It may seem paradoxical. Last year, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau appeared to issue an open invitation to refugees with a tweet declaring, “to those fleeing persecution, terror & war ... #WelcomeToCanada.” This year, his government is working hard to deter thousands of people who are walking over the U.S. border to seek asylum in Canada.
Canada has begun granting refugee status to fewer irregular border crossers—that is, people who walk into the country without going through a designated port of entry. Since President Donald Trump was elected, over 27,000 people have crossed into Canada overland. (By comparison, only 2,000 people did this in 2016.) In 2017, the country granted refugee status to 53 percent of such border crossers, but that number was down to 40 percent in the first three months of this year, Reuters reported. Did Trudeau change his mind about Canada’s welcoming posture in general? Or is something else at work here?
Canada has built a reputation for warmly embracing Syrians. But most of the newcomers are from elsewhere. At first, it was mostly Haitians in the U.S. who made the journey. Some said they were spooked by Trump’s anti-immigrant rhetoric and worried about losing the temporary residence status they’d been given in the U.S. following the 2010 earthquake in their native country. In recent months, Nigerians have become the most frequent border crossers. Many get visitor visas to come to the U.S., then take a bus or taxi to upstate New York, where they walk north into Quebec—straight into the arms of Canadian border guards waiting to arrest them.