­dian bor­der agents and other of­fi­cials. “Are we ready? I don’t think so.”

In July and Au­gust, as many as 250 peo­ple a day crossed a ditch at the end of Rox­ham Road in Cham­plain, N.Y., into ru­ral Que­bec, most of them Haitians fear­ful that the pro­tected sta­tus they re­ceived af­ter the 2010 earth­quake would soon end. (A rul­ing is ex­pected from Home­land Se­cu­rity this month.)

The num­bers have de­clined since then, with 50 to 60 for­eign­ers still cross­ing daily but gov­ern­ment of­fi­cials in­sist­ing they are do­ing what they can to dis­cour­age new ar­rivals. So far this year, more than 35,000 asy­lum seek­ers have landed in the coun­try, up from 24,000 in the same pe­riod in 2016.

The sum­mer surge forced of­fi­cials to house asy­lum seek­ers at Mon­treal’s Olympic Sta­dium and other tem­po­rary lo­ca­tions. While the num­bers have since re­ceded and the sta­dium site was closed, bor­der of­fi­cials re­cently in­stalled heated trail­ers at the bor­der in an­tic­i­pa­tion of con­tin­ued cross­ings dur­ing the win­ter.

Of the 13,000 refugee claims filed so far this year by asy­lum seek­ers, only 300 had been pro­cessed by last month. Half were granted refugee sta­tus. While they await their hear­ings, asy­lum seek­ers are granted work per­mits and have ac­cess to health care.

Just last week, the gov­ern­ment pub­lished a three-year plan aimed at ac­cept­ing al­most 1 mil­lion for­eign­ers as per­ma­nent res­i­dents, with a clear bias to­ward eco­nomic cases, which will make up 58 per­cent of the to­tal. The bal­ance will be shared be­tween fam­ily and refugee classes.

Pub­lic re­ac­tion to the plan, which will see in­take grow steadily from 300,000 in 2017 to 310,000 in 2018, 330,000 in 2019 and 340,000 in 2020, has been gen­er­ally pos­i­tive with many of the crit­ics, in­clud­ing the gov­ern­ment’s own coun­cil of eco­nomic ad­vis­ers, say­ing Canada should be ac­cept­ing even more im­mi­grants.

Canada has an in­creas­ingly di­verse pop­u­la­tion, with vis­i­ble mi­nor­ity groups — or non­white, non­a­bo­rig­i­nal peo­ple — mak­ing up 22.3 per­cent of the pop­u­la­tion in 2016, ac­cord­ing to re­cently re­leased cen­sus fig­ures, com­pared with just 4.7 per­cent in 1981. By 2036, vis­i­ble mi­nori­ties are ex­pected to make up 33 per­cent of the pop­u­la­tion. Canada counts First Na­tions or In­dian, Inuit, and Metis peo­ple as abo­rig­i­nal.

“Canada is prob­a­bly the best coun­try in the world to be an im­mi­grant be­cause we give im­mi­grants a chance to climb the lad­der to suc­cess,” said Ka­reem El-As­sal, se­nior re­search man­ager at the Con­fer­ence Board of Canada, a think tank, where he spe­cial­izes in im­mi­gra­tion.

As­sal said Canada’s im­mi­gra­tion sys­tem works in part be­cause the Cana­dian gov­ern­ment helps new­com­ers in­te­grate through lan­guage, skills and job train­ing at a cost of al­most a bil­lion dol­lars a year.

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