Are Irregular Border Crossings Increasing Wait Times in Other Immigration Streams?

Conservative MP Michelle Rempel (Calgary Nose Hill); Liberal MP Borys Wrzesnewskyj (Etobicoke Centre)

New Pathway – Ukrainian News.

In the summer 2017, the number of asylum seekers apprehended by RCMP officers beyond official ports of entry on Canada’s border with the United States grew to more than 1,000 a month. In 2017, this number exceeded 20.5 thousand while in the first quarter of 2018 it more than doubled from the year before. Conservative immigration critic Michelle Rempel (Calgary Nose Hill) expects that, this year, Canada will have between 50,000 and 75,000 people enter the country in this manner and claim asylum.

The Conservatives in Parliament have not lacked strong words and called this situation ‘crisis without a plan.’ In her interview with the NP-UN, Rempel referred to the discussions in some communities with strong immigrant ties: “I’ve heard from many new Canadians that they are concerned about the wait times that they have either for the processing of their permanent resident application, or for the sponsorship for their family members. I’ve met with a number of members of the Ukrainian community in Toronto last week and I share their concern given that the government has redirected over 80 staff from other processing lines in the Immigration department to processing people that are illegally entering the country from the United States and claiming asylum status. We’re really concerned as well about the fact that people who are playing by the rules … are seeing increasing wait times while the government is redirecting these resources. I have a case in my riding, where somebody is trying to privately sponsor a refugee family from Eritrea and the wait for processing out of Djibouti is 7.4 years right now. There is one stream where wait time has not increased, their wait time is 0, and that is people who are illegally entering the country and claiming asylum.”

Rempel called on the government to make changes to the legal agreement that Canada has with the United States which says that a person can not enter Canada from the United States and make an asylum claim. Because this agreement applies only to official ports of entry, she argued, Canada needs to declare the entire border with the U.S. an official point of entry. This, she said, would disincentivize people to cross the border, because if they were apprehended by the RCMP, they could no longer claim asylum and would be detained and returned back to the US.

On April 19, Rempel called on the government to, in particular, “admit the Prime Minister’s irresponsibility of tweeting #WelcometoCanada to those seeking to enter Canada through illegal means”, and to “take responsibility for the massive social services costs burdening the provincial governments.”

Liberal MP Borys Wrzesnewskyj (Etobicoke Centre) rejected the claims that the spike in refugee applications is affecting wait times in immigration streams – the immigration stream and the refugee stream are separate and don’t impact each other, he said. He noted that refugees arrive in various ways: “Sometimes they arrive through ports of entry, sometimes they cross borders by boats, and these are often irregular entries.” He said that “The rules haven’t changed and … the asylum system in the States is still working. But there has been a lot of rhetoric in the States, where people, who potentially are claiming asylum, feel under threat. And what do they do? They cross the border.”

Wrzesnewskyj also rejected the idea to declare the whole Canada-U.S. border as a point of entry as it would lead to an uncontrolled movement of people through the 6,000-km long border, which is the longest unprotected and un-surveilled border on the planet, he said.

Countering Rempel’s call on the government to “ensure the agencies responsible for our borders are properly equipped”, Wrzesnewskyj accused the former Conservative government of having cut the funding for Canada Border Services. “This government has added about $100M to strengthen the security along the Canada-US border,” he said.

As to the Prime Minister’s tweeting #WelcometoCanada, Wrzesnewskyj said: “Well, let me repeat it – Welcome to Canada. All four of my grandparents, both of my parents were refugees, and they were welcomed to Canada. We’ve welcomed some 60,000 Vietnamese boat people, we’ve welcomed 40,000 Hungarian refugees, we’ve welcomed Syrian refugees. The Conservatives want us to say that was irresponsible – absolutely not.”

The situation with the irregular border crossings has not created the massive social services costs burden for the provincial governments, said Wrzesnewskyj, because the federal government put some $74M into faster processing. These funds allowed to bring the processing time from 3 months to 3 weeks, said Wrzesnewskyj, which allows to issue work permits after this period to those who qualify, so they do not become a burden on Canada’s social system. Which brings back the conversation of “When new Canadians come to Canada, do they create jobs or do they take jobs?”, noted Wrzesnewskyj. The fact that Canada is now at the lowest unemployment rate in 40 years, he said, means that many of these refugees will help the Canadian economy.

Wrzesnewskyj accused the Conservatives of trying to whip up some rhetoric and emotions: “I think it’s almost the consequence of some of the rhetoric about refugees that we’re seeing coming out of the White House south of the border. And I don’t believe that Canadians will fall for that.”