Poll: half of Canadians want to deport illegal border crossers

Nearly half of Canadians want to deport people who are illegally crossing into Canada from the United States, and a similar number disapprove of how Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is handling the influx, according to a Reuters/Ipsos opinion poll released on Monday.

A significant minority, four out of 10 respondents, said the border crossers could make Canada “less safe”, underlining the potential political risk for Trudeau’s Liberal government.

The poll underscores how the increasing flow in recent months of hundreds of asylum-seekers, from Africa and the Middle East, has become a contentious issue in Canada.

In the small border town of Emerson which has seen hundreds of border crossers, some residents say they empathize with those making the long and sometimes dangerous trek to the Great White North, but are concerned about potential security threats.

“These people are not refugees. They are already coming from a safe country. United States is a safe country,” said Greg Janzen, the elected leader of the local municipality.

“They are fleeing from something and when you start getting a number of people coming from different countries, that’s what concerning our residents. With the bigger numbers coming, we are going to see more criminals, more undesirables,” he said.

The town of 650 people lies on the border between the Canadian province of Manitoba and the U.S. state of North Dakota.

Migrants coming from the United States walk along train tracks and follow rail lines into Emerson, crossing a border marked in most areas only by scattered concrete boundary markers.

The town has put up cameras near the tracks to monitor incoming migrants and officials say trains have slowed down to avoid hitting people walking on the tracks.

Wayne Pfiel, a bartender at Emerson Inn, said many residents were angry about the asylum seekers, but he welcomed them. Pfiel recently found a shivering family in his lobby when he opened up his bar.

“They were afraid, but after a while, I talked with (a) few of them. They were in good shape and they were polite,” said Pfiel.

There has been broad bipartisan support for high levels of legal immigration for decades in Canada. But Trudeau has come under pressure over the flow of the illegal migrants. He is questioned about it every time he appears in parliament, from opponents on the left, who want more asylum-seekers to be allowed in, and critics on the right, who say the migrants pose a potential security risk.

Canadians appeared to be just as concerned about illegal immigration as their American neighbors, according to the poll, which was conducted between March 8-9. Some 48 percent of Canadians said they supported “increasing the deportation of people living in Canada illegally.”

When asked specifically about the recent border crossings from the United States, the same number—48 percent—said Canada should “send these migrants back to the U.S.” Another 36 percent said Canada should “accept these migrants” and let them seek refugee status.

“Sometimes you wonder—is this person going to go through the legal process or is he just trying to get to this side of the world and have a better life?” asked Emerson resident and hotel manager Faye Suderman who added that she felt compassion for the people who were seeking asylum.

“They’re walking across with children. So it’s hard to hard to see it, yet you don’t know until they’ve been screened. You have no idea who they are or what they are or what they have. You know, can they have a weapon? I mean, they could have, right, because they’re crossing illegally,” said Suderman’s husband, Frank.

Illegal migrants interviewed by Reuters in Canada said they had been legally in the United States and had applied for asylum there. But they had fled to Canada for fear of being caught up in Trump’s more aggressive immigration crackdown.

“It saddens me that that what’s happening in the States is causing people to flee there because I’m guessing that many of them had already come there as refugees and were making a life for themselves. And now they feel so unsafe that they want to come here,” said Wayne Sandler, a social worker in Manitoba’s capital, Winnipeg.

Canadians appeared to be just as concerned about illegal immigration as their American neighbors, according to the poll, which was conducted between March 8-9. Some 48 percent of Canadians said they supported “increasing the deportation of people living in Canada illegally.”

(Reuters)

 
 
 
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