As immigration relief measures, such as those contained in the recently defeated farm bill, stall in Congress and the administration continues its campaign to clamp down on immigration, millions of illegal immigrants, and even lawful immigrants facing the end of their Temporary Protected Status (TPS), are being forced to explore alternatives to their lives in the U.S. or returning to their countries of origin. To them it is a choice between a life under siege in the U.S., or the dread of return to impossible conditions back home. Increasingly, these immigrants are choosing to go to Canada to claim asylum there. However, they know that if they apply for asylum at a Canadian port of entry, they will likely be turned away because of the Third Country agreement between the two countries. That agreement normally requires people to apply for asylum in the country where they first arrive. In the case of U.S. immigrants, that means they should claim asylum in America. But by illegally walking across the Canadian border, such as into Quebec, B.C. and Manitoba, they can avoid being returned to the U.S. and instead are channeled into the internal Canadian refugee claims process because that is what is required of Canada under the U.N. Refugee Convention and its Charter of Rights and Freedoms.
In addition to the approximately 11 million unlawfully present immigrants in the U.S. considering their options, a relatively new process is adding pressure on other immigrants to leave. Most recently, on May 4 th , 2018 the United States Department of Homeland Security issued a press release declaring that Temporary Protected Status for Hondurans will end on January 5 th , 2020. A similar extension was announced in March for Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) so-called Dreamers. There were other such announcements recently in the United States. With each such announcement the message is clear: those affected are reaching the end of the road and are being told they will soon need to leave. For these reasons illegal border crossings into Canada promise to continue.
Canada is already struggling to deal with the strain of these new migrants illegally crossing its border. According to Citizenship and Immigration Canada (CIC) statistics, between the months of January and April 2018, the Royal Canadian Mounted Police registered a total of 7,612 interceptions. Most of the interceptions were in Quebec, the other two provinces with the most interceptions were British Columbia and Manitoba. This number of interceptions may look small when compared to last year’s statistics, but one must remember only the cold winter months have been counted so far. It is likely that the termination of multiple TPS programs, as well as the uncertainty surrounding DACA, and the pressure on unlawful immigrants in general, including those who see Canada as an “appeal court” to their failed U.S. immigration claims, will push more and more U.S. illegal migrants northward, especially as the warming weather arrives.
“Irregular Migrants” Are The Problem
The Canadian government refers to these illegal migrants as “irregular migrants” – the implication being that this migration is in some way understandable, or perhaps partially justified. But at the same time that these migrants are illegally entering Canada, their influx is delaying and derailing thousands of people who have followed the legal process for applying as investors, entrepreneurs, skilled workers as well as refugees at Canadian consulates overseas. Instead of processing these legal cases, Canadian officials are scrambling to deal with the thousands of illegal migrants walking across the border from the U.S. and claiming refugee status.
How Bad Is It?
The Canadian Border Service Agency (CBSA) estimates there are currently about 15,000 foreign nationals facing deportation in Canada. The average escorted removal cost is $15,000. Put another way, every time an illegal migrant crosses the Canadian border, the minimum starting cost if they are to be removed is $ 15,000. Since they come to Canada illegally from the United States, it is unlikely they will pay for their own removal to their home country. That means Canada has a potential $ 225 million removal problem and it is growing day by day. That is just the cost of removals and does not include the costs of their stay in Canada. A bigger problem is that even if Canadian law requires their removal, international law may prevent Canada from deporting them. Scott Bardsley, the spokesperson for the Minister of Public Safety, recently related that some countries are “refusing to provide travel documents to their citizens,” or even more belligerantly, “outright refusing to take them back.” In fact, the situation is so dysfunctional, that since 2017 only one percent of illegal aliens in the country have been removed from Canada.
Meanwhile, political tension in Canada is growing. Quebec has reached a breaking point as the province with the most interceptions and asylum claimants. According to the Toronto Star, Ontario Immigration Minister Laura Albanese is working with the Quebec immigration minister to take some of the pressure off of Quebec by transferring refugee claimants to Ontario. But this sharing of the burden can only go so far. A negative pattern similar to that seen recently in the EU related to refusing to share the burden of illegal immigrants across provinces is likely to develop if the problem is not addressed soon.
What Does The Future Look Like For Canada?
Realistically speaking, illegal migrants who are entering Canada are likely to stay. There is a cap of some 300,000 new immigrants allowed into Canada per year. Instead of Canada choosing who will immigrate, the country is being flooded by migrants who are making that decision for Canada. As a result, Canadian citizens who seek to bring their family members into the country, or who seek to bring over skilled workers, and investors who want to come to Canada to start businesses and grow the Canadian economy, are being pushed aside. In the absence of a mitigating policy, illegal migrants crossing the U.S.- Canada border will increasingly consume resources previously meant to help process overseas immigrants. The costs of health care, social services and education of the illegal inbound migration will mount. Attitudes towards immigration will harden. Political tensions will increase as the debate about how to deal with the problem intensifies and extreme views will escalate in reaction to the lack of a coherent policy to address the problem that can be supported by most Canadians. Canada, once the Camelot of the world, will increasingly become balkanized and more like the conflicted Europe we are witnessing today.
This is the course Canada is on at the moment. However, that course can be changed. Weak ads, such as those currently being circulated by Canadian officials on social media, simply will not do it. Nonetheless, it is not too late to turn the country around. But it will require rethinking Canada’s refugee policy, particularly in light of the new corruption revelations plaguing Germany that could appear in Canada. It’s time for Canada to get started.
This article is reprinted from an article formerly published in the Forbes.