U.S. border officers not doing enough to slow asylum-seekers, Canadian union rep says

The union representing Canadian border officers says its American counterparts aren't doing their part to curb the influx of asylum seekers, an accusation U.S. Border Patrol believes is misplaced.

'There's nothing we can do,' U.S. officer in charge says, as number of people crossing illegally climbs

American border officers can't stop migrants heading toward Canada to cross illegally because it's not a crime to cross into Canada from the U.S. at an unauthorized entry point, officials say. (Ryan Remiorz/Canadian Press)

The union representing Canadian border officers says its American counterparts aren't doing their part to curb the influx of asylum seekers crossing illegally into Canada, an accusation U.S. Border Patrol believes is misplaced.

"[Border officers] are convinced that Americans are ridding themselves of the problem by bringing asylum seekers to Roxham Road instead of driving them to the Lacolle border crossing," said union president Jean-Pierre Fortin.

Figures released Wednesday show the number of people illegally crossing from the U.S. into Canada is steadily rising, and the majority of those crossings happened in Quebec.

Asylum seekers have been seen crossing into Canada at Roxham Road, not far from the official border at Lacolle, Que., where they are arrested by RCMP officers, as U.S. border officers look on.

No law banning illegal crossings from U.S.

Fortin said U.S. border officers facilitate illegal entries by driving migrants to roads leading to Canada and telling them where to go.

But Norman Lague, the U.S. patrol officer in charge of the Champlain Border Patrol Station, said there are a number of reasons why someone would be in one of their patrol cars, including keeping them out of the cold while checking their identification.

While his team members advise asylum seekers that it's illegal to cross the border at unauthorized points, it's not a crime in the U.S. to enter Canada illegally, he pointed out.

Lague said if officers determine the person has legal status in the U.S., they notify the RCMP that there are people headed toward Canada, but they have no choice but to let them continue on their way. 

Norman Lague works for U.S. Border Patrol and is in charge of the Champlain Border Patrol Station. (Radio-Canada)

"There's no law that says we need to bring them anywhere, we can't forcibly detain somebody in our vehicle to bring them to a port of entry," he said.

"There's nothing that we can do," he added, saying he and his colleagues do what they can with the resources they have.

Canada working with U.S. to ensure border safety, Goodale says

In a statement, Scott Bardsley, spokesperson for federal Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale, said Canada and the U.S. work closely to ensure the safety and security of the border, adding Goodale has discussed the issue of irregular border crossings several times with U.S. Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly.

A growing number of asylum seekers are making their way to illegal entry points along the Canada-U.S. border to get around the Safe Third Country Agreement, which requires refugees to make a claim in the first country they land in.

People who have already made a claim in the U.S. can't then turn around and do the same in Canada, and vice versa, but that rule is only valid at official land crossings.

Fortin has said he wants the federal government to create a team of CBSA officers who would patrol in between ports of entry, a job that is currently part of the RCMP's responsibilities.

with files from CBC's Daybreak, Radio-Canada's Catherine Kovacs