President Joe Biden and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau have agreed on a new deal that will make it easier for both countries to turn away asylum seekers who cross the border at unofficial entry points.
The deal, which was announced on Friday after Biden’s first state visit to Canada, will extend the existing Safe Third Country Agreement (STCA) to cover the entire US-Canada border, not just the official ports of entry.
The STCA, which was signed in 2004, requires asylum seekers to file their claims in the first country they arrive in, whether that’s the US or Canada. However, the agreement did not apply to those who crossed the border at irregular or unofficial points, such as Roxham Road in New York, a dirt road that leads to Quebec.
This loophole has led to a surge of irregular migration in both directions in recent years, especially after the election of former President Donald Trump, who enacted harsh immigration policies and rhetoric.
According to Canadian government data, nearly 40,000 people entered Canada at Roxham Road in 2022, almost twice the number of crossings in 2019. Meanwhile, NBC News reported that unauthorized border crossings from Canada into the US are at historically high levels, though still significantly lower than the number taking place at the southern border.
Under the new deal, Canada will be able to send back unauthorized asylum seekers who are apprehended within 14 days of crossing the border back to the US, and vice versa. The deal will also allow both countries to share the biometric data of migrants to prevent them from making multiple claims.
As part of the deal, Canada will also launch a program that will take in 15,000 migrants from South and Central America, where many people are fleeing violence, poverty, and climate change. The program will be similar to one that Canada implemented in 2016 to resettle Syrian refugees.
The deal is expected to take effect soon, as it only requires an executive order from both leaders, not congressional or parliamentary approval.
Biden and Trudeau said the deal will ensure more “fairness” and “orderliness” in migration between the two countries, as well as strengthen their bilateral relationship on other issues such as trade, climate change, and security.
However, some advocates and experts have criticized the deal as a violation of human rights and international law.
They argue that the STCA does not guarantee that asylum seekers will receive a fair hearing or protection in either country and that it puts them at risk of being detained or deported to their countries of origin where they may face persecution.
They also point out that the deal does not address the root causes of migration or provide adequate support for migrants who are already in Canada or the US. They call for more humane and compassionate solutions that respect the dignity and rights of migrants.
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