'We are not being complacent': Liberals don't expect sudden surge of Salvadoran asylum-seekers

The Liberal government has a contingency plan for a potential flood of Salvadoran asylum seekers, but it's not expecting a sudden surge of people crossing the border from the United States. The Trump administration announced that temporary protected status for people from El Salvador will end in September 2019.

Immigration Minister Ahmed Hussen says government is preparing for 'any eventuality'

Canada's Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Ahmed Hussen holds a news conference in Ottawa in this file photo from January 2017. He said recently the federal government is not expecting an influx of Salvadorans following President Donald Trump's decision to end their temporary protected status in the U.S. (Fred Chartrand/Canadian Press)

The Liberal government has a contingency plan for a potential flood of Salvadoran asylum seekers, but it is not expecting a sudden surge of people crossing the border from the United States.

Immigration Minister Ahmed Hussen said the government has been "engaging intensely" with the El Salvador diaspora, among others, and believes they are deeply embedded in their American communities with children, jobs and mortgages and not likely to abruptly flee.

U.S. President Donald Trump's administration announced Monday that 200,000 Salvadoran immigrants now allowed to live and work in the U.S. with temporary protected status will lose their right to remain in the country in September 2019.

Hussen said because there's a lengthy 18-month time frame for people to leave or seek legal residency, he expects many will use the time to regularize their status.

"Their first choice is to remain in the U.S.," Hussen told reporters on Parliament Hill after meeting with a joint intergovernmental task force on irregular migration.

Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Ahmed Hussen says the government will continue trips south of the border to talk to different diaspora to to correct any misconceptions about our asylum system. 1:52

"Having said that, we are not being complacent. We are making sure we are prepared for any eventuality, including a future influx of asylum seekers crossing our border irregularly and, in that regard, we are using the lessons that we learned in the summer to do so."

Since August last year, the government has embarked on an outreach campaign to spread the word about Canadian laws and immigration system. MPs have been dispatched to meet with various community groups and stakeholders in Miami, New York, Dallas, Houston and Los Angeles and used social media and online marketing tools to correct misinformation.

Humanitarian message

"Our message is not only a deterrent message but it's also a humanitarian message, because we don't want people uprooting their lives, their deep roots in the United States, based on misinformation," he said.

Haitians began crossing in to Canada even before a final decision had been made on their temporary status, with more than 200 people a day in the summer months.

Hussen noted that irregular crossings have declined dramatically in the last four months, and said fluctuations in numbers are seen from year to year, and from month to month.

The U.S. granted protected status to people from El Salvador in the wake of two devastating 2001 earthquakes that left hundreds of thousands in the country homeless.