Are illegal border crossers jumping the queue?
One of the most difficult things for any politician to do is to tell the whole truth. When defending a policy position, they will often repeat selective facts, while not mentioning other facts that put things in perspective.
Such is the case when the federal government says that asylum seekers from the United States are not queue jumpers. Earlier this year, federal Immigration Minister Ahmed Hussen said, “with respect to so-called queue-jumping … we have told them over and over again there is no such thing…”
From January to October 2018, 17,105 people illegally crossed the border from the United States and requested asylum. Hussen argues that asylum seekers are not queue jumpers because there is “a separate queue” for illegal border crossers who request asylum.
In other words, if Canada is a nightclub, there is a front door and a back door to get in. Illegal border crossers who request asylum are not “butting in line.” They have a different lineup than people who immigrate to Canada legally.
While Hussen is technically correct that asylum seekers are not jumping the queue, it is a distinction without a difference. On average, it takes 6 to 12 months to immigrate to Canada. (The processing time for a permanent resident card is currently 53 days, but there are additional steps that must be taken before submitting an application.)
An illegal border crosser doesn’t have to wait 6 to 12 months to live in Canada. They can wake up in the morning in the United States and be in Canada before the day is over. If they are eligible to make an asylum claim, they get to stay until their claim is heard, a process that takes more than a year.
Even if an illegal border crosser does not delay the application of someone who wants to immigrate to Canada, they have entered the country 6 to 12 months earlier than the person who follows the legal process. Hence, an illegal border crosser from the United States is equivalent to a queue jumper. They have leapfrogged into Canada ahead of the people who are waiting to immigrate.
In reality, most asylum seekers from the United States who appear at a legal port of entry would be denied entry into Canada under the Safe Third Country Agreement (STCA). Knowing this, they make an illegal crossing instead.
Illegal border crossers can request asylum due to a loophole in the STCA. Under the agreement, “persons seeking refugee protection must make a claim in the first country they arrive in … unless they qualify for an exception…” However, the agreement only applies to people who enter Canada at land border crossings or by train or at an airport. This loophole needs to be closed.
If the STCA were renegotiated, illegal border crossers could be arrested, detained, given due process, and if found guilty of illegal entry, they would be returned to the United States.
Another option is to simply pass legislation, so that illegal border crossers from the United States cannot request asylum. Such a measure would not violate the 1951 Refugee convention. According to James Bisset, a former head of Canada’s Immigration Service, “Canada has chosen to enact laws and regulations that go above and beyond what is required by the Convention.”
While Article 31 states that “Contracting States cannot impose penalties” (i.e., fines or prison time) on asylum seekers who enter a country illegally, it does not prohibit a state from deporting them. Article 33 only prohibits a state from deporting most refugees to a place where their “life or freedom would be threatened.”
A sovereign nation has the right to control its borders and who it allows to immigrate. Unfortunately, Canada has a defacto open borders policy when it comes to asylum seekers. The federal government can stop the flow of illegal border crossings by only allowing people to request asylum if they do so at a legal port of entry.
A family in Calgary is attempting to avoid deportation from Canada. The family is from Sri Lanka and two of their children were born in Canada.
Maneth Fernando is the eldest son in the family at 9-years-old. He wrote a letter to Marco Mendicino, the Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada as a last resort to ask Ottawa to help his family stay in the country.
In an interview with CTV News, Maneth said, “Canada is a safe place with lots of good schools and my friends are here. If I go back, the kids in the Sri Lankan schools will laugh at me because I can only speak English.”
In the letter, Maneth mentioned that he was worried that “something bad will happen” to his family if they are forced to go back to Sri Lanka—his parents birthplace.
His parents are Nishan Fernando and Sulakshana Hewage two of their three children were born in Canada. One is 4-years-old and the other is only 15 months.
It has been arranged by the Canada Border Service Agency that the family be flown to Colombo, Sri Lanka on March 3. This decision has come after years of court proceedings.
Udani Perera, the family’s lawyer, said, “There are two Canadian born kids here and the only options that my clients were given is to put the Canadian-born into foster care and go back to Sri Lanka, which is completely unacceptable.”
The couple fled Sri Lanka and made their way to Canada with their first son in 2012. Fernando told officials that he feared for the safety of his family because his uncle was involved in criminal activity.
He told CTV News, “We were seeking a safe place for my kids and family.”
Federal Court documents showed that Fernando’s uncle was a contract killer, a political fixer and a loan shark. He also had connections to high up politicians.
The uncle that Fernando was referring to has been murdered since the family left Sri Lanka. He was the man who raised Fernando.
Until 2016, Fernando had worker status in Canada. In May of 2016, his permanent residency application was refused. Ottawa said that Sri Lanka did not pose enough of a safety threat to the family who has claimed to have been attacked twice in the past.
In 2018, the claim was rejected again.
Another application was submitted by the family about five months ago. The application is still on a waiting list and cannot stop the family from being sent back while on the list.
The IRCC statement noted, “If applicants have to leave the country, their application for permanent residence will continue to be processed.”
Their lawyer, Perera, thinks the family will not be safe if they return to Sri Lanka.
“There are serious threats to their lives,” she said.
Over 50,000 immigrants, many who illegally entered Canada through the border, were ordered deported but remain in the country, according to Blacklock’s Reporter.
Much of this has to do with the appeal process, which can take over two years to be completed. The cabinet blamed the lack of removals on the “complexities” of the individual’s cases.
“The Agency cannot enforce a removal order unless there are no more grounds justifying a stay of removal under the Immigration And Refugee Protection Act,” the cabinet further added.
Over the past three years, the RCMP has intercepted 56,515 immigrants illegally entering Canada—mainly deriving from Hati and Nigeria. The vast majority of these immigrants remain in the country.
Much of this is owed to opaque bureaucratic red-tape. Any individual, for instance, can appeal their deportation notice to the Immigration and Refugee Board. After this, they can then ask a judge to review the case.
As a result of this, there is now a backlog of 64,929 cases relating to illegal immigration.
In order to resolve the strain this has placed on Canada’s government, the deputy immigration minister, Michael MacDonald, stated that the Immigration and Refugee Board was hiring some “several hundred new employees.”
In 2017 the Liberals were accused of screening out senior Conservative-appointed judges at the Immigration and Refugee Board in the two appeals divisions. These judges with experience were responsible for processing the cases of immigrants ordered deported, and experts cite this changing of staff for patronage appointments as contributing to the backlog.
The RCMP intercepted 16,503 people illegally crossing into Canada from the U.S.-Canada border in 2019, according to new federal government data.
The number of people entering Canada via the border at unofficial ports of entry declined in 2019, but the total number of people making asylum claims jumped from 55,040 in 2018 to 63,830 according to Immigration, Refugee and Citizenship Canada.
The increase is due to more and more people flying to Canada and then making asylum claims upon arrival at airports across the country.
The Safe Third Country Agreement between America and Canada means asylum seekers are supposed to make refugee claims in the first safe country they enter, but when individuals cross illegally into Canada they are able to bypass the agreement.
The Trudeau government dragged its feet on doing anything significant to address the spike in illegal border crossings, first changing the wording to “irregular border crossings” and accusing critics of stoking xenophobia.
But in the lead-up to the 2019 election, after government internal polling showed the vast majority of Canadians polled didn’t approve of people crossing into Canada illegally, the Liberals promised to change legislation to curb the influx.
The spike in illegal border crossings began around the time Prime Minister Justin Trudeau tweeted that Canada welcomes those looking to find a new home and when U.S. President Donald Trump was cracking down on illegal immigration in America.
The National Post via an access to information request found that their was a deluge of inquiries across the world to Canadian embassies of people inquiring how to immigrate to Canada after Trudeau’s tweet in early 2017.
According to reports, Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Ahmed Hussen’s briefing notes in December stated their are no formal plans setup with the U.S. to address the loophole to the Safe Third Party Agreement.
A Syrian refugee has become a Canadian citizen today and a celebration was held at Halifax’s Pier 21. Tareq Hadhad is the founder of Peace by Chocolate, a company out of Antigonish, N.S. that has been quite successful.
Tareq Hadhad was elated to be called up to officially receive his Canadian citizenship. “It’s the biggest day of my life, full of emotions, absolutely,” Hadhad said following the ceremony. He is the first of his family to become a Canadian citizen.
“It’s certainly an honour, I feel that I belong to this amazing nation. I feel that I am free and I will go out of this place so proudly saying that I am so honoured to be a Canadian at this moment.”
Hadhad will waste no time integrating himself into the Canadian culture, saying a top priority is to pick up “a double-double with a toonie and [fly] to watch a hockey game on the weekend.”
Making chocolate is a part of Hadhad’s family history as his father, Assam Hadhad, made chocolate back in Damascus for two decades, employing 30 people in his factory according to CBC. The factory was tragically bombed amid the turmoil and warfare.
Prior to the outbreak of war the company used to ship specialty treats across the Middle East.
Hadhad’s family settled in Antigonish in 2016 after fleeing from Syria. They opened Peace by Chocolate —which ships products throughout the country and employs about 55 people, including other refugees as well.
Marco Mendicino, minister of immigration, refugees and citizenship spoke at Wednesday’s ceremony, “With all the complexities in the world, I think this is just a wonderful silver lining and positive story. It demonstrates that immigration is a true hallmark of our history, but also the key to our future,”
Hadhad passed his Canadian citizenship test with a perfect score, a fact he proudly shared via Twitter. The post went viral, even attracting attention and congratulations from Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.
Lucille Harper of Antigonish was instrumental in bringing the Hadhads to Canada. She was thrilled to see their successful immigration story. “It’s just all we could ever really hope for,” she said.
Hadhad’s family has applied for Canadian citizenship and they are hoping to be able to take the test within the next couple of months. Alaa Hadhad, Tareq’s sister said it would mean the world to her and her children to join Tareq’s family as Canadian citizens.