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Forced Return of Migrants | Why can’t what can be done in the south be done in the north?

The Biden administration has announced plans to impose new, tougher measures that would allow the United States to send back tens of thousands of migrants trying to cross the US-Mexico border. This policy contrasts with the reception mechanisms that Canada must respect under the Safe Third Country Agreement. Why can’t what can be done in the south be done in the north?

What are these new procedures?

The proposal would deport anyone who did not seek protection from another country before entering the United States, or who did not notify US border officials in advance of their intention to apply for asylum.

Since the immigrants who reach the southern border of the United States necessarily come from Mexico, and often set foot in other countries before they set foot in Mexico, the measure will affect a very large number of people.

Only immigrants who applied for asylum online, through a mobile application, before arriving in the United States can be eligible. But this option is not always practical.

“This policy, which goes in the same direction that Trump has practiced, is contrary to international law,” asserts Eva Gracia Turgeon, of Foyer du monde, a temporary home for asylum seekers in Montreal.

“It is another step in the matter of nullifying the right of asylum,” adds François Crepeau, Professor of Public International Law at McGill University.

“It will reduce the number of crossings for a while, he says, but it will increase secrecy and make a lot of money for all the smugglers who will present themselves at the gates, because if the United States does not take responsibility for managing this movement, others will.”

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When should this policy go into effect?

The proposal, announced Feb. 22, has been posted to the Federal Register for comment for 30 days.

It is due to go into effect in May, once the rule linked to the COVID-19 pandemic is lifted under Trump. named Address 42This rule allowed the rapid deportation of immigrants without a visa, including asylum seekers.

Why is President Biden tightening the screws?

The goal, of course, is to deter immigrants from crossing US borders without permission.

Beyond the political judgments that can be made, these actions must be contextualised. Between October 2020 and August 2021, during the pandemic, US authorities detained 1.5 million people at the border with Mexico. During the same period, the RCMP intercepted 316 people on Roxham Road.

For fiscal year 2022, the number of illegal immigrants was 2.76 million, according to CBP data.1. These figures clearly show that the challenges facing the two countries are not of the same magnitude.

Can Canada imitate its neighbor?

The answer is no, because Canada is not the United States.

If Canada decides to return to the United States all people who present themselves at its borders in search of protection, “they will be dragged through the courts very quickly,” believes François Crepeau.

“Canada has international obligations regarding non-refoulement and has the Canadian Charter of Human Rights and Freedoms,” says the professor.

In principle, these international obligations are the same in the United States as in Canada. But because of its traditions, and its small size which gives it an unfavorable balance of power, Canada is more interested in being respected.

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As for the charter, it may lead Canadian courts to prevent such actions.

The legality of the current system is already the subject of legal challenges.

The Safe Third Country Agreement, which allows Canada to return asylum seekers who present themselves at an official border crossing and forces them to go through a circuitous route, like Roxham, has been the subject of widespread legal debate.

Longtime immigration advocates won their case in federal court in July 2020, which found the deal had the effect of sentencing the alleged plaintiffs to prison in the United States. That decision, however, was overturned by the Federal Court of Appeal in August 2021. The Supreme Court of Canada has since agreed to hear the case and is expected to issue its decision soon.

So we can expect, if the Canadian government follows the American path, to publish legal challenges.

Does Canada want to follow the example of the United States?

Perhaps this is the real question! Canada’s position on immigration, whether it is regular or not, differs from that of the United States. The irregular entries, if they sparked debates in Canada, did not cause as much social and political division as in the United States. For example, no Canadian politician has called immigrants “criminals” and “rapists” the way Donald Trump has.

There is a consensus among the major political parties here about the benefits of immigration and Canada’s role as a host country. The number of immigrants in Canada is relatively higher than in the United States, reaching 432 thousand in 2022, while net immigration to the United States reached 1.01 million between July 2021 and July 2022.

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Will US policy have any influence here?

probably. If the Biden administration implements these new measures, there will likely be fewer immigrants in the United States, and therefore fewer asylum seekers trying to enter Canada.

“It’s a game of dominoes,” explains Eva Gracia Turgeon. If there are fewer people going to the United States, then fewer people will go to Canada after that. »

What does international law say?

International law relating to asylum seekers is governed by the 1951 Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees. According to this agreement, states are obligated not to return or return a refugee to a country where he might be in danger of persecution, and to provide protection and assistance to refugees who are on their territory. International law also recognizes the concept of non-refoulement, which prohibits a state from returning an asylum seeker to a country where his or her life or freedom would be threatened.