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Roxham Road | Children with US citizenship among irregular migrants

(OTTAWA) Children with US citizenship are among nearly 10,000 migrants who have crossed the Canada-US border irregularly from Roxham Road since it reopened last November.

Posted at 5:00 a.m.

Joel-Denis Bellavance

Joel-Denis Bellavance
The Press

Documents obtained by The Press under the Access to Information Act indicate the country of origin of the thousands of migrants who arrived in Quebec via the famous Roxham Road, located near the Saint-Bernard-de-Lacolle border crossing.

These documents reveal that at least 137 children born in the United States and thus holding American citizenship are among the 9,632 people who crossed the border irregularly between November 21, the date of the reopening of the road by the Trudeau government , and March 23. These documents therefore make it possible to establish for the first time that persons with American nationality are claiming refugee status.

Many of the irregular migrants who have been intercepted by Canadian authorities in recent months have originated from countries such as Pakistan, Colombia, Ethiopia, Haiti, Zimbabwe, Yemen, Cameroon, Congo, Chile , Sri Lanka, Rwanda, Angola, Gabon, Syria, Nicaragua and Nigeria, among others.

These documents also show that an average of 79 people per day crossed the Canada-US border during this four-month period. Over a period of 12 months, such an average would result in the arrival of nearly 29,000 irregular migrants.

However, the federal authorities expect this daily average to increase with the arrival of good weather, as was the case before the COVID-19 pandemic, we warn behind the scenes.

What fate is reserved for minors who hold American citizenship and who accompany their parents with another nationality? The Immigration Department told The Press that the usual procedures apply and that their request is treated in the same way as the others.

“All refugee claimants receive a fair hearing at the Immigration and Refugee Board, an independent, quasi-judicial tribunal. Each case is assessed on its own unique circumstances, based on the evidence and arguments presented,” the ministry said.

Beforehand, the Canadian authorities carry out the necessary checks to ensure that the intercepted migrants do not pose a threat to the security of Canada and to determine if they are eligible to submit an asylum application. This security screening includes biographical and biometric data checks such as fingerprinting. Subsequently, the procedure for obtaining an asylum application can be initiated.

The resumption of the flow of irregular migrants on Roxham Road is a bone of contention between Ottawa and Quebec.

Urgency to amend the Safe Third Country Agreement

According to Conservative MP Pierre Paul-Hus, the arrival of children with American citizenship confirms the urgency of modifying the Safe Third Country Agreement between Canada and the United States.

“This is a situation that demonstrates that the Liberals need to fix the breach in the Safe Third Country Agreement. When children born in the United States of immigrant parents seek refuge in Canada, it is clear that there is a problem. Why didn’t the parents seek asylum in the United States all these years? asked Mr. Paul-Hus.

The Bloc Québécois is calling for the suspension of this agreement as soon as possible.

“What is certain is that it is not the claimants who are the problem, but the government which refuses to take charge of the situation. We anticipate the arrival of 35,000 people on Roxham Road this year and the Prime Minister remains idly by, while he can unilaterally close Roxham Road by suspending the Safe Third Country Agreement,” said MP Alexis Brunelle-Duceppe, Bloc Quebecois immigration critic.

Allowing women, children and families who currently cross through the side door to cross through an official, safe and regular entrance is something that should go without saying and, moreover, that is demanded by associations that defend refugees .

Alexis Brunelle-Duceppe, Bloc Quebecois immigration critic.

Under the Safe Third Country Agreement, only individuals who claim asylum at an official border crossing are returned to the United States. In December, The Press reported that Ottawa and Washington had agreed to seal the breach that became Roxham Road.

Both countries are prepared to amend this agreement so that Canadian authorities would have the power to return an asylum seeker to the United States, regardless of whether they present themselves at an official port of entry on the Canada-United States border. to make this request or if he lodges it after crossing the border in an irregular manner.

Far from priority

But before implementing the new deal, Public Safety Minister Marco Mendicino and Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Minister Sean Fraser must pass relevant regulations implementing the changes. Their American counterparts must do the same. And in Washington, this file is far from being a priority, which delays the entry into force of the modifications.

Last month, the Premier of Quebec, François Legault, demanded that Ottawa proceed without delay to close Roxham Road, which he said has become a “strainer”.

But his federal counterpart Justin Trudeau ruled out such an option on the grounds that it would only shift the problem to another border entry point.

“If we closed Roxham Road, people would go elsewhere. We have a huge border. We are not going to start arming it or putting fences on it,” he argued. “If there are people who are going to arrive irregularly, we can at least control them, we can at least do security checks, we can at least make sure that they are not lost inside from Canada. »

With the collaboration of William Leclerc, The Press

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