Jan 24, 2018 – The Trump administration’s decision to target employers for hiring undocumented aliens is a part of a growing US immigration crackdown effort by the American government.
After terminating the Temporary Protected Status (TPS) for immigrants from Haiti and Nicaragua, the American government recently announced that around 200,000 immigrants from El Salvador will lose their TPS with Hondurans likely to be the next target.
Further, the US Ambassador to the UN, Nikki Haley, announced her country’s withdrawal from the UN global compact on migration, which, along with controversial proposals about ending extension to H1-B visa holders or H4 work permits to spouses of H1-B visa holders, underlines tectonic shift in America’s approach towards immigration—regarding skilled workers as well as undocumented aliens.
While outflow of skilled workers from India, Vietnam, and other countries from America represents an opportunity for Canada, the prospect of surge in undocumented immigrants in America seeking refuge in Canada represents a huge risk for Ottawa with potentially serious consequences for the country’s economy and society.
Canada: Preferred Refuge for American Immigrants
It is a well-established fact that immigrants in America look to Canada when faced with uncertain times. In an earlier interview, we observed how web searches on moving to Canada saw a surge during the previous US primaries that saw numerous controversial statements related to immigration by Donald Trump.
With around 200,000 Salvadorans likely to lose their TPS by July 2019, Canada is likely to experience yet another surge in illegals crossing the border, exacerbated by a loophole in the Canada-US Safe Third Country Agreement.
This agreement, which mandates asylum seekers in the two countries to file their claim in the country in which they first arrive, covers documented and legal immigrants only. Those entering Canada illegally from the USA, by virtue of the country being a signatory of the UN Refugee Convention, are entitled to a claims process despite being arrested by Canadian authorities.
This means undocumented immigrants fleeing into Canada have the legal right to remain in Canada pending the adjudication of their claim during an immigration trial.
A Burgeoning Problem
In 2016, 15,000 aliens entered Canada across the American border with the intent of seeking asylum in the country. Of these, only 5,529 immigrants had, as of August 2017, been deported. The surge in asylum seekers compelled authorities to convert the Olympic stadium in Montreal into a temporary housing centre for the immigrants.
According to government data, the Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) and Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) processed 45,785 asylum applications in the first 11 months of 2017. The Immigration and Refugee Board (IRB) has indicated that some applications may, due to a shortage of immigration judges, take as long as 11 years to be processed.
Further, the fact that many asylum claimants prefer a few provinces over others can complicate matters. Between January and November 2017, Quebec and Ontario processed 13,280 and 10,775 asylum applications respectively while numbers were as low as 970 and 815 for Alberta and British Columbia.
Of course, the financial impact of absorbing so many refugees strains the Canadian economy. The Director General of the Operations Sector of IRCC says every asylum claim involves an average government expenditure of $15,000 to $20,000 that is, ultimately, borne by the taxpayers.
Frosty relations between the two countries due to the recent global trade complaint filed by Canada against the USA in the WTO, speculation that America may terminate NAFTA free trade talks, and, ultimately, pull out of the free trade agreement altogether are likely to impact attempts to control illegal migration from the USA to Canada.
Tackling the Issue Effectively
Past attempts to tackle this problem included, as we observed, information campaigns to convey Canada’s zero-tolerance policy towards illegal immigration.
The American Immigration and Nationality Act includes this rather controversial and unpopular measure that ensures processing delays do not become a free ticket for illegal immigrants to stay in the country.
Along with reinforcing its message to people who are most likely to try crossing illegally into Canada, the government needs to engage in sustained coordination with the U.S. to ensure only genuine asylum claimants are protected without excessive strain to the country’s social, political, and economic fabric.
On the opposite side of the argument, Canada should consider suspending the Safe Third Country Agreement to deny refugee protection to claimants unlawfully entering Canada from the USA unless they legally enter through a secure Canada based port of entry.
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