By Joe Guzzardi
March 5, 2012
Canada’s Conservative Party government has started to crack down on fraudulent asylum-seekers. For years, hard to believe though it is, Canada’s immigration policy has been more generous than America’s. As a result, Canada is often the destination of first choice for asylum applicants who claimed, often falsely, that they were fleeing persecution in their native countries. Now that Canada will be denying applications in large numbers, the United States becomes potential asylees’ second choice. As porous as the Mexico-U.S. border is, Canada’s with its 5,500 miles of shared boundary is more wide open. Canada has a backlog of 42,000 asylum petitions.
By the end of June, Canada will begin its $540 million “balanced refugee reform” program to speed up the asylum review process and order those with fraudulent applications deported. The strict new deadlines will require asylum applicants to have their cases heard within 90 days. For refugees from countries deemed to have ties to terrorism, the timeline is shorter. Appeals must be completed within four months. If denied, the removal process will be expedited. Currently, Canada takes about two years to hear a claimant’s petition.
Here’s the bad news. Despite a 2004 agreement between the United States and Canada that prohibits asylee petitioners in either country to seek refuge in the other when denied at their original destination, U.S. officials say they will not automatically be turned away.
The agreement was originally signed to halt the flow of asylum-seekers from the U.S., with its comparatively tough (vis-à-vis Canada’s) immigration policies, into Canada where winning asylum is traditionally more easily granted. About 40 percent of Canada’s asylum petitions are approved.
Now the agreement may come back to haunt the United States. When people have traveled thousands of miles from their native countries to get to Canada, it’s logical to conclude that once denied they’ll seek the nearest option, in this case the United States. Experts predict that the influx could begin as soon as July when Canada’s new program goes into effect.
According to Mike Milne, a spokesman for the U.S. Customs and Border Protection office in Seattle which supervises the western U.S.-Canada border: "Anybody seeking asylum or claiming a credible fear of persecution gets to articulate their case to an asylum officer. We would take them into detention and they would have the same right as anyone seeking asylum to a hearing."
Milne insists that the 2004 agreement is intended to target new arrivals, not those who had already gone through Canada’s asylum process and faced potential deportation.
Certainly, Milne’s interpretation is the most liberal possible. Why should the United States have to accept asylees Canada already rejected? We know from years of experience that once they slip into the United States, even if denied permanent legal residency, they remain anyway. During the last 15 years, no shows at immigration courts ranged annually from 40 to 60 percent. From 2002 to 2006, in the wake of 9/11, when you would have anticipated stricter controls, 50 percent of aliens who were free pending trial disappeared.
Despite the sad stories many tell, most asylum claimants come solely for economic reasons. For the United States to assume further immigration-related burdens is complete madness.
Joe Guzzardi is a Californians for Population Stabilization Senior Writing Fellow. His columns have been nationally syndicated since 1986. Contact him at [email protected]