David Ljunggren, Reuters, August 23, 2017
Canada fears a huge surge in asylum seekers crossing the border from the United States, putting political pressure on Prime Minister Justin Trudeau ahead of a 2019 election, sources familiar with the matter said on Wednesday.
The number of migrants illegally entering Canada more than tripled in July and August, hitting nearly 7,000. Haitians, who face looming deportation from the United States when their temporary protected status expires in January 2018, accounted for much of the inflow.
Two sources familiar with Canadian government thinking said citizens from El Salvador, Nicaragua and Honduras, who are slated to lose their U.S. protected status in early 2018, may also head north.
“There is concern we’ll see a huge increase, mostly from Central America,” said one source.
Most new arrivals are going to the predominantly French-speaking province of Quebec, sparking protests from opposition politicians and anti-immigrant groups.
Trudeau’s Liberals need to gain support in Quebec to offset expected losses elsewhere ahead of an October 2019 election.
Ottawa has hardened its tone in recent days, warning people not to cross the border since they could well be deported.
A Reuters poll in March found nearly half of Canadians want to deport people who are illegally crossing from the United States.
A Haitian-Canadian Liberal legislator is due to visit Miami on Thursday, home to a large expatriate community, in a bid to persuade people to stay put.
Some of the Haitians are in temporary housing, including Montreal’s Olympic Stadium and at least two tent camps near the border.