BILL BLACK: Illegal crossings threaten Canada’s successful immigration policy

Canada’s federal parties agree that immigration is good for the country. In the United States, Republicans and Democrats have a violent but incoherent disagreement.

There was a delay in immigrant arrivals in 2020-2021 due to COVID travel restrictions. Prime Minister Trudeau has more than made up for this by raising the target number (Notice – Supplementary Information for the 2022-2024 Immigration Levels Plan – to 432,000 this year and increasing to 451,000 in 2024.

Eighty percent of admitted immigrants are selected for their ability to contribute to the economy, many of whom are nominated under provincially administered programs. This is especially valuable in 2022, when so many occupations are experiencing labor shortages, with construction and healthcare being among the most important. Most of the others are carefully screened refugees.

Canada and the United States have a Safe Third Country Agreement that allows asylum seekers arriving at a border crossing to be turned back to lodge their application.

A continuing problem is hopefuls crossing Canada, particularly at Roxham Road in Quebec, where the agreement does not apply as it is not an official border crossing. Some of them, mostly from Nigeria, fly across the Atlantic to the United States with the express intention of entering Canada illegally.

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This was spurred on by Trudeau’s unwise tweet in 2017: “To those fleeing persecution, terror and war, Canadians will welcome you regardless of your faith. Diversity is our strength.”

Some of these asylum seekers successfully apply for refugee status, but many make it through without it. The numbers have skyrocketed. In May, the Quebec government asked the federal government to close the Roxham Road crossing.

According to Premier François Legault, at least 100 people arrived every day. Few are prevented from entering Canada. They are placing a significant strain on the province’s social services, although for the time being they are also a response to the country’s labor shortages.

Regardless, it’s a small thing compared to what Americans are experiencing.

In the past 12 months there have been nearly two million encounters with migrants on or near the southern border. Of that, almost half was designated under Title 42, a Trump-era anti-COVID policy that continued under the Biden administration. The rest will probably apply for asylum.

This process is terribly slow. According to Syracuse University, asylum seekers across the country wait an average of 810 days for an initial hearing. Republican Gov. Greg Abbott of Texas and Doug Ducey of Arizona are leading the affected states, which are struggling to cope with the numbers but are getting little support from their northern neighbors.

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To send a signal, governors have begun sending busloads of irregular arrivals to northern cities like Washington, Chicago and New York. Many of these call themselves “Sanctuary Cities” that have laws, ordinances, or other regulations that hinder immigration enforcement. This makes them safe for undocumented immigrants.

The people shipped off by border state governors are in the country legally as they await hearings on their asylum claims. Illinois Democratic Gov. JB Pritzker has declared a state of emergency and unlocked resources to support arrivals. That such action is necessary may seem bizarre to the mayors of El Paso or Del Rio, smaller cities with bigger challenges.

Many observers point to the need to reform America’s immigration laws, which are hopelessly archaic and complicated. Experts lament Congress’s inability to find a bipartisan solution.

That brings us back to Canada’s simpler context. There is no official number of people arriving at unofficial border crossings, many of which are unmonitored. Maybe it’s up to 60,000 a year.

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Having a per capita experience equal to that of Americans would mean maybe 20,000 a month. Unlike the United States, we have no procedure for returning any significant portion.

Canada has a government that doesn’t have to fight for consensus to implement a solution. The opposition Conservatives would support appropriate measures to deal with illegal entries.

Immigration made Canada’s population grow almost twice as fast as that of the United States and every other G7 country from 2016 to 2021. Immigrants are chosen based on their likelihood of being successful and contributing to the economy. In addition, we still take in more than 50,000 refugees per year, most of them privately funded.

The immigration policy and its results enjoy strong public support. This support will erode if the number of irregular cross-border commuters continues to increase. Perhaps a governor with a complaint against Canada will send chartered buses full of asylum seekers to Roxham Road.

Aside from Trudeau’s 2017 tweet, the management of the immigration record has shed a good light on Liberals. You have to deal with the illegal crossings.

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