Immigration minister says he's not worried about a 'wave' of Hondurans hitting the border

Immigration Minister Ahmed Hussen says he doesn't believe that tens of thousands of Hondurans losing their temporary protected status in the U.S. will make up the next wave of asylum seekers crossing into Canada.

Trump administration ending temporary protected status for tens of thousands of Hondurans

Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Ahmed Hussen told CBC News Network's Power & Politics Friday that he doesn't believe the tens of thousands of Hondurans losing their protected status in the U.S. will be headed north soon. (Fred Chartrand/Canadian Press)

Immigration Minister Ahmed Hussen says he doesn't believe that tens of thousands of Hondurans losing their temporary protected status in the U.S. will make up the next wave of asylum seekers crossing into Canada.

"The fact that these individuals will have until the year 2020 to regularize themselves gives them a lot of opportunities to regularize themselves or leave the United States. It's much different than the decision that was made with respect to Haitian nationals," Hussen said in an interview with host Vassy Kapelos on CBC News Network's Power & Politics Friday.

"The [Department of Homeland Security] secretary has also been on the record saying that the U.S. government will try as much as possible to assist these people to regularize their status. So I don't believe that we will see that wave of individuals coming to Canada."

The Trump administration announced earlier Friday that it was ending temporary protected status for Hondurans after it determined the conditions in Honduras have improved since the hurricane disaster in 1999 that prompted the TPS designation.

A similar revocation of temporary protected status for Haitians and El Salvadorans has been blamed for triggering last year's influx of asylum seekers crossing into Canada.

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The U.S. Department of Homeland Security said it's delaying the effective date of TPS termination for Hondurans for 18 months to "allow for an orderly transition." Hondurans will officially lose their temporary protected status on Jan. 5, 2020.

Hussen said last year that the government had asked the U.S. to let Canada know before it makes changes to the temporary protected status for certain populations, and to give those affected populations as much time as possible to gain legal status.

The minister would not say whether Canada had been warned about the decision on Hondurans.

'Additional strain'

​Conservative immigration critic Michelle Rempel said Friday that, despite what the minister says he believes, the Hondurans losing their TPS will add some "additional strain" to the Canadian asylum system this summer.

"We have known that this was going to be an issue for some time, which is why we have been pushing the government to renegotiate the Safe Third Country Agreement ... to make sure that the loophole is closed," she said.

"We have to be very clear given that their are tens of thousands of people who could possibly be affected by the rescindment of TPS ... We need to ensure that a process is in place so we are encouraging people to come to Canada through planned, orderly migration."

Conservative immigration critic Michelle Rempel told CBC News Friday that the U.S. decision to rescind temporary protected status for Hondurans will add some "additional strain" to the Canadian asylum system. (Adrian Wyld/Canadian Press)

The Conservatives have been pushing the Liberal government to amend the STCA to make it apply to the entire Canada-U.S. border. The agreement, as it currently stands, only prevents asylum seekers from making a claim at official land border crossing points.

Homeland Security told CBC News Tuesday that it was reviewing a proposal made by Canada to amend the STCA, adding that it had no decision to announce at that time.

Hussen insisted again Friday that no formal negotiation on the border pact is underway, but added Canada continues to engage with the U.S. on all things border-related, including the possible "modernization" of the 14-year-old STCA.

The government has, however, argued that the Conservatives' pitch to have the STCA apply to the entire border is impractical.

"We remain obviously extremely vigilant to issues like this," Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said Friday when asked about the Hondurans losing their protected status.

"There is certainly time for us to continue the public education campaign that we've been engaged with in the United States, particularly in places like Miami and southern California, where we are sharing the process that we have around immigration and highlighting that just because you come to Canada irregularly does not give you a free pass to this country."

With files from The Canadian Press