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Republicans and Democrats argue over Canada-US migration ‘crisis’


The two sides to a growing political war over irregular immigration to the United States clashed on Tuesday on what was a largely unknown front for them: the 8,900 kilometer Canada-U.S. border.

During a subcommittee hearing on Capitol Hill, House Republicans fanned the flames of an emerging fire and brimstone narrative about a “metastatic crisis” of irregular migration along the longest international border in the world.

Their Democratic counterparts — aided by Laura Dawson, Canadian-born executive director of the Future Borders Coalition — have done their best to form a kind of bucket brigade, pouring cold water on GOP rhetoric.

“There is nothing happening with regard to Canada that deserves to be treated as some kind of rogue state,” said Rep. Glenn Ivey (D-Md.), the ranking Democrat on the subcommittee of monitoring, investigations and accountability.

In fact, Ivey noted, President Joe Biden and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau met last week in Ottawa in what he described as a showcase of the good situation between Canada and the United States.

This meeting portrayed Canada as “a good working partner with the United States, and we have been able in the past — and will continue to be able in the future — to address the issues of a joint and efficient manner.”

One such problem, to hear Republicans tell it, is a dramatic increase in recent years in the number of migrants entering the United States through a difficult-to-secure and largely ignored northern border.

Experts dispute the data, noting that not all “encounters” with U.S. authorities involve migrants, and that border hawks often cite the low-traffic years of the COVID-19 pandemic to make the spike more dramatic.

But while they disagree on the scale of the problem, they generally agree that more people are trying to enter through Canada than they were before the pandemic and that the United States – in in particular, the White House and Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas – should be more careful.

“The Biden administration’s failed policies encourage criminal organizations to exploit the northern border, smuggling people, including children, drugs and weapons,” said subcommittee chairman Dan Bishop ( RN.C.).

“We will hold President Biden and Secretary Mayorkas accountable for this metastatic crisis.”

Dawson, for years a voice of reason on all Canada-U.S. issues, tried to inject some common sense into the hearing Tuesday, as did Rep. Brian Higgins (DN.Y.), one of Canada’s most outspoken congressional allies.

When smaller incidents are considered in Customs and Border Protection data, the number of encounters with migrants who slipped into the United States between ports of entry was approximately 4,500 during last fiscal year, Dawson said.

“Now that’s a big deal, and Canada and the United States need to work together to bring those numbers down,” she said.

“Compared to what most countries face, the Canada-US border is the envy of the world, but there is always room for improvement.”

Both Dawson and Higgins cited the further expansion of the Safe Third Country Agreement, confirmed Friday by Biden and Trudeau, as evidence that the two countries are working together on a better solution to irregular migration.

“We cannot call our northern border and our northern neighbors hostile,” Higgins said.

Dawson and Higgins, however, were outnumbered. Alongside the congressman were three members of the fledgling Northern Border Security Caucus, which has been dealing with the issue politically for nearly a month.

And Dawson was flanked by the president of the union that represents U.S. Border Patrol officers, as well as Andrew Arthur of the Center for Immigration Studies, a think tank widely denounced in Washington as “anti-immigrant.”

Arthur described the expansion of the new safe third country as “a decision that benefits Canada at the expense of the United States”, noting that some 39,000 people entered from the United States last year at the now known blocked unofficial crossing. as Roxham Road.

“Under this amendment, almost all of these entrants from now on will be returned to the United States,” he said, calling the new deal a “tacit admission” that U.S. immigration policies “harm the security of Canada and its taxpayers”.

At one point, Dawson found herself in a minor skirmish with New York Rep. Elise Stefanik, one of the subcommittee’s most infamous Republican flamethrowers, who tried to dismantle her argument over the data.

U.S. border security is an “abject disaster,” Stefanik said as he pressed Dawson to debunk a favorite Republican statistic: that encounters on the northern border are up more than 800%.

“I don’t have the information to agree or disagree,” Dawson replied.

Then there was Representative Marjorie Taylor Greene of Georgia, who went so far as to suggest that Canada was actively complicit in her country’s immigration problems.

“It is extremely concerning and dangerous to the national security of the United States of America that Canada’s immigration policy allows Mexicans to travel to Canada without a visa,” Greene said.

“It seems that Canada wants to participate in the Mexican invasion of the United States.”

This report from The Canadian Press was first published on March 28, 2023.

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