Immigration Round Two: Canada, Travel Bans, and Illegal Border Crossing

This week, Trump released a revised order on immigration. This second attempt removes Iraq from the order, leaving individuals from Iran, Libya, Syria, Somalia, Sudan, and Yemen banned from entering the United States for the next 90 days. The order also bans all refugees for the next 120 days.

These travel bans have been an increasingly debated topic in the last few months. But while American politicians debate the policies and orders that will restrict immigration, many refugees and immigrants can’t wait for a fixed decision.

The original executive order caused a wave of fear and uncertainty for refugees and immigrants. The uncertain future has led immigrants (many of which are legal U.S. visa-holders) to seek refuge in Canada, with some hoping to find a more stable and certain future there. Immigrants’ need to flee America shows the anti-immigrant atmosphere that has been created.

Canada has seen an influx of illegal border crossings in the last few weeks.

Many people are trekking through the snow in -10 Fahrenheit weather in search of asylum. According to the Manitoba Interfaith Immigration Council, 143 refugee claims have been filed for persons illegally crossing the Canadian/American border, most through the largest land border, Emmerson port, near Winnipeg, Manitoba.

The Canadian reception of these refugees is surprising. Instead of sending people back to America or their country of citizenship, Canada is allowing asylum-seekers to stay and claim refugee status. This actually violates the Canada-U.S. Safe Third Country Agreement, which requires refugee claimants to request refugee status in the first safe country – in this case, Canada or the United States – that they arrive in.

Not only are Canadian border crossing officials overlooking the agreement, they are also providing protection for these individuals seeking asylum. The Premier of Manitoba, Brian Pallister, announced that 14 new shelters will be opened to house those claiming refugee status, and several border crossings are adding paramedics and emergency assistance to help those who have put their lives at risk to cross the border.

While the general Canadian reception of refugees seems lax, the documentation and vetting processes are quite tough. Contrary to popular belief, the Canadian screening process is just as strict as the American process.

Former ICE Director, John Sandweg, indicated his confidence in the Canadian screening process.

“I have never had a sense that there are any concerns about the quality of the Canadian screening,” Sandweg said in an interview with the Toronto Star. “Certainly, there’s a sense in the U.S. that Canada is more open and welcoming than the U.S., but not in a way that compromised security or adopted lesser standards from the security perspective”

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has no plans to change the border policies either. In a joint statement with President Trump, Trudeau said, “We continue to pursue our policies of openness towards immigration and refugees without compromising security.”

If the American and Canadian processes are the same, why is the reception so different?

It’s because of ideological differences. After the debut of Trump’s immigration ban, Trudeau took to twitter and said, “To those fleeing persecution, terror & war, Canadians will welcome you, regardless of your faith. Diversity is our strength #WelcomeToCanada.”

Had 143 refugees entered America through Canada, there would be a public outcry, but Canadians are welcoming the newcomers. From sponsoring refugee families, to starting “English-practice clubs” to help people overcome language barriers, many Canadians are working to make refugee resettlement as smooth as possible.

A Difference in Approach

Canadians do not condone the illegal border crossings, nor do they want to open the borders. Instead of treating immigrants, refugees, or asylum seekers like criminals to be feared, they have taken measures to help those who want to become Canadians and treat them as such. When a refugee claimant enters the country, they are housed, their claim is entered into the vetting system and, once approved, Canadian officials and community members will help immigrants and refugees with the integration and resettlement process.

Regardless of immigration policies in Canada and America, anti-immigrant rhetoric is a persisting problem. Generalization of all immigrants and refugees has become common. However, this generalizing of immigrants is contrary to reality.

As of 2014, there are 42.4 million immigrants residing in the country, according to ACS data compiled by the Migration Policy Institute. Immigrants account for 13.3 percent of the American population. According to projections based on the same data, 26 percent of the U.S. population represents immigrants and their American-born children, equaling about 81 million people as of 2016. Generalizing a group of people which accounts for a quarter of the population is nonsensical. There are 81 million lives, stories, and experiences, all of which are unique.

This generalized rhetoric dehumanizes millions of people, allowing us be apathetic to millions of stories. There is a persisting “us vs. them” mentality in America that allows inequality to take root.

What we need to take away is, regardless of one’s position on immigration, the refugee crisis, or border security, America will always have immigrants. And whether a person believes we should build a wall, lower immigration quotas, or even embrace complete isolationism, one thing is certain: we cannot be anti-immigrant. To be anti-immigrant is to be against 13.3 percent of America, and against students, teachers, doctors, and veterans.

Instead of opposing people, oppose bad immigration policies. The moment we make people feel unsafe in our country is the moment we kill the American dream.

About Olivia Thiessen

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Olivia Thiessen grew up in several towns across Canada but now resides in Vancouver, British Columbia. She can be found in corners of coffee shops and bookstores studying for literature classes. She is currently completing an English degree at Pensacola Christian College in Florida.