Canada Deals with Growing Number of American Asylum Seekers

Children with U.S. Citizenship Widely Believed the Reason For High Numbers, And Could Set New Precedent

Statistics from Canada’s continued influx of irregular asylum seekers has revealed that some of the people seeking refugee protection in Canada are U.S. citizens.

According to government statistics, between January and August of 2018, 1,215 American citizens sought asylum at inland entry points. However, officials at Immigration, Refugees, and Citizenship have clarified that these numbers don’t provide the full story.

Most U.S. Citizens Claiming Asylum are Minors with Non-Citizen Parents

Most of these claimants are, apparently, minors accompanying their parents.

“The majority of U.S. citizens claiming asylum as minor asylum claimants who were born in the United States whose parents are citizens of another country,” said Mathieu Genest, the press secretary for Immigration Minister Ahmed Hussen. “In these instances, the claims of persecution are made against the parents’ country of origin, not the United States.”

According to Genest, these U.S. citizens are the children of Haitian or Nigerian nationals affected by U.S. President Donald Trump’s end to a temporary protected status program. These nationals were living in the U.S. for years, dating back to the 1990s, after they were displaced by conflict or environmental disasters.

Fear of Persecution

Still, even without the end of these programs, Trump’s generally anti-refugee, anti-immigrant attitudes have driven thousands of asylum seekers to Canada’s borders.

As mentioned in my comments to The Canadian Press, the United States’ political landscape could very well be the trigger for migrants claiming fear of persecution and claiming protection in Canada. What’s more, Trump’s public comments about eliminating birthright citizenship—that people born in a country are automatically granted citizenship there— is a further source of fear for these families.

The anti-immigration policies in the United States and the fears it has given rise to, particularly for certain segments of the population targeted by those policies, could set a new precedent in how Canada approaches arguments in refugee claims, and indeed how we view asylum seekers.   Regardless of how many years certain individuals may have lived in the United States, if they had legal status in that country, they would not have feared an imminent removal to their home country. 

It is when that fear became triggered by the termination of their legal status that the prospect of return and removal materialized.

As such, refugee lawyers can argue that the assessment of subjective fear in such circumstances should be based on the person’s change in circumstances and the emergence of imminent peril, which in turn resulted in their decision to flee to Canada.