A move by the Canadian government to enforce tighter immigration rules may prompt a flood of refugees and asylum-seekers into the U.S.
According to a report in the Los Angeles Times, the Conservative government of Prime Minister Stephen Harper has aggressively been tracking down and deporting thousands of illegal immigrants and migrants whose asylum applications have been rejected.
The Times cited the example of Harry Burkhart, the German citizen who is suspected of committing a wave of arsons in Hollywood. He had journeyed from Vancouver, British Columbia to California, after his bid to settle in Canada was quashed.
Richard Kurland, an immigration policy analyst and lawyer in Vancouver, told the paper: This is about to become a staging inventory for potential illicit entry into the U.S.”
Canada is seeking to accelerate the asylum review process and start evaluating a backlog of more than 42,000 asylum applicants, some of whom have been waiting for a decision for years (Burkhart was in Canada for three years before his bid to stay was denied).
Reportedly, Canada allows about 40 percent of asylum seekers to stay in the country.
The Los Angeles Times reported that 124,000 people in Canada have already been selected for deportation.
Under the revised program, applicants’ cases will be heard within 90 days of their applications – if they cannot prove that their lives will be in jeopardy should they return to their native country, Canada will expel them.
A great many of these unfortunate souls will likely try their luck in the U.S. rather than return home.
If you deprive a large number of people of asylum options, they're going to look for the next place to go, in large numbers, said Kurland. So it is utterly incomprehensible to not figure out that come June-July 2012, when the new rules kick in, there will be a drive to seek sanctuary somewhere else, such as the largest neighbor in North America.
It is unclear if asylum seekers who are rejected by Canada will also be summarily turned away by U.S. border guards.
Anybody seeking asylum or claiming a credible fear of persecution gets to articulate their case to an asylum officer,” said Mike Milne of the U.S. Customs and Border Protection office in Seattle, Wash.
“We would take them into detention and they would have the same right as anyone seeking asylum to a hearing.”
Moreover, Nancy Caron, spokeswoman for Citizenship and Immigration Canada, the chief border-enforcement agency, told the paper: Canada and the U.S. have a strong record of cooperation with respect to migrant, refugee and asylum issues and the management of our shared border.”