For many, being apprehended in Canada is safer than staying in the United States
President Donald Trump’s executive actions are inspiring rambunctious town hall meetings, mass protests, and a flood of calls and letters to Congress.
While Trump’s orders aren’t sitting well with most Americans, the fallout of those actions is reverberating perhaps most heavily throughout the immigrant community, specifically those on Trump’s banned travel list. For safety reasons, many immigrants are making a dangerously frigid journey in the middle of winter north to Canada to seek asylum, taking advantage of a loophole in a U.S-Canadian treaty signed in 2004.
The Safe Third Country Agreement has been their salvation, despite the wilderness trek it necessitates. Under the pact, those who are denied asylum in one country cannot be given asylum in the other, but that’s if they try to do so officially. So-called “irregular migration” is not covered under the protocol, giving those who make it to Canada the opportunity to seek refuge once they’re in the country.
Those who attempt the journey cross at small towns such as Hemmingford, Quebec and Emerson, Manitoba, while desperately dragging their belongings and their families through the snow. The overwhelmed emergency crews in these tiny communities are getting help from the Royal Canadian Mounted Police to deal with the influx of weary travelers.
“In Quebec, the number of asylum claims rose from 42 in January 2015, to 452 last month (January 2017),” reports The Globe and Mail.
Once they reach Canadian soil, those seeking asylum then present themselves to Canadian police for arrest.
That’s where Canadian law kicks in. Asylum seekers get an oral hearing, where they sit in front of a judge within 24 hours of reaching the country. They are either detained, or they are released, says NPR.
Law Professor Efrat Arbel explained the process to The Globe and Mail this way:
“It doesn't matter how you've entered. Once you make your way in, you advance your refugee claim as usual. If you've entered through a field, then the Safe Third Country Agreement wouldn't be attached to your claim. You're not obligated to disclose the manner by which you have entered.”
Many would rather grasp an uncertain journey than be forced to cower in fear in the United States, immigration social workers told NPR. And there’s no doubt that their rush to our northern neighbor is due to policies enacted by President Trump.
“This is due to Trump. We have to go to Canada, the U.S. is no good,” a man from Djibouti told The Globe and Mail.
But not everyone is happy with this practice. Conservative members of Parliament like Michelle Rempel and Tony Clement are putting pressure on the government stop refugees from crossing illegally.
“The government must respond to this situation in a way that keeps Canadians safe and sends a strong message to those considering an illegal crossing that there are proper channels to do this,” claimed Rempel.
Her concerns were backed up in a tweet by Clement, public safety critic for the conservative party:
Regardless of sentiment, it’s clear that many people feel that arrest in Canada is a safer option than living in the United States.