Canada’s Customs and Immigration Union Raises Concerns over Lack of Staff to Handle Irregular Border Crossings

This summer could see another rise in the number of asylum seekers crossing into Canada at unofficial borders. Last year, the Trump administration announced the end of protected status for thousands of immigrants in the U.S. Many of those individuals hope to resettle in Canada, crossing at unofficial borders.

While they do have a chance to claim asylum by dodging official ports of entry, they still must have their asylum claims accepted to stay in Canada. Landing in Canada does not guarantee permanent protection. But for many, the chance is worth the risk in the face of deportation in the U.S.

This year’s influx may already be well on its way. Around 600 asylum seekers crossed into Canada at the unofficial border in Quebec over the Easter weekend.

Canadian Customs and Immigration Understaffed

The impending rise of asylum claims has Canada’s Customs and Immigration Union (CIU) raising concerns over the lack of staff and resources to handle another summer surge of border-crossers. The Union wants a government commitment to hiring more staff and has cautioned that, without staff increases, processing delays and backlogs will only get worse.

However, the government appears to be hiring less staff than are needed. The CIU’s national president said that for every 500 staffers who leave, the government hires 260 individuals to replace them. Unless the government meets staffing demands, the growing backlog and delays at customs will only worsen over the summer months.

Canadian Outreach to Counter Misinformation in the U.S.

Currently, Canadian officials are working with the U.S. to stop immigrants from crossing into Canada illegally.

Officials launched a “detect and correct” outreach program last year after the U.S. lifted protected status for many. This program reaches out to stakeholders and officials in areas with large immigrant populations.

The spread of misinformation about Canada’s immigration system may have contributed to thousands crossing the border last summer. As a result, these outreach efforts focus on informing immigrants to use the regular channels to come to Canada.

Approximately 195,000 immigrants from El Salvador currently live in the U.S. Since they are the largest population of protected status immigrants, Canadian outreach has focused on educating El Salvadorans about immigration to Canada. As a result, various states are airing Spanish commercials and social media ads to help dispel misinformation and rumour.

Canada’s outreach program has been well-received, with community leaders and stakeholders getting involved and informing immigrant communities about the nature of the Canadian asylum system.

If Canada can put in as much effort with staffing as it does outreach, the summer influx of asylum seekers may be less overwhelming for workers and the immigration system as a whole.