Quebec not expecting another influx of Haitian asylum seekers, immigration minister says

Following a recent, long-awaited decision by the U.S. government to end temporary protected status for Haitians in mid-2019, Quebec authorities are monitoring the situation but don't foresee an imminent wave of new asylum seekers.

David Heurtel doesn't think end of temporary protected status for Haitians in U.S. will have immediate effect

Immigration advocates rally in New York on Tuesday to protest the decision by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security to terminate Temporary Protected Status for people from Haiti. (Mark Lennihan/Associated Press)

Following a recent, long-awaited decision by the U.S. government to end temporary protected status for Haitians in mid-2019, Quebec authorities are monitoring the situation but don't foresee an imminent wave of new asylum seekers.

Immigration Minister David Heurtel told reporters that while the end of a temporary residency permit (TRP) program that has allowed nearly 60,000 Haitians to live and work in the United States may cause issues in the future, the situation isn't expected to reach the unprecedented levels it did last summer — at least not anytime soon.

The U.S. Homeland Security Department announced late Monday the program would be terminated.

Haitians living in the U.S. with TRPs, many of whom arrived following the 2010 earthquake, have 18 months to apply for citizenship, or they will be deported.

The threat of that program's termination precipitated the waves of people who crossed illegally into Canada from the U.S. to claim asylum last summer, catching Canadian authorities off guard when the crowds began to number more than 200 people a day.

The RCMP has intercepted more than 15,000 asylum seekers crossing illegally between official ports of entry since January, the bulk of them in Quebec during the months of July through September.

And of those crossing into Quebec, the majority were Haitian.

Heurtel said the possibility the U.S. will soon end TRP programs for people from El Salvador and Honduras may create a problem, but right now, that isn't the case.

He said the provincial government has created a committee, including representatives of the Immigration, Justice, Public Security, Health and Education Ministries, to ensure it is ready for another influx.

He will be going to Ottawa to co-ordinate with federal ministers on the work being done now and what may need to happen if there is another wave of migrants.

Quebec Immigration Minister David Heurtel said a government working committee is preparing for a possible future influx of asylum seekers, although the government is not expecting that to happen in the short term. (Radio-Canada)

18 months to prepare

Jean-Pierre Fortin, national president of the Customs and Immigration Union, which represents border agents, agrees that the influx may not be imminent. 

But he doubts those who want to make the trip to Canada will wait until the last minute.

"Now they have 18 months to get prepared, so hopefully [the government] will be hiring more resources than we had over the last summer," he said.

Protesters march to President Donald Trump's Mar-a-Lago resort, where he will be spending the Thanksgiving holiday. (Lynne Sladky/Associated Press)

Right now, there are still 60 to 70 asylum seekers crossing illegally into Canada every day, he said.

Fortin expects to see those numbers start to increase again next summer.

He said any surge in the number of people seeking asylum could create a ripple effect on wait times at the border right across the country, because agents are being sent to Lacolle, Que., to help out their colleagues there.

Decision is 'catastrophe,' radio host says

One Haitian Montrealer is choosing to see it as a glass half full, glass half empty situation.

Pierre Emmanuel, morning show host at Montreal's Haitian community radio station CPAM, welcomes the fact that Haitians have been given until July 2019 to prepare for their return to their native country instead of January 2018, as many expected.

Emmanuel said this will give them a chance to get their affairs in order before they have to go.

Radio host Pierre Emmanuel said the decision to extend temporary protected status to nearly 60,000 Haitians in the U.S. until mid-2019 will give people with TRPs time to get their affairs in order, however, 'these are people who have lived in the U.S. for years,' he said, saying it will still be catastrophic for many. (Lauren McCallum/CBC)

On the other hand, he said, the decision is a "catastrophe."

"These are people who have lived in the U.S. for years, have built lives in the U.S., children born in the U.S.," Emmanuel said.

"It's a reality that will be difficult to manage, difficult to live."

Emmanuel said the 2019 deadline may help Canadian authorities better manage the asylum requests.

He said he believes this time around, Haitians in the U.S. are being given correct information — that there are rules associated with immigrating to Canada, and there are no guarantees they will be able to stay.

Liberal MP Emmanuel Dubourg is in New York City Tuesday to continue efforts to clear up misconceptions.

Marjorie Villefranche, who runs Montreal's Maison d'Haiti, said the flow of Haitian asylum seekers has slowed but hasn't stopped in the months since people learned the U.S. could its program offering Haitians temporary resident status.

Flow has slowed, not stopped

Marjorie Villefranche, the director general of la Maison d'Haiti, an organization that works with Montreal's Haitian community, said she believes most of the people who were going to come to Canada already have.

She said the flow has slowed down, but it never stopped. 

"There are a lot of Haitian organizations [in the U.S.], too, working on a solution, and we on the Canadian side have to work, too … to know how we're going to help those people who will keep coming," she told CBC Montreal's Daybreak.

Villefranche said Haitians living in the U.S. are afraid to lose their temporary protected status, ending their rights to work legally or send their children to school.

Villefranche said she believes the decision to end the TPS program amounts to pandering by U.S. President Donald Trump to the anti-immigration rump.

With files from CBC Montreal's Daybreak and Lauren McCallum