We don’t have a political crisis over immigration yet. Let’s keep it that way.
For most of its history, America has been a beacon to the world’s huddled masses, yearning to breathe free. It was the destination of choice for those seeking to escape strife and tyranny, to enjoy equality of opportunity and to make a better life for themselves and their families.
Today, however, many among the huddled have other ideas. The election of President Donald Trump, his nativist campaign rhetoric, his pledge to wall off the country’s southern border, his travel ban on seven majority Muslim countries and his deportation “surge” have dimmed America’s lustre.
In response, eyes — and feet — are turning north. The month of January saw 452 refugee claims at the Quebec-U.S. border crossings, compared to 137 in January 2016. Ontario’s immigration website crashed when it reinstated its Provincial Nominee Program, clocking 117,000 visits related to 6,000 nominee spots in just three days. And a 21st century version of the famous “underground railroad” is opening up, as U.S. churches offer sanctuary to illegal immigrants — and help some of them get across the border to Canada.
What is Ottawa doing in response? Not nearly enough. Immigration Minister Ahmed Hussen has said Canada will not rescind the Safe Country Agreement between Canada and the U.S., despite the fact that it creates a loophole which perversely encourages illegal crossings by allowing those who do so to claim refugee status. Nor is the government considering closing the loophole, as former immigration minister Jason Kenney suggested, to stop “incentivizing people coming in illegally and dangerously.”
“As of today,” Hussen said, “we continue to monitor the situation very closely. The U.S. asylum system is available to those that are seeking asylum.”
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