Trump Administration Rules Are Reducing Illegal Immigration at U.S./Canada Border

Family members from Somalia are escorted to waiting vehicles by Royal Canadian Mounted Police. (Paul Chiasson/The Canadian Press via AP)
Paul Chiasson/The Canadian Press via AP

Tighter U.S. border security to stop the spread of the coronavirus has led to a decrease in illegal immigration, including along the northern border with Canada.

Like the U.S., Canada has also put in place the policy of turning migrants back immediately, according to the Associated Press (AP):

Five Mexican citizens apprehended this week after illegally entering the United States in remote northern Maine were returned to Canada within hours under a rule put into place as part of the U.S. government response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

While the restrictions haven’t ended illegal immigration into the United States from Canada, the emergency policy has all but ended the use of Roxham Road in Champlain, New York — one of the most well-known routes used by people fleeing the U.S. to seek asylum in Canada.

President Donald Trump closed the borders with Mexico and Canada to all-but-essential traffic in March. For those entering illegally or seeking asylum, the administration has suspended immigration laws on public health grounds, giving border officials authority to rapidly expel them.

The order from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) allows “rapid expulsions” along the Mexican and Canadian borders and is set to expire on May 21, but administration officials could extend it, according to AP.

AP noted that the “vast majority” of expulsions have taken place along the southern border with Mexico, with Customs and Border Protection (CBP) reporting that since Trump tightened the borders in March up to the end of April more than 20,000 people were returned to Mexico.

That number for the same time period was 27 migrants trying to enter the U.S. along the northern border who were returned to Canada, AP reported. The report also said:

One of the first instances of returning northern border crossers came on March 21, the day the policy was implemented, when border patrol agents in Richford, Vermont, apprehended six individuals who had just illegally entered the U.S. from Canada. They were returned to Canada the same day.

Amnesty International Canada joined a lawsuit challenging the “safe third country agreement” that allows northbound migrants to seek asylum in Canada.

“The terms of the arrangement between Canada and the U.S. have never been publicly disclosed, and thus it is unclear how Canada is ensuring that it will not be complicit in any violations committed by American authorities,” Justin Mohammed said Friday in an emailed statement to AP.

But Jessica Vaughan, director of policy studies for the Washington-based Center for Immigration Studies, said on Friday that the reduction in illegal immigration is a positive development.

“It’s pretty clear the main reason for this is the policies,” Vaughn said. “They are not going to get away with making asylum claims, they are not going to be able to game the system.”

The AP reported that “tens of thousands” of migrants who couldn’t get “safe haven” in the United States headed to Canada, including many along Roxham Road in New York that leads to the Canadian border.

Before the coronavirus pandemic the illegal crossers were arrested by the Royal Canadian Mounted Police and allowed to apply for asylum. Most were released into Canada to wait for their application to be processed.

But, like the U.S., Canadian officials have tightened border security in the wake of the pandemic. 

“In an email response to questions, the Canada Border Services Agency said that between March 21 and May 13, 26 asylum seekers were returned to the U.S., including 21 “irregular” border crossers — 14 in Quebec and nine in British Columbia. The other three asylum seekers presented at a port of entry in southern Ontario and were sent back to the U.S.,” AP reported. “Two other asylum seekers were allowed to enter Canada under exceptions to the rule that include being an unaccompanied minor or a U.S. citizen seeking to make an asylum claim in Canada.”

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