Canada struggles to dictate new immigration policy and to find homes and legal help for migrants already in Canada as the United States shifts its immigration policy.
In the past, the vast majority of migrants have come from overseas, entering Canadian territory legally in a carefully controlled process. Migration over the U.S.-Canada border is historically insignificant. However, over the past year, more than 20,000 people, including thousands of Haitians and Nigerians and hundreds of Turks, Syrians, and Eritreans, have crossed the border into Canada illegally over the past year, according to The Globe and Mail.
Of the seventeen organizations Reuters spoke with, eleven said interviews with border crossers confirmed that many were fleeing because of President Donald Trump’s immigration policies, and Canadian immigration tribunals are reportedly giving credence to migrants who fear deportation or racist attacks following the 2016 American election.
This spike in illegal immigration from the United States, from where there had previously been virtually no illegal immigration, comes in the wake of Trump’s crackdown on illegal immigration and his move to strip Haitians, Salvadorans, and others of their temporary legal status.
Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has specifically chosen not to blame the United States or any of its policies for the issues. Some in Canada, particularly those on the right, believe that blaming the United States is merely a distraction from the real culprits, which they believe are Trudeau’s lax immigration policies and a tendency to let more immigrants into the country than some deem appropriate.
Regardless of the reason behind new surges of immigration, many Canadian cities are in desperate need of increased funds and support to handle the migrant influx. Canadian law expects immigration departments to process all refugee claims within 60 days. In December 2015, 26 percent failed to be processed within that time frame. In December 2016, that number rose to 66 percent and grew to a staggering 86 percent in December 2017.
Cities hit the hardest by the migrant influx, including Toronto, Montreal, Winnipeg, Calgary and Vancouver, are experiencing the worst delays and accommodation shortages in years. Newcomers are finding it especially difficult to find homes as they are entering one of the most expensive housing markets in the world. According to the Globe and Mail, in Toronto, 31 percent of people sleeping in city-run shelters in January were refugee claimants – up from nearly 19 percent a year ago. The Inland Refugee Society of British Columbia reports that it turned away refugees last year for the first time in its 35-year history because it did not have enough money to cope with the growing number of asylum seekers.
In response, the Canadian government set aside CAD $173 million ($173.24 million USD) in the latest budget for extra patrols at border crossings, security screening, and processing of refugee applications. Despite this increase in spending, the federal government is reluctant to contribute and hopes that the cities and provinces will be able to handle the problem on their own.