Conservatives demand feds act to halt illegal border crossings

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Conservative MPs are urging the federal government to take “immediate action” to halt illegal border crossings, describing the flow of asylum seekers from the United States as a “crisis without a plan.”

Conservative immigration critic Michelle Rempel tabled a motion in the House of Commons on Tuesday calling on the Trudeau government to come up with a strategy by May 11 to deal with the spike in asylum seekers crossing the border between legal checkpoints.

It’s almost guaranteed that the motion won’t pass, as it’s unlikely to win the support of MPs from other parties.

But Rempel said she worries that the absence of a more forceful response from the federal government to the spike in illegal border crossings could weaken Canadians’ support for immigration.

“You’re not going to get any argument from Canadians that we support immigration in this country,” Rempel told reporters on Tuesday.

“My concern is that if the government does not take steps to rectify [its] failure to manage our borders, we are going to rapidly see Canadians lose that social licence for immigration, because there will be a lack of faith in the ability of the government to ensure planned and orderly migration.”

Spike in asylum seekers

In 2017, RCMP officers apprehended 20,593 asylum seekers between official border checkpoints. More than 90 per cent of those crossings happened in Quebec.

The number of people crossing illegally into the province between January and March of this year more than tripled compared to the same period last year, with 4,828 people intercepted by the RCMP in 2018 compared to 1,351 in 2017.

Up to 400 people could be crossing daily by this summer, according to Quebec Immigration Minister David Heurtel.

RCMP officers arrest asylum seekers, claiming to be from Yemen, after they cross the border from New York into Canada in March, 2017 in Hemmingford, Que. (Ryan Remiorz/Canadian Press)

Conservatives blame Prime Minister Justin Trudeau for the increase in illegal crossings, citing the message of welcome he tweeted to would-be asylum seekers in January 2017.

Trudeau posted the message one day after U.S. President Donald Trump imposed a four-month ban on refugees and temporarily restricted entry to the U.S. for travellers from seven predominantly Muslim countries.

‘Crisis without a plan’

Conservatives have been calling on the government to respond to the spike in crossings for more than 18 months.

“They knew that this was going to happen and they have done absolutely nothing to restore order and to manage our borders,” Rempel said. “This is the second summer that we’re going into a potential immigration crisis without a plan.”

Conservative immigration critic Michelle Rempel wants the federal government to halt the influx of people crossing illegally into Canada from the United States. (Trevor Hagan/Canadian Press)

The federal government also committed $173 million in its latest budget to security operations at the Canada-U.S. border and the processing of asylum seekers who cross over in 2018-19.

“All the government has done is throw hundreds of millions of dollars at the problem and it’s only become worse,” Rempel said, citing continued arrivals by asylum seekers.

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