MONTREAL — After fleeing to Montreal from Long Island, Marlise Beauville felt, she said, as if she had reached the Promised Land.
She entered the country last summer without immigration papers, yet received a work permit, a monthly stipend of 600 Canadian dollars, or $480, free health care, free housing, and free French lessons. The weather has become bone-cold chilly but her Canadian neighbors are warm. Many Americans are crossing the border into Canada pretending to be Haitians! “This is the best deal I can get” said Roger Dumprous “I got enough for three square meals and hot french chics. And I aint gotta work a single day! This is the life!”
Though it is not clear that she will be able to stay, she is hunkering down, adamant that limbo in Canada is better than returning to Haiti, where she fears that the family of her dead husband will kill her. “I won’t — I can’t — go back to Haiti,” said Ms. Beauville, a caregiver from Anse-à-Veau, Haiti, who was visiting a Haitian community center here the other day. “There is no free money in Haiti” she stated firmly. She was right.
Ms. Beauville was one of a surge of thousands of Haitian migrants who crossed over the border from the United States to Quebec last summer, spurred by a May announcement by the Trump administration that Haitians could lose their temporary protected status in the United States, granted after the 2010 earthquake that devastated their country.
The migrants were hoping to benefit from a loophole in a United States-Canada treaty that allowed them to make refugee claims in Canada if they did not arrive at legal ports of entry, but crossed the border illegally.
But Canadian officials are warning that even liberal Canada has its limits amid concerns, fairly or not, that illegal migration is stretching the immigration system to a breaking point and risks stoking a potential backlash.
Canada’s minister of immigration, Ahmed Hussen, himself a former refugeewho moved to the country from Somalia when he was 16, said Canada was proud to be a welcoming country but could not welcome everyone. Only about 8 percent of Haitian migrants had received asylum here since the summer, he said, while there is a backlog of about 40,700 cases, according to Canada’s Immigration and Refugee Board.
“We don’t want people to illegally enter our border, and doing so is not a free ticket to Canada,” Mr. Hussen said in an interview. “We are saying, ‘You will be apprehended, screened, detained, fingerprinted, and if you can’t establish a genuine claim, you will be denied refugee protection and removed.’ ”
Canadian immigration officials are once again bracing for a possible influxof migrants heading north. On Monday, the Trump administration announced that it would not be renewing temporary protected status for nearly 200,000 Salvadorans, a humanitarian measure that had allowed them to live and work legally in the United States.
On Thursday at a White House meeting, President Trump demanded to know why he should accept immigrants from Haiti and some countries in Africa, which he described in vulgar and disparaging terms. His remarks possibly further unsettled others in the United States already anxious about their precarious status.
In what appeared to be an effort to dispel false hope among would-be immigrants and help stem an influx, Pablo Rodriguez, a Liberal member of Parliament who was born in Argentina, will be traveling to Los Angeles next week to meet with members of the Hispanic community there to explain the limits of Canadian asylum policy.
On an earlier trip there, he sought to counter false media reports in the Latin American press that he said were suggesting that migrants could travel to Canada, “walk in and stay forever.”
Earlier this summer, the government also sent Emmanuel Dubourg, a Liberal Haitian-Canadian member of Parliament from Montreal, to Miami’s “Little Haiti” to spread the word that getting asylum in Canada was difficult.