MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — Ahead of President Donald Trump’s new travel ban, Canadian officials report a sharp increase in illegal border crossings, mostly by Somalis from Minnesota into Canada.
A loophole in Canadian immigration prevents asylum seekers from entering at border crossings, but if a person can make it into Canada they will be considered and have a good chance of getting asylum.
Local Somali community leaders say two factors led to the increase this past weekend. First was the news that the new travel ban would likely be announced Monday and second, unseasonably mild temperatures that made the trek less dangerous.
Video taken by a Canadian news crew at the border this weekend shows refugees walking across train tracks hoping to make it into Canada. Conditions were far better than the minus 17 degree morning last month when another Canadian television crew found a man shivering on a roadside, dazed and unsure if he made it into Canada. The man told the reporter he was originally from Somalia.
Sources in the Minneapolis Somali community tell WCCO that man had walked over the border from Minnesota and while his whereabouts are currently unknown he is believed to be waiting for asylum.
“There are a few individuals who I know for sure have taken that route to go to Canada,” Mohamud Noor, the executive director of the Confederation of Somali Community in Minnesota, said.
Noor says many Somalis crossing from Minnesota have had their U.S. asylum petitions denied and have heard that in Canada it’s much easier.
“I think that is one of the encouragements for people to take that journey because they have seen other people who have done the same, they have been very successful,” Noor said.
Canadian officials estimate just this year more than 180 people have walked across the border near the tiny Minnesota town of Noyes to the Canadian town of Emerson.
With warmer temperatures and news of warm Canadian welcomes spreading, immigration attorneys like Esteban Rivera are getting more inquiries about Canada.
“The likelihood of getting asylum in Canada is much higher than in the United States,” Rivera said.
“It can be as low as 10, 20 percent chances to get an asylum in the U.S., whereas in Canada it’s around 60 percent or more.”
Another factor contributing to the surge is that the Canadian government has indicated the welcome mat will continue to be extended.
Refugees who make it to Canada, as long as they don’t have criminal records, are likely to continue to have a good chance of getting asylum status.