A sudden extension: Without any warning, at 12:01am on March 24th, the Safe Third Country Agreement (STCA) was extended to cover the entire 9,000 kilometer border between the US and Canada.
Deportation without any process: Under the STCA, any migrant caught crossing on foot or via waterway without a visa can be deported without any processing. Those who were coming via Roxham Road in Quebec are now being deported.
Refugee applicants caught within 14 days can be deported: Any refugee claimant in Canada who arrived from the US must now prove that they were in Canada for 14 consecutive days to be eligible to apply. If they can’t, they will be deported without processing. There are a few exceptions.
Migrants are in crisis now on the US side of the border: Migrants coming over to Canada on foot are now being arrested, and those that don’t meet the exceptions are being handed over to US border officials who either jail them or are dropping them off in Plattsburgh New York. Most have nowhere to go to, having spent all their savings to come to the border. Despite sub-zero weather, many don’t even have winter clothes.
While the extension is new, the STCA is not: The STCA was created in December 2004. Until this weekend, it only applied to “official” crossings, which meant that refugees that walked across the border from any other area could still apply for refugee status. The most common route in recent years was Roxham Road in Quebec.
The US is not safe for refugees: The STCA was created under the premise that refugees arriving in Canada or the US should apply for refugee status in the first “safe country” they arrive in. Except, the US is also not safe for all refugees. In 2022, the acceptance rate for Haitian refugees in the US was 8%; and for Mexico was 5%. Refugees are routinely criminalized, children jailed, and it takes years to get a decision.
Migrants were already dying: Because of the STCA, many people were already taking dangerous journeys in both directions. In the last few months, two migrants, Fritznel Richard and Jose Leos Cervantes died crossing into the US on foot from Canada.
This extension of STCA means more suffering: Now with the STCA extended to the entire border, migrants will choose even more remote and difficult terrain to cross to avoid detection. As a result, many more will die. The 14 day rule means that refugee claimants that do cross over will go into hiding for two weeks, during which time they will likely be exploited and abused.
Prime Minister Trudeau caved to racism: Even though it was announced on Friday, the STCA extension was negotiated in secret over a year ago. It came as a response to increased anti-refugee demands from racist politicians. Depending on which government source you believe, there were between 20,000 and 40,000 refugees, almost all of whom were racialized, who crossed on foot into Canada from the US in 2022. In that time period, over half a million Ukranians, almost all white, were issued permits to come to Canada without any of the backlash.
Migrants are not the crisis, the super rich are: Migrants including refugees are being blamed for using healthcare services and taking up housing to distract us all from the big businesses who are jacking up prices, pushing to privatize healthcare and gambling with housing prices.
But it’s not over yet. The Supreme Court of Canada will soon to issue its decision on whether the STCA is legal. Even if they do vote in favour of it, migrants and refugees will continue to take whatever steps they need to travel for safety and dignity. And as migrant movements, we will do everything in our power to support them. We must continue to oppose war, climate inaction, and economic oppression in the Global South that Canada profits from, and which forces people to migrate.
We must continue to fight for Status For All: We need to continue to take action for rights and dignity for all migrants, and to demand permanent resident status for all because it is the only way to access rights and power. Right now, we are taking action for:
- Undocumented migrants to be regularized without exception. We want an uncapped program that grants permanent resident status to all undocumented people without exception. We need to commit to doing whatever is necessary to make sure no one is left out.
- Migrant workers including care workers, farmworkers, fishery workers to be granted permanent resident status, and be united with their families without unfair education accreditation and language testing requirements. All migrant workers must have permanent resident status, rights at work and at housing, without exception including seasonal workers.
- Migrant student workers to get fairness at school, at work, and to be able to get permanent resident status without exclusions.