Following the Trump administration’s decision to rescind temporary protections for over 200,000 Salvadoran immigrants, Canada has launched an effort to dissuade them from illegally crossing the U.S./Canada border to seek asylum. Canada’s precaution follows a wave of irregular border crossings after the Trump administration discontinued protections for Haitian immigrants.
On Jan. 9, the Trump administration announced that it would end temporary protected status for roughly 260,000 Salvadoran immigrants. After July 2019, Salvadorans will either have to secure their immigration status in the U.S. or lose their work permits and face possible deportation.
The Bush administration had granted the immigrants protected status in 2001, after El Salvador was devastated by earthquakes. The protections were renewed 10 times before the current U.S. government decided to end them. Many of the Salvadorans who face potential deportation have lived in the U.S. for at least 20 years, Vox reports.
On Jan. 10, the Canadian Ministry announced that it would send Member of Parliament Pablo Rodriguez to California, where he will work with state officials and immigration groups to inform Salvadoran immigrants about Canada’s refugee system.
In January 2017, when U.S. President Donald Trump signed an executive order prohibiting immigration and travel into America from seven Muslim-majority countries, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced that his country would readily accept refugees who otherwise would have sought asylum in America.
Under the Canada-U.S. Safe Third Country Agreement, migrants who seek asylum must obtain refugee status at the first safe country they arrive in after departing from their origin country.
Due to the agreement, a migrant who sought asylum in Canada by entering the country through a legal checkpoint from the U.S. would be rejected. If such a migrant entered the county otherwise, he could apply for refugee status and remain in the country while awaiting a hearing to prove to the Canadian government that sending them back to their origin country would pose a danger to their safety.
In 2017, Canada was flooded with 18,000 asylum seekers. Roughly half of illegal border crossers seeking refugee status were Haitian migrants whose TPS status had been revoked by the Trump administration in May 2017. The influx of irregular border crossings put a strain on the Canadian immigration system, prompting concerns about other groups whose TPS protections were vulnerable.
“How is the Canadian government going to respond in the event that the Salvadorans and Hondurans, and probably some Nicaraguans, with no alternative but to look for refuge in another nation, instead of going back to their lands of origin, cross the border into Canada?” executive director Salvador Sanabria of L.A.-based immigrant aid organization El Rescate asked The Toronto Star in September 2017.
Canada has responded with an outreach campaign to warn Salvadoran immigrants in the U.S. that they would potentially be deported back to El Salvador if they attempted to illegally cross their border.
“We are not being complacent,” said Canadian Immigration Minister Ahmed Hussen during a press conference, according to The Washington Post.
“We are making sure we are prepared for any eventuality, including a future influx of asylum seekers crossing our border irregularly and, in that regard, we are using the lessons that we learned in the summer to do so,” Hussen added.
In 2017, over 500 Salvadorans did cross from the U.S. into Canada to seek refugee status. Over 60 percent of their applications were approved, according to Reuters.
Refugee lawyer Raoul Boulakia of Toronto predicted that Canada would likely accept the majority of Salvadoran asylum applications.
“The situation in El Salvador is extremely dangerous,” Boulakia said.
El Salvador Association of Windsor spokesperson Angela Ventura asserted that Canada should welcome Salvadorans as immigrants and not as refugees.
“They have been in the U.S. for 17 or 18 years,” Ventura said. “They are reliable workers with mortgages. If somebody has a small business in California, why not allow them to establish a small business in Canada?”