Mi­grants learn even lib­eral Canada has cer­tain lim­its

Of­fi­cials say im­mi­gra­tion sys­tem over­whelmed with claims

The Dallas Morning News - - World - Dan Bilef­sky,

MON­TREAL — Af­ter flee­ing to Mon­treal from Long Is­land, N.Y., Marlise Beauville felt, she said, as if she had reached the Promised Land.

She en­tered the coun­try last sum­mer without pa­pers, yet re­ceived a work per­mit, a monthly stipend of 600 Cana­dian dol­lars, or about $480, free health care and free French lessons. The weather has be­come bone-cold chilly, but her Cana­dian neigh­bors are warm.

Though it is not clear that she will be able to stay, she is hun­ker­ing down, adamant that limbo in Canada is bet­ter than re­turn­ing to Haiti, where she fears that the fam­ily of her dead hus­band will kill her.

“I won’t — I can’t — go back to Haiti,” said Beauville, a care­giver from Anseà-Veau, Haiti.

Beauville was one of a surge of thou­sands of Haitian mi­grants who crossed the bor­der from the United States to Que­bec last sum­mer, spurred by a May an­nounce­ment by the Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion that Haitians could lose their tem­po­rary pro­tected sta­tus in the United States, granted af­ter the 2010 earth­quake that dev­as­tated their coun­try.

The mi­grants were hop­ing to ben­e­fit from a loop­hole in a U.S.-Canada treaty that al­lowed them to make refugee claims in Canada if they did not ar­rive at le­gal ports of en­try, but crossed the bor­der il­le­gally.

But Cana­dian of­fi­cials are warn­ing that even lib­eral Canada has its lim­its amid con­cerns, fairly or not, that il­le­gal mi­gra­tion is stretch­ing the im­mi­gra­tion sys­tem to a break­ing point and risks stok­ing a po­ten­tial back­lash.

Canada’s min­is­ter of im­mi­gra­tion, Ahmed Hussen, him­self a former refugee who moved to the coun­try from So­ma­lia when he was 16, said Canada was proud to be a wel­com­ing coun­try but could not wel­come ev­ery­one. Only about 8 per­cent of Haitian mi­grants had re­ceived asy­lum since the sum­mer, he said, and there is a back­log of about 40,700 cases, ac­cord­ing to Canada’s Im­mi­gra­tion and Refugee Board.

“We don’t want peo­ple to il­le­gally en­ter our bor­der, and do­ing so is not a free ticket to Canada,” Hussen said. “We are say­ing, ‘You will be ap­pre­hended, screened, de­tained, fin­ger­printed, and if you can’t es­tab­lish a gen­uine claim, you will be de­nied refugee pro­tec­tion and re­moved.’”

Cana­dian im­mi­gra­tion of­fi­cials are once again brac­ing for a pos­si­ble in­flux of mi­grants head­ing north. On Mon­day, the Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion said it would not be re­new­ing tem­po­rary pro­tected sta­tus for nearly 200,000 Sal­vado­rans, a hu­man­i­tar­ian mea­sure that had al­lowed them to live and work legally in the United States.

In Au­gust, the num­ber of asy­lum-seek­ers who il­le­gally crossed the U.S. bor­der into Que­bec swelled to 5,530, most of them Haitians, ac­cord­ing to Cana­dian gov­ern­ment data. In Novem­ber, that num­ber dropped to about 1,500 peo­ple, sug­gest­ing that cold weather and the warn­ings from Cana­dian of­fi­cials were hav­ing an ef­fect.

Hussen em­pha­sized that Canada was obliged to honor its in­ter­na­tional com­mit­ments un­der the 1951 U.N. refugee con­ven­tion, which makes clear that asy­lum claims should be con­sid­ered even if those ap­ply­ing use ir­reg­u­lar means to en­ter a coun­try.

But ex­perts say there are too few judges to ad­ju­di­cate the back­log of refugee claims, which means that the asy­lum process for mi­grants like Beauville can drag on for as long as two years.

“There is a dis­con­nect be­tween Trudeau’s hash­tag ‘Wel­come to Canada’ and the re­al­ity that the sys­tem is over­whelmed,” said Michelle Rem­pel, the shadow im­mi­gra­tion min­is­ter for the op­po­si­tion Con­ser­va­tive Party.

Re­naud Philippe/The New York Times

Marlise Beauville (left) and Marie Nadege, a fel­low mi­grant, dine at a cafe in Mon­treal. Beauville was one of a surge of thou­sands of Haitian mi­grants who crossed over to Canada last sum­mer.

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