Skip to main content

Sign up for our newsletter.

Quality journalism. Progressive values. Direct to your inbox.

Welcome to Quebec sign

Thousands of asylum seekers have fled the U.S. for Quebec, Canada, in recent months because of U.S. President Donald Trump's anti-immigrant statements and policies. (Photo: Morgan/Flickr/cc)

Asylum Seekers, Fleeing Trump's Hostility, Overwhelm Quebec's Refugee Resources

Crossing at remote locations along the border, thousands have left the U.S. for Canada in hopes of attaining refugee status

Jessica Corbett

So many asylum seekers are pouring over the Canadian border from the United States that authorities opened Montreal's Olympic stadium—a 56,000-seat arena and one of the city's most famous landmarks—as a temporary welcome center on Wednesday.

Between January and June 2017, more than 4,000 people hoping to attain refugee status crossed the U.S.–Canadian border at remote locations, with nearly 80 percent of them entering Quebec. Last month, more than a thousand asylum seekers arrived in the province, according to Francine Dupuis, who runs PRAIDA, a government-funded program that helps asylum claimants adjust to life in Canada.

"It's really quite a bit more intense than what we're used to."
—Francine Dupuis, PRAIDA

"It's really quite a bit more intense than what we're used to," Dupuis said.

Montreal Mayor Denis Coderre tweeted on Wednesday that as many as 2,500 asylum seekers entered Quebec via the United States during July, and about 500 people are currently being held at St-Bernard-de-Lacolle, where Quebec borders New York State.

About 70 percent of asylum seekers who have recently arrived in Quebec are Haitian, according to the province's Immigration Minister Kathleen Weil. Many Haitians fear their fate if they remain in the United States, because of the anti-immigrant rhetoric and actions by the Trump administration

In May, then-head of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, Gen. John Kelly, extended Temporary Protected Status (TPS) for some 59,000 Haitians affected by the catastrophic 2010 hurricane in Haiti—but only by six months, rather than the typical 18-month extension. The prospect of facing deportation as early as January 2018, coupled with mounting anti-immigrant hostility from Trump, has motivated many Haitians to cross the border into Canada.

"They think the Trump administration will fly them back to Haiti and they don't want to take a chance," Dupuis said. Coderre, on Twitter, welcomed Haitian arrivals and criticized U.S. President Donald Trump's immigration policies.

Even Trump's campaign and election coincided with an influx of asylum seekers fleeing the United States for its northern neighbor. As Reuters reported earlier this year: "More than 7,000 refugee applicants entered Canada in 2016 through land ports of entry from the United States, up 63 percent from the previous year, according to Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA)."

Although 2004's Safe Third Country Agreement requires asylum seekers to "request refugee protection in the first safe country they arrive in," the thousands entering at remote locations along the border aim to avoid the agreement's main tenet, arguing that the U.S. is no longer a "safe" place for them.

Last month, the Canadian Council for Refugees, Amnesty International, and the Canadian Council of Churches, launched a legal challenge to the treaty, asking a Canadian federal court to strike it down in light of the Trump administration's war against immigrants.

"Our organizations have pressed repeatedly, expecting that Canada would move to suspend the Safe Third Country Agreement as regard for the rights of refugees has rapidly plummeted under the Trump administration," said Alex Neve, secretary general of Amnesty International Canada.

"To our astonishment and disappointment, however, the Canadian government continues to maintain that the U.S. asylum system qualifies as safe," Neve added. "We are left with no choice but to turn to the courts to protect refugee rights."


Our work is licensed under Creative Commons (CC BY-NC-ND 3.0). Feel free to republish and share widely.

This is the world we live in. This is the world we cover.

Because of people like you, another world is possible. There are many battles to be won, but we will battle them together—all of us. Common Dreams is not your normal news site. We don't survive on clicks. We don't want advertising dollars. We want the world to be a better place. But we can't do it alone. It doesn't work that way. We need you. If you can help today—because every gift of every size matters—please do. Without Your Support We Simply Don't Exist.

Sanders, Top Dems Optimistic Party Will 'Come Together' for Reconciliation Package

However, House leaders warn they may miss a September 27 deadline to consider Senate-approved infrastructure legislation that progressives will only support alongside a $3.5 trillion bill.

Jessica Corbett ·


Report on Revolving Door and Tax Policy Sparks Calls for Federal Probe and Reforms

"This is an example of terrible management in the Treasury Department across multiple administrations."

Jessica Corbett ·


Nabisco Strike Ends After Union Members Approve New Contract

"Congratulations to these brave workers on their wins," said one labor writer. "May their determination and grit be an inspiration for workers everywhere."

Jessica Corbett ·


'I Had a Duty of Care': Doctor Praised for Violating Texas' New Abortion Ban

"I hope the law gets overturned," Dr. Alan Braid said, "and if this is what does it, that would be great."

Jessica Corbett ·


'Infuriating Disappointment': Biden DHS Ramping Up Deportations to Haiti

"It is unconscionable for the Biden administration to resume deportation flights to Haiti, despite the country's ongoing political, economic, and environmental disasters."

Jessica Corbett ·

Support our work.

We are independent, non-profit, advertising-free and 100% reader supported.

Subscribe to our newsletter.

Quality journalism. Progressive values.
Direct to your inbox.

Subscribe to our Newsletter.


Common Dreams, Inc. Founded 1997. Registered 501(c3) Non-Profit | Privacy Policy
Common Dreams Logo