Immigration Experts Warn that the United States is No Longer Safe for Asylum Seekers
Despite the Liberal government’s continued claims that the United States is a safe destination for asylum seekers, immigration experts are speaking up about their concerns over changes and shifts in the U.S. asylum system.
The Canada-U.S. Safe Third Country Agreement (STCA) requires migrants to claim asylum in the first safe country they arrive in; under this agreement, someone making an asylum or refugee claim in the U.S. cannot make such a claim in Canada.
Exceptions to the STCA consider the importance of family unity, the best interests of children, and the public interest.
There are four exceptions to this agreement:
- Family members
- Unaccompanied minors
- Document holders
- Public interest
Even if immigrants qualify for one of these exceptions, refugee claimants must still meet all other eligibility criteria of Canada’s immigration legislation. For example, if a person seeking refugee protection has been found inadmissible in Canada on the grounds of security, for violating human or international rights, or for serious criminality, that individual will not be eligible to make a refugee claim.
Over the last two years, primarily due to the anti-immigration policies of President Trump in the United States, many individuals fleeing persecution or violence who would otherwise make a claim within the United States have flocked to unofficial border crossings. Roxham Road in southern Quebec is a popular location for such crossings and has been since early 2017.
It’s important to note that these crossings are not illegal, these claimants do not “jump the queue,” and these claimants (like all refugee and asylum claimants) are detained for rigorous screening. According to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), Canada’s asylum system is not broken, the country is not facing a refugee crisis, and only 54% of claimants are ultimately recognized as refugees after they are heard before the Refugee Protection Division.
If the United States is a safe country, why are these people making the trip to these unofficial border crossings in hot Canadian summers and frigid Canadian winters?
Speaking to CBC News, Maureen Silcoff, an executive member of the Canadian Association of Refugee Lawyers, said, “There are serious problems with the asylum system in the United States right now.”
This is putting it mildly.
Since the election of Donald Trump, the U.S. has received serious criticism for its treatment of immigrants and refugees. In the past year alone, former U.S. attorney general Jeff Sessions said that domestic and gang violence are not legitimate reasons for claiming asylum, children were taken from their parents and detained in Cages at the U.S.-Mexico border, and Trump placed the blame for many of America’s problems squarely at the feet of immigrants and refugees.
More recently, critics have condemned U.S. immigrant and refugee detainment camps as “concentration camps.” A recent BBC headline asked the question, “Are US child migrant detainees entitled to soap and beds?”
Despite the Canadian federal government’s assessment of the U.S. as a safe country, Silcoff feels it’s time for reassessment in light of these developments and this news.
“We know because of what’s happened in the United States in the past few years that the system falls very short of those standards,” said Silcoff. “I think it’s just a matter of taking a hard look at not just the laws, but the practices and understandings, that people are at real risk of being sent back to their countries of origin and facing persecution.”