Canada’s reputation as a refugee-protecting country was further burnished last Wednesday, when Immigration Minister Ahmed Hussen announced a multi-year plan that will see over 137,000 refugees and other persons deemed in need of protection settling in Canada by 2020. And, after a fraught few months, Canada is enjoying something of a respite from the illegal border crossings we saw over the summer. According to the Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA), by the end of the summer, they were processing “only” 50 to 100 claims a day, down from 1,200 a day earlier that same season.
Whether this is a trend or a pause, only hindsight will tell. But neither the generosity of Hussen’s plan nor the current respite should make us complacent about the problem of what to do about unplanned arrivals at the Canada-U.S. border. In fact, recent media reports in Canada and the U.S. predict that the issue could flare up again in the coming months.
Currently, there are 250,000 Salvadorans, Hondurans, and Nicaraguans living in the United States without valid visas who face reviews of their Temporary Protected Status (TPS) in the coming months—four times the number of Haitians who received notice earlier this year that their TPS would be lifted, prompting the mass migration north to Canada this past summer. On Nov. 6, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security decided that the Nicaraguans can be removed safely, while postponing for now a decision with respect to the Hondurans and saying nothing about the Salvadorans. Then there are the 800,000 beneficiaries of the Deferred Action on Childhood Arrivals, whose status remains in limbo.
To his credit, after first appearing to invite asylum seekers to try their luck in Canada, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau now seems to accept the problem it would pose to Canada if populations living illegally in the U.S. were to come north, rather than returning south to their home countries. Walking back his earlier message in a late-summer press conference in Montreal, he said: “Canada is an opening and welcoming society. But let me be clear: we are also a country of laws. There are rigorous immigration and customs rules that will be followed. Make no mistake.”