As debate rages on in the United States over whether Trump's temporary immigration "ban" is constitutional, according to immigration officials in Manitoba, Canada, many refugees currently in the United States aren't waiting around to hear the Supreme Court's conclusion and are instead braving the blistering cold and fleeing north on foot. Per Reuters, Manitoba's Welcome Place refugee agency helped 91 claimants between Nov. 1 and Jan. 25 - more than the agency normally sees in a full year.
"We haven't had something before like this," said Maggie Yeboah, president of the Ghanaian Union of Manitoba, which has helped refugees get medical attention and housing. "We don't know what to do."
But Canadian advocacy organizations are bracing for a greater influx of asylum-seekers, driven in part by the contrast between the ruling Liberal government's acceptance of Syrian refugees in Canada with Trump's anti-foreigner rhetoric.
"They will make a dash for Canada, whether they are going to go through cold weather to die or not," said Abdikheir Ahmed, a Somali immigrant in Manitoba's capital Winnipeg who helps refugees make claims.
Anisa Hussein, 20, and Lyaan Mohammed, 19, hired a smuggler to take them from Somalia to Minneapolis in August, where they planned to settle in a large Somali community. But Trump's anti-refugee rhetoric frightened them into traveling to Manitoba days later.
"(Trump) said he would turn away the refugees and we would go back to Somalia," said Mohammed, peeking timidly from behind the hood of a thick parka she received in Canada for winter. "We were so scared. We just wanted to be [in] a safe place."
Meanwhile, according to at least one counselor at Manitoba's Welcome Place, the "terrified, undocumented immigrants" have fled the United States in droves over the past two months specifically to escape the unknown associated with Trump's presidency.
"The U.S. presidential campaign, putting undocumented immigrants and refugees in the spotlight, terrified them," said Ghezae Hagos, counselor at Welcome Place. "The election and inauguration of Mr. Trump appears to be the final reason for those who came mostly last month."
In Quebec, 1,280 refugee claimants irregularly entered between April 2016 and January 2017, triple the previous year's total.
In British Columbia and Yukon, 652 people entered Canada irregularly in 2016, more than double the previous year.
Of course, like with anything else in today's hyper-partisan world, the reasoning for the "surge" in illegal border crossings into Canada should be taken with a grain of salt. Per the data below, "unauthorized" refugee border crossings at Emerson, Manitoba started to rise in late 2015 about the same time the Obama administration started to drastically increase the number of refugees allowed into the U.S. (see "Obama Takes In 606% More Syrian Refugees Than Last Year, 98.8% Muslim"). So, it would stand to reason that a higher number of refugees entering the U.S. would translate into a higher number subsequently flowing over the northern border...but what do we know?
So we'll let you be the judge: terrified refugees or just more fake news?