The wave of hysteria unleashed by President Donald Trump’s upset electoral victory in November stoked nightmarish visions of armed ICE agents would be kicking down doors and rounding up illegal immigrants by the thousands. So it’s unsurprising that Trump’s victory inspired a wave of asylum seekers traveling from Mexico, South and Central American to flee even further north to Canada in the month’s following Trump’s victory.
Yet, despite Canada’s reputation as a welcoming liberal paradise, many of these immigrants are now stuck in a thorny legal limbo making it difficult for them to secure jobs and a permanent resident. This situation could persist for months, if not years, according to data obtained by Reuters. As the news agency notes, the backlog of asylum cases has simply overwhelmed the country’s ability to process and vet individuals applying for legal refugee status. Because of this, Canada is taking longer to process refugee claims than at any point in the past five years – and they’re poised to grow even longer.
Thanks to the flow of migrants across the border, 2017 is expected to see the highest number of asylum seekers applying for asylum since 2011, as Reuters reports.
“Refugee claims are taking longer to be completed than at any time in the past five years, according to previously unpublished Immigration and Refugee Board data provided to Reuters. Those wait times are set to grow longer after the IRB in April allocated “up to half” of its 127 tribunal members to focus on old cases. The number of delayed hearings more than doubled from 2015 to 2016 and is on track to increase again this year.”
Following an influx of Syrian refugees in recent years, Canada's refugee system had been struggling to process thousands of applications even before 3,500 asylum seekers began crossing the US-Canada border on foot in January.
“[Canada] lacks the manpower to complete security screenings for claimants and hear cases in a timely manner. Often there are not enough tribunal members to decide cases or interpreters to attend hearings, the IRB said.”
What’s the hold up? As Reuters explains, every applicant is required to attend a hearing in person.
“Hearings are crucial to establishing a claimant’s legal status in Canada. Without that status, they struggle to convince employers to hire them or landlords to rent to them. Claimants cannot access loans or student financial aid, or update academic or professional credentials to meet Canadian standards.”
…yet the government just canceled thousands of hearings as the system sags under the weight of the backlog. And adding to the difficulty is the fact that the government is taking longer to process cases following the introduction of a two-month time limit in 2012.
“More than 4,500 hearings scheduled in the first four months of 2017 were canceled, according to the IRB data.”
“The government is now focused on clearing a backlog of about 24,000 claimants, including people who filed claims in 2012 or earlier. That means more than 15,000 people who have filed claims so far this year, including the new arrivals from the United States, will have to wait even longer for their cases to be heard.”
“Asylum cases are already taking longer to finalize, on average, than at any time since Canada introduced a statutory two-month time limit in 2012. This year, it has been taking 5.6 months on average, compared to 3.6 months in 2013.”
Applicants awaiting their hearings are in a difficult position: While they’re allowed to work legally, employers in Canada typically prefer hiring candidates who already possess legal status. Therefore, it’s difficult for them to get jobs.
Asylum claimants are eligible for work permits while awaiting hearings, but employers are often reluctant to employ people with temporary social insurance numbers whose future is uncertain, refugee lawyers told Reuters.
This situation, of course, was widely anticipated. As we noted earlier this year, one recently deported Mexican nationalist told Reuters that illegally immigrating to the US was over, courtesy of the Trump administration, and that it was "Canada's turn" to welcome the world's immigrants with open arms.
His statement proved prescient: According to stats highlighted by the Financial Times recently, "land border asylum claims" in Canada continue to skyrocket with Quebec crossings up nearly 3x YoY and crossings into Ontario surging as well.
The irony is, many of these asylum seekers would’ve probably been better off if they had stayed in the states, even though enforcement of immigration laws has unquestionably risen since Trump took office. Though the mass roundups that liberals had feared have failed to materialize.
As we reported earlier this year, even as so-called 'sanctuary cities' around the country ramp up their efforts to thwart the Trump administration’s attempt to enforce immigration laws despite the risk of losing their federal subsidies, arrests of illegal immigrants spiked 33% YoY in the first 52 days of Trump's presidency, according to the Washington Post.
U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement arrested 21,362 immigrants, mostly convicted criminals, from January through mid-March, compared to 16,104 during the same period last year, according to statistics requested by The Washington Post.
Arrests of immigrants with no criminal records more than doubled to 5,441, the clearest sign yet that President Trump has ditched his predecessor’s protective stance toward most of the 11 million undocumented immigrants in the United States.
Advocates for immigrants say the unbridled enforcement has led to a sharp drop in reports from Latinos of sexual assaults and other crimes in Houston and Los Angeles, and terrified immigrant communities across the United States. A prosecutor said the presence of immigration agents in state and local courthouses, which advocates say has increased under the Trump administration, makes it harder to prosecute crime.
“My sense is that ICE is emboldened in a way that I have never seen,” Dan Satterberg, the top prosecutor in Washington state’s King County, which includes Seattle, said Thursday. “The federal government, in really just a couple of months, has undone decades of work that we have done to build this trust.”
That said, we doubt WaPo made the same arguments in 2014 when, under the Obama administration, immigration arrests were 37% higher than Trump's first 50 days...wonder why that would be?
Furthermore, maybe the Obama administration, with its unprecedented surge in immigration enforcement, should also shoulder some of the blame for the snafus that refugees are presently experiencing north of the border.