The Trudeau government’s task force looking at illegal border crossings from the United States met earlier this month.
Federal Transportation Minister, and Task Force Chair, Marc Garneau, welcomed all members to the meeting. He emphasized that the ongoing response to the increase in asylum seekers has truly been a whole-of-government effort. Many federal departments, agencies, and provinces have been involved, and the leadership shown by all has permitted an efficient response to a fluid situation. “Together, we have made significant progress over the last several months in responding to the irregular migration movement,” Garneau said.
Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship (IRCC), Ahmed Hussen reported that flows of irregular migrants crossing the border in Lacolle, Quebec, have remained steady in 2018 . There was an average of 50 interceptions per day in January. He added that his department continues to examine volumes to identify any possible changing patterns with irregular migrants especially for those nationalities for which Temporary Protected Status in the United States will soon expire. Countries include: Haiti, Sudan, El Slavador, and Nicaragua.
A high number of work permits continue to be delivered to regular and irregular migrants across Canada within the 30-day service standard. 97 per cent of work permit applications submitted by irregular migrants have been approved and only around 3 per cent have been refused, primarily due to incomplete medical examinations.
Hussen noted that the innovative mobile processing unit at the Lacolle port of entry that was operational from November 7, 2017, to February 9, 2018, processed 720 asylum claims. He also mentioned that the mobile processing units would be deployed at other border points across Canada, should there be any significant volume increases.
Garneau reiterated the Government’s investment of $173.2 million over two years, announced in Budget 2018, towards managing irregular migration. This investment will be used to support the intake of new asylum claims, eligibility processing, faster processing of claims at the Immigration and Refugee Board, front and security screening procedures, and detentions and removals of those who pose a risk to the safety and security of Canadians.
Officials from Public Safety Canada (PS) indicated that the Asylum Seeker Influx National Strategic Response Plan is in effect and that the Government continues to plan for a range of scenarios. Regional response plans, which provide for an integrated and coordinated response at the regional level, have advanced significantly. Further refinement of regional plans is ongoing. Tabletop exercises have been completed with partners in British Columbia, Manitoba, Quebec and New Brunswick. Federal and Ontario officials will work together to organize a tabletop exercise in the coming weeks.
Starting in the summer of 2017, Quebec has put in place a series of measures to effectively handle an unprecedented volume of refugee claimants through the remarkable engagement of provincial and municipal departments and agencies, as well as community partners. Stakeholders remain engaged to quickly deploy the resources required if the situation should change.
PS officials also mentioned that they continue to be engaged with counterparts in the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and Department of State (DOS). They have been encouraged by high-level U.S. support for close bilateral cooperation on this issue to ensure the continued integrity of the shared borders.
IRCC officials are also continuing their engagement with U.S. counterparts on any changes to their policies and to address joint challenges. This includes recent trips to Washington to meet with senior officials, as well as direct engagement with U.S. counterparts in offices located overseas. “We are continuing our outreach efforts to ensure that individuals are aware of Canadian immigration laws and of the risks of crossing the border into Canada between points of entry,” Hussen said.
Member of Parliament Pablo Rodriguez briefed the members on his recent trips to Montreal, Toronto, Washington, and Los Angeles, where he conducted outreach efforts with the Salvadoran and other Hispanic communities. He mentioned that our outreach efforts are showing results and that he has granted many interviews, allowing him to reach thousands of people.
Minister Garneau concluded the meeting by saying that the Government of Canada remains committed to protecting the safety of Canadians and keeping our borders secure. Canada had 50,380 asylum claims throughout all of 2017. 20,593 were made by irregular migrants.