Samantha Raphelson, NPR, January 17, 2018
Since last May, thousands of Haitian immigrants have been steadily pouring into Canada, mostly on foot at the Quebec border, in an attempt to flee aggressive anti-immigration policies by the Trump administration.
More than 18,000 people filed asylum claims in Canada last year, with up to 250 people per day entering the country at one point last summer. Since then those numbers have dwindled, but the Trump administration’s decision to rescind temporary protected status for nearly 60,000 Haitians in November has prompted a new surge of asylum seekers in Canada.
The flow of Haitian migrants into Canada was sparked last summer when the U.S. began considering an end to the temporary residency program for Haitians that has been in effect since the 2010 earthquake. Now that TPS has been terminated, Haitians have until mid-2019 to leave the U.S. Others are entering Canada after traveling through the U.S. from South America, Villefranche says.
Mona Hassennia, a director of the nonprofit organization International Social Service, told NPR in an interview last year that 80 percent of her clients have walked over the U.S.-Canada border.
Along with Trudeau’s open embrace of refugees, many people are also crossing the border because of a legal paradox known as the U.S.-Canada Safe Third Country Agreement. That deal states that if a person applies for refugee status by legally crossing into Canada, they will be deported because the U.S. is considered safe for refugees. But if a person enters illegally, the treaty doesn’t apply and they can remain in Canada while their claim for refugee status is decided.
More than 14,000 people entered Canada outside legal border points in the first nine months of 2017, according to the Canadian Broadcasting Corp. Nearly half of those migrants were from Haiti.
Many Canadians are calling for an end to the Safe Third Country Agreement, and the government is working to clarify the immigration process. After the U.S. rescinded TPS for nearly 200,000 Salvadorans last week, the Canadian government urged them not to come unless they qualify for refugee status.
Many people continue to enter Canada illegally because they know they will not be sent back to the U.S. while their asylum case is considered.