Canada needs to come to terms with the migration crisis Trump is creating: Neil Macdonald

The Trump administration is scaring displaced Haitians out of the United States, which creates a quandary for Canada: give them a free pass, and Ottawa will only incentivize hundreds of thousands more arrivals at our border.

Hundreds of Haitians are crossing the border, gambling Canada won't be as pitiless as Trump and his officials

This creates a quandary for Canada: give them a free pass, and Ottawa will only incentivize hundreds of thousands more arrivals at our border. (Charles Contant/CBC)

The most tempting, obvious epithet for the enthusiasm with which the Trump administration is scaring displaced Haitians out of the United States is shameful. Utterly, debasingly, shameful.

But you might as well scold a dog for farting. Trump and his cohort are shameless.

They're most likely proposing toasts, grinning and backslapping; waves of (black) foreigners are fleeing America, voluntarily. Even better, they're landing up in Canada. Prissy, hectoring, self-righteous Canada.

It's a beautiful thing. Let the refugee-lovers up there have them. We're making America great again.

Never mind, of course, that these particular Haitians were effectively invited to the United States in 2010, after an earthquake tore apart their benighted, insanely poor, deforested, violent nation, killing hundreds of thousands, leaving their national capital a deathscape of crushed cinder blocks and rebar and crumpled tin roofs and corpses, to say nothing of the diseases unleashed, which included a cholera outbreak created by, of all people, UN peacekeepers sent to protect them.

Canada, sensibly, has invited those Haitians originally granted temporary refuge to apply for permanent residence. (Paul Chiasson/Canadian Press)

If anyone fit the Statue of Liberty inscription, it was the Haitians in 2010: "Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses, yearning to breathe free, the wretched refuse of your teeming shore."

(The Trump administration rather obtusely dismissed the famous quote this past week, pointing out, to the cheers of Trump nation, that it was not originally inscribed on the statue, but added later).

Anyway, welcoming the victims of the Haitian apocalypse was the human thing to do. In the months after the quake, the Obama administration took in 60,000 Haitians, and Stephen Harper's government about 3,000.

These people were granted temporary protected status, meaning they could stay until such time as Haiti was once again pronounced a safe country, which, bizarrely, it is now designated, at least by Washington.

Meanwhile, of course, they set down roots, found jobs, began new lives and started new families, as human beings do. Give someone something, and taking it away becomes difficult, actually cruel, as the years pass.

These people had nothing, or less than nothing, to return to.

Canada, sensibly, has invited those Haitians originally granted temporary refuge to apply for permanent residence on compassionate or humanitarian grounds, and has granted most such requests.

The American government is taking a blunter, more Trumpian approach. It is now warning Haitians admitted to the country after the disaster they can stay until January, but no longer. After that, it's deportation time.

So, every day, hundreds take taxis to the Quebec border, where they walk across, seeking to be arrested and absorbed into the Canadian legal system, which, they're gambling, won't be as pitiless as Trump and his officials.

They're probably right about that. Chantal Desloges, an immigration lawyer in Toronto, told me that if she had to make the compassionate argument here or in the States, "I'd take my chances here any day. The compassionate concept doesn't really exist there."

Olympic Stadium turned into home for asylum seekers from the U.S.

5 years ago
Duration 2:19
Olympic Stadium in Montreal is a temporary home for over 1,000 asylum seekers who have fled the U.S. out of fear of being deported

That said, a dreadful political quandary is taking form: give the arriving Haitians a free pass, even if they're all just as deserving of compassionate/humanitarian treatment as those who came to Canada after the quake, and Ottawa will only incentivize hundreds of thousands more arrivals at our border.

"If you do an amnesty, if you open that door, you open it to everyone," says Desloges.

"I'm very worried about all this. The U.S. government doesn't care at all that they're foisting this onto us. They're quite content."

After all, better that unwanted immigrants "self-deport," as Mitt Romney once put it, than be forced onto planes at U.S. government expense, as bleeding hearts create an uproar in the lamestream leftist media.

And just look at the numbers to see what might be coming: the temporary protected status for 86,000 Hondurans in the United States expires in January, along with the Haitians, and then for about 260,000 El Salvadorans in March.

They'll all be looking for somewhere to resettle, other than the countries they left years ago.

For that matter, America's entire unofficial underclass, the 11 million or so people who clean the country's toilets and mow its lawns and dig its ditches, have never been so threatened.

Asylum Assembly Line: A Quebec border crossing is bustling with asylum seekers worried about being kicked out of the U.S.

5 years ago
Duration 3:24
A Quebec border crossing has turned into an assembly line for asylum seekers leaving the U.S. for Canada

Despite Washington's official denials, Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents are carrying out a ruthless roundup, grabbing up men, women and children, splitting up families, even going into churches in search of what Republicans call "illegals."

Since the beginning of the year, some of those people have been showing up at the Canadian border, where they're led to believe there's more hope.

By law, they should be returned to the United States, given the rules of the Safe Third Country agreement. Accepting people claiming asylum from America is, on the face of it, ridiculous.

But Canada is timorous on the subject. Delicate trade negotiations are underway, and no one wants to antagonize the Trump administration, especially on an issue that's such red meat to Trump's voter base.

"There has been radio silence from the Trudeau government so far on the Safe Third Country agreement," says Desloges, even though the integrity of our entire system is threatened.

Incidentally, Canada at least won't have to worry about any Cubans showing up at the U.S.-Canada border. For decades, Cubans had a better deal than anybody.

Under the so-called "wet-foot, dry-foot" policy, any Cuban who successfully reached U.S. soil was granted permanent residency, while any Haitian who risked sharks, dehydration or drowning and made it to the sands of Florida was deported.

Such was the clout of the Cuban community in Florida.

It was plainly racist. Some called it the black-foot, white foot rule.

But then, most immigration policy is to some degree racist, Canada's included.

The difference is this: Canada has a comprehensive and serious system of due process and appeals, something that does not exist in the United States. If we want to keep it, the Trudeau government needs to come to terms with the reality Trump is creating, and quickly.

This column is part of CBC's Opinion section. For more information about this section, please read this editor's blog and our FAQ.


Neil Macdonald is a former foreign correspondent and columnist for CBC News who has also worked in newspapers. He speaks English and French fluently, as well as some Arabic.