Refugees Find Canada’s Southern Border

March 12, 2017 5:46 pm Last Updated: March 12, 2017 5:46 pm

First it was a joke. With every U.S. election, a variety of Democrat dim bulbs in the Hollywood constellation have declared if their favored candidate didn’t win the election, they would move to Canada. Thus, at various times Reagan, “Dubya” Bush, and in 2016, Donald Trump, prompted such 60-second media highlight announcements. (Republicans never said they would leave the United States.)

Of course these Democrats didn’t leave—to the substantial amusement of Republicans, who would have happily provided them bus fare if they were to act on their professed commitment. Consequently, there were a number of vignettes humorously hypothesizing the fate of those benighted souls seeking refuge in Canada. Supposedly, they were scaring livestock and, when discovered huddled in barns (Canada being considerably colder than California), asked for Perrier water, a latte, and vegan nourishment before being moved to refugee camps.

But, since the inauguration of President Trump and his commitment to enforce the law to remove individuals illegally in the United States, there have been some harrowing tales of border crossers. Tear-jerker media has featured families and lone individuals hiking through snow drifts lugging suitcases and other personal baggage. They have been met by smiling RCMP officers and accommodating Canadian officials. Fear has conquered rational decision making on the part of these “irregular” border crossers.

These pilgrims have exploited a loophole in the regulations governing asylum seekers. To prevent “refugees” moving from country to country shopping for the best social accommodations, the “safe third country” rule permits immediate deportation and return if an individual appears at a designated official crossing point from a “safe third country” (of which the United States is such). However, if the individual slips across the border at other than an official crossing point (and the wilds of Canada has much untrammeled border sans official crossing points), (s)he can claim refugee status and not be subject to deportation.

Initial analysis of some of these border crossers, notably from Saudi Arabia, indicates that they held legitimate visas issued by the U.S. Embassy in Riyadh well before the November U.S. election. These visa holders planned to use the United States as a jumping off point to reach Canada and its more congenial social circumstances.

Nevertheless, the Canadian media has projected “sky is falling” scenarios predicting that once the snow melts, refugees will flood north. (But probably not in sufficient numbers to dent the 11 million illegals already burrowed into the United States.) Some of the tiny communities near the unofficial crossing points, however, have already been stressed by the requirement to provide assistance to these illegal border crossers.

But other than filling media air time and stoking the sensibilities of those Canadians who see the “age of Trump” generating persecution of the innocent (while virtuous, “kinder/gentler,” Canada plays host to the “wretched refuse of your teeming shore”), one might suggest some sober second thought.

Such realism has been evinced by “senior” Canadian officials, including Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale, who have announced that they see no need to tighten the border or interfere with current procedures. Nor do they believe existing border patrol forces need expansion/augmentation.

Ottawa, however, will provide additional funding to supplement the budgets of these small communities enduring an influx of illegal border crossers. What is of particular interest to both Ottawa and Washington is the origin of these individuals and whether they have pending criminal trials and/or outstanding deportation orders from the United States.

There is also the unmentioned concern of illegals, criminals, and/or potential terrorists moving south and accessing the same unguarded routes now exploited by illegals heading north. U.S. border security officials remain mindful that while none of the 9/11 terrorists entered from Canada, they could easily have done so.

 Separately, and totally ignored by current commentary, is previous Canadian experience with Vietnam era draft dodgers and deserters fleeing the United States. Numbers vary wildly with estimates ranging from 20,000 to 125,000, reportedly upwards of 50 percent remaining in Canada despite a “pardon” offered by President Carter in 1977. As the draft dodgers were frequently college-educated and liberal, they settled in urban areas, notably Toronto, where they reinforced the implicit animus of liberal Canadians to all things American.

One doubts that the current refugee levels will approach the Vietnam era flood—and certainly not the refugee levels Europeans are facing. Still, it is salutatory for Canadians to get a taste of the “illegals” problems faced by the United States for the past generation.

David T. Jones is a retired U.S. State Department senior foreign service career officer who has published several hundred books, articles, columns, and reviews on U.S.–Canadian bilateral issues and general foreign policy. During a career that spanned over 30 years, he concentrated on politico-military issues, serving as adviser for two Army chiefs of staff. Among his books is “Alternative North Americas: What Canada and the United States Can Learn from Each Other.”                                                         

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