By Andrew Soboeiro
US policy affects the entire world, and immigration policy is no exception. When the United States changes its official attitude toward immigrants, we impact not only the countries those immigrants come from, but also the ones they end up going to. Few nations feel this impact more than Canada. Thanks to its proximity to the US and its cultural and economic similarities, Canada is a common destination for immigrants who want to go to the former country but cannot. Thus as the Trump Administration has made it harder for migrants to enter the United States, the number moving to Canada has jumped dramatically, creating a logistical crisis for our neighbors to the North.
Concerns for Canada
Over the past fourteen months, more than 20,000 people have crossed illegally into Canada, the majority of them immigrants to the US from other countries. These include thousands of people who are originally from Nigeria and Haiti, as well as hundreds from Eritrea, Syria, and Turkey. This inflow of immigrants is likely to continue for the foreseeable future. 1,500 more refugees entered Canada in January of this year, and the number may climb even higher once the weather warms up.
Like any country, Canada benefits from the contributions that immigrants make, and will gain much from these newcomers. But the fact that so many people are entering in such a short span of time is concerning. The Canadian government simply does not have the resources to deal with this many immigration cases at once.
Simply handling these newcomers’ paperwork is proving to be a logistical nightmare. Traditionally, Canada has promised to process refugee claims in 60 days or less, and as recently as 2015, it did so 74 percent of the time. But in December of 2016, this number fell to 34 percent, and has continued falling since. At present, the Canadian government only manages to process 14 percent of refugee claims in under 60 days.
Besides the Federal government, provincial and local governments are having trouble handling the influx, as are charitable organizations. In British Columbia, the nonprofit Inland Refugee Society has been turning refugees away for the first time since it was founded in 1984. Meanwhile, the city of Toronto has noticed that 31 percent of those living in its homeless shelters are refugees from the United States. The city hopes to provide better lodgings for these newcomers, but it needs C$20 million to do so, and the Federal government will not lend it the money. Thus every level of Canadian society is struggling to support these immigrants.
The Roots of the Canadian Refugee Crisis
The increase in immigration from the US to Canada is largely the result of the Trump Administration’s policies. Since his election, Trump has:
- Changed Perceptions: Merely by being elected, the president has led immigrants to view the United States as a hostile place. This explains why Canada began receiving more refugees than it could process in December of 2016, before Trump had taken office but after he won the election.
- Expanded Enforcement: As president, Trump has given ICE and other immigration enforcement organizations vastly more power to arrest, imprison, and deportundocumented immigrants. Any immigrant who lacks legal status or is in danger of losing it thus has a strong incentive to get out of the United States.
- TPS Termination: The president has revoked Temporary Protected Status for nearly 200,000 immigrants from El Salvador, 60,000 from Haiti, and thousands more from other immigrant groups. This explains why Haitians are so heavily represented among those moving to Canada.
It is unclear what would have to change in the United States to stop the influx into Canada. If Congress passed laws protecting Dreamers and TPS recipients, it might soften the perception that the US is hostile to immigrants. Likewise, if candidates who support immigrant rights win elections for governor and state legislatures this November, they could pass sanctuary policies that stymie the Trump Administration’s deportation efforts. But even then, immigrants and refugees may not feel comfortable in a country that elected Donald Trump as president. It thus remains to be seen whether this situation will change, as well as what its long-term consequences will be for the United States and Canada alike.