Andy J. Semotiuk's picture
Canada losing control of its border security
Posted on Aug 15, 2017

President Trump's crackdown on illegal immigrants in the United States is having unforeseen consequences for Canada. The flood of recent migrants crossing the Canadian border from the U.S. is unprecedented. They come, some with criminal records, others fleeing expected cancellation of their American Temporary Protected Status, and one Syrian family flying into New York City on tourist visas, then making their way to Plattsburgh, where they took a taxi to the border. All of them are fleeing to Canada in search of a better life. And many more are coming – by taxi, by bus and on foot – in response to Prime Minister Trudeau's January 2017 tweet: "To those fleeing persecution, terror & war, Canadians will welcome you, regardless of your faith. Diversity is our strength #WelcomeToCanada." Every day more arrive crossing the border illegally.

Canadian Immigration Processing Being Held Hostage

Meanwhile, thousands respectfully await their turn in the legal system. As U.S. migrants stream into Canada unhindered, spouses and family members of Canadian sponsors, investors, entrepreneurs, skilled workers and even refugees in camps in Africa and Asia wait their turn – some for three, four or even more years. Instead of processing cases overseas, Canadian officials struggle to deal with the onslaught at their doorstep. According to a BBC article, some 3300 migrants have come to Quebec (never mind the rest of Canada) in this manner since the beginning of January. An additional 1200 entered in July, and a further 150 are arriving every day. To accommodate the new arrivals, Montreal's Olympic Stadium has been converted into a temporary refugee center. The Stadium is full. To deal with the surge at unofficial crossings such as Roxham Road, where recently there were 700 people waiting to be processed, the Royal Canadian Mounted Police set up a reception center, and the Canadian military has started to build a camp that will accommodate up to 500 people in Saint-Bernard-de-Lacolle, Que.

There is a growing backlog in processing these arrivals. According to Richard Goldman of the Committee to Aid Refugees, "rather than the typical 72 hours to complete initial vetting, these appointments are being scheduled “one or two months later.” In other words, Canada is losing control of its border security and criminal checks are not being done. Quebec is dealing with the problem by trying to send the new migrants to other provinces.

Canadian Immigration Minister's Pronouncement Tepid

Meanwhile to address concerns expressed in the media and elsewhere, Canada's Minister of Immigration, Ahmed Hussen, issued a statement warning, "Anyone who is in the United States who is intending to come to Canada to make an asylum claim should do so in the United States and not embark on what could potentially be a dangerous journey across our border." Dangerous? Perhaps during the winter, but not now. At least not according to video broadcast by the Canadian news media. This tepid and out-dated pronouncement has clearly missed the mark.

Although it is true that not everybody is alarmed by the new arrivals, nor exactly satisfied with the way immigration has been handled historically. Many Canadian immigration advocates have denounced the Third Country Agreement that requires refugees to make their claim in the first North American country where they land. They argue that the United States is no longer a safe haven for refugee claimants. Thus the reason for  illegal entries on foot and away from ports of entry – a loophole in the agreement that makes an entry in this manner successful where otherwise the entry would be denied.

– Andy J. Semotiuk is a U.S. and Canadian immigration lawyer, published author and former UN Correspondent with offices in New York and Toronto. Sign up for his newsletter at My Work Visa.