Hoping to prevent a repeat of last summer when thousands of Haitians illegally crossed the border from the U.S. to Canada to avoid President Donald Trump's tough immigration policies, the Canadian government is increasing its efforts to stop the potential influx.
This time, the focus isn't solely on U.S.-based Haitians who will lose their temporary protection from deportation on July 22, 2019, but also on more than 200,000 immigrants from Honduras, Nicaragua and El Salvador who face similar deadlines to leave the U.S.
All have been told by the Trump administration to prepare to return to their home countries. Last year, the U.S. began phasing out the special humanitarian protection known as Temporary Protected Status, or TPS. Established in 1990, the program provides temporary protection to immigrants fleeing perilous conditions caused by armed conflict and natural disasters.
"Some people believe there is a TPS program in Canada. That doesn't exist," said Randy Boissonnault, a Liberal Party member of Canada's Parliament who visited Miami last week to meet with Haitian and Hispanic community leaders to warn would-be asylum seekers.
"The reality is, if you cross the border and you are not successful with an asylum application, you go back to your country of origin. You might not have been there for 20 years. You also cannot come back to the United States," he said.
Boissonnault's visit last week came as Trump headed to Montreal for the Group of Seven summit also attended by Haitian President Jovenel Moise. It was Boissonnault's second trip to South Florida in seven months to dissuade immigrants from believing social media postings and rumors that promote Canada as a safe haven for TPS holders and undocumented migrants.
Since Boissonnault's first Florida trip in November, the Trump administration has announced an end date for TPS for immigrants from Haiti, El Salvador and Honduras. The administration had previously announced the end of TPS for immigrants from Sudan and Nicaragua. It has also increased arrests of undocumented migrants trying to cross the U.S. border with Mexico. The latter has resulted in the separation of hundreds of children from their parents.
"We understand that people are going to be making decisions about their future, and we want them to have the right information," Boissonnault said. "There are legal ways they can come to Canada."
Encouraging would-be migrants to check out the Canadian government's website, Boissonnault said Canada has increased the number of legal immigrants it will accept from 260,000 in 2015 to 340,000 by 2020. The country also has increased resources, including funding and staffing, to deal with a wave of migrants, based on lessons learned last year when 23,578 asylum seekers illegally crossed into Canada.
While Haitians were the largest group -- 7,164 Haitians sought asylum in Canada between February 2017 and March of this year -- Canada also had a large influx of Nigerians in the same period.