By Ferdose Idris
“No one leaves home unless home chases you” – Warsan Shire
This is a statement that challenges our very notion of immigration. When speaking with Bashir A. Khan this evening, a Barrister and Solicitor practicing in immigration and refugee law, this was a topic we touched on. As children of the great western nations of The United States and Canada, we tend to have an arrogance about us. ‘Of course people want to move to our country and prosper’, ‘of course they want the same rights and privileges afforded to us’. But we sometimes forget that most people don’t want to move. Migrating can be a burden, to leave your social networks and all that is familiar for an unknown future can be challenging. Mr. Khan mentioned this realization when he discussed a recent trip to Sri Lanka. He saw “the poorest of the poor” content with what they had.
This phenomenon explains the recent decline in asylum seekers from the US to Canada. During the early months of this year, Canada experienced a large influx of asylum seekers from the United States to Canada. However, by late April, Canada experienced a significant decline and since August has experiences little to no USA à Canada asylum seeker. Earlier in the year, when the response of the Trump administration was unknown and anti-immigrant and refugee sentiments were high, the climate of fear lead to a dramatic increase in asylum seekers from the US to Canada. However, once there were not significant changes to immigrants already in the US (not new refugee status seekers) or mass deportations, people were less inclined to make the dramatic decision to move to Canada. This can potentially be explained by the difficulty in moving from an established, albeit precarious, existence in the United States to an unknown reception in Canada.
What I found especially interesting was the message that Canada was sending to Central American migrants. Canada rejects over 90 percent of Central American migrants claims of refugee status. This being one of the largest immigrant groups in the United States, Canada has set a clear precedence that there migrants are not welcome.
I also found the immigration judiciary system fascinating and counter intuitive.
Canadian refugee claimants, after attaining UN blue cards (which signify accepted refugee status) face a secondary vetting process similar to that of the United States. However these courts are not run by adjudicators but rather are run by a board. Only 10 percent of the board members are required to be members of a bar association. These board members take on the role of an inquisitor and generally steer the line of questioning in immigration cases. Defendants are compelled to answer any question this board puts forth and do not have the right to deny a response on the ground of self-incrimination. In addition, the full rules of evidence do not apply. Mr. Khan labeled this process “fast and furious justice” (check this quote on recording). And yet, regardless of these potential challenges to refugee claims, 90% of people rejected in the United States immigration court are accepted in Canada. Why? Mr. Khan puts forth that this could be used to the more stringent interpretation of immigration law in the United States in comparison to Canada’s more flexible interpretation.