The U.S. Breaks Its Promise Not to Deport Asylum Seekers Turned Away At Canadian Border

At least eight asylum seekers received deportation orders from the United States in 2020, according to The Washington Post. Another has already been deported.

The deportation orders were issued despite the fact that, in March 2020, U.S. officials had promised their Canadian counterparts that asylum seekers who were turned away at the Canada-U.S. border wouldn’t be deported upon their return to the U.S.

According to the Safe Third Country Agreement, which is shared between Canada and the U.S., asylum seekers must file their refugee claims in the first “safe” country that they arrive in. Under these rules, asylum seekers attempting to file refugee claims after arriving in Canada from the U.S. are required to return to the U.S. to file a claim there.

Between January 1 and September 23, 2020, Canada turned away 259 asylum seekers attempting to enter Canada from the U.S.

What Happens Now

The Washington Post reported that five of the asylum seekers with deportation orders issued by the U.S. have been exempted from border restrictions by Immigration Minister Marco Mendicino. Meanwhile, another application is pending.

These exemptions mean that the asylum seekers will be allowed to enter Canada if released by the United States. Such exemptions can only be issued in exceptional circumstances that are deemed to be of national interest by Canada’s foreign, immigration, or public safety minister.

“While we absolutely welcome this decision and are very happy about it, we’re mindful that this is only a small piece of the puzzle and that the exemption on its own is not a complete solution,” Toronto-based lawyer Kate Webster told The Washington Post.

Webster currently represents six of the asylum seekers and said she had recently received calls from additional people who had been returned to the U.S. where they were detained by U.S. Customs and Immigration Enforcement and placed in removal proceedings.

“I have very serious concerns that there are many more in these circumstances and we just don’t know about them,” Webster said.

Canadian officials would not comment on the cases to The Washington Post, citing a privacy rule. However, a spokesperson for Mendicino stated that the immigration ministry had issued exemptions to refugee claimants seeking entry into Canada from the U.S. “in a number of exceptional circumstances.”