San Francisco Chronicle

Canada, U.S. close asylum loophole

- By Josh Boak and Rob Gillies

OTTAWA, Ontario — President Joe Biden arrived in Canada on Thursday for talks with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau on several of the world's most difficult challenges: the war in Ukraine, climate change, trade, mass migration and an increasing­ly assertive China.

Two important agreements appeared to be in hand before Biden even left Washington.

Canada will escalate its timeline for military upgrades to the North American Aerospace Defense Command, and the two nations have reached an agreement to update rules for migrants seeking asylum, according to U.S. and Canadian officials.

The migration deal eliminates a loophole under old rules and will allow both nations to turn away asylum seekers at the countries' borders. The loophole resulted in thousands of migrants annually entering Canada from the U.S. at Roxham Road, a popular unofficial crossing point from New York, and staying there as they sought asylum instead of letting the process play out in the U.S.

As part of the agreement, Canada is expected to announce that 15,000 migrants from the Western Hemisphere will be given slots to apply to enter the country, according to a Canadian official.

The new policy applies to people without U.S. or Canadian citizenshi­p who are caught within 14 days of crossing the border between the two countries. The White House declined to comment on the agreement, which is expected to be formally announced Friday.

The visit comes as the Biden administra­tion has made strengthen­ing its relationsh­ip with Canada a priority over the past two years. Both sides see the meetings in the capital of Ottawa as an opportunit­y to set plans for the future.

National security and air defenses are top of mind after a Chinese spy balloon last month traversed North America. Canada plans to update its radar systems and has agreed to an accelerate­d timeline for spending billions more on military upgrades for NORAD, which monitors the skies above the continent, according to the senior Canadian government official.

Canada announced last year it is investing $3.8 billion over the next six years to modernize NORAD radar systems and billions more years later, but David Cohen, the U.S. ambassador to Canada, has said the current threat climate calls for quicker investment.

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