Canada struggling with the 'new normal' of illegal immigration

Canada has been dealing with an influx of illegal immigrants coming across the border. Both Jazz and I have written about this situation before but today Reuters published some numbers giving a big picture view of the problem Canada is facing. Before we get to that, I’ll just remind that Prime Minister Justin Trudeau invited this problem himself last January:

As you can see, Justin’s message was very popular with a lot of people who took it to be a jab at the Trump administration. It also apparently led to a lot of misinformation in immigrant communities who came to believe anyone who crossed the border into Canada would be welcomed. And people worried about what the Trump administration might do responded to this message by the thousands. From Reuters:

More than 20,000 people, including thousands of Haitians and Nigerians and hundreds of Turks, Syrians and Eritreans, have crossed the border into Canada illegally over the past year in search of asylum, many fleeing in fear that Trump would deport them to their home countries.

This unexpected northward migration has overwhelmed Canada’s system for processing asylum claims, leading to the worst delays in years. Aid agencies are also struggling to house asylum-seekers because of a shortage of accommodation in the four cities most affected by the migration wave – Toronto, Montreal, Winnipeg and Vancouver…

The Canadian government was forced to set aside C$173 million in its latest budget to pay for extra patrols at border crossings to cope with the influx, as well as security screening and processing of refugee applications…

“It’s going to get worse. The numbers keep climbing,” said Ilona Beiks, vice president of the Inland Refugee Society of British Columbia, which had to turn away refugees last year for the first time in its 35-year history because it did not have enough money to cope with the growing number of asylum seekers.

The influx shows no signs of abating. More than 1,500 asylum seekers walked across the border in January. Those working with refugee claimants say this is no blip: It’s the new normal.

Since January 2017 Reuters has sought to obtain the numbers of asylum seekers who walked across the U.S. border into Canada in the years prior to Trump’s election. The Canadian government has said no national historical data is available.

So the historical number of asylum seekers apparently hasn’t been kept by the government though it is known that the figure for all of 2016 was about 2,500. The Reuters story goes on to say that refugees are supposed to have their cases heard within 60 days but under the current influx 86% of cases are not meeting that goal. Ultimately, 53% of those whose sought refugee status in Canada last year were granted that status.

In the meantime, cities like Toronto are putting people claiming refugee status in hotel rooms as shelters are already full. In Quebec, the hockey stadium was used as a temporary shelter for refugees. This AP clip from last August shows the stream of people showing up in taxis with their belongings to walk across the border to Canada.

But as this more recent clip shows, since the surge last summer the government has been actively discouraging people already in the U.S. illegally from fleeing north. That may be having some effect but the numbers coming across the border are still expected to climb as the weather improves. Contingency plans including sending more police to the border and setting up tents to accommodate the new arrivals.