TORONTO — The number of border crossers entering Canada illegally from the U.S. rose from June to July, but remained sharply below the pace of last summer.
Canada’s immigration department said this week the Royal Canadian Mounted Police intercepted 1,634 migrants last month. That’s up from 1,263 in June but far below the 3,134 caught in July 2017 or the record 5,712 in August last year — part of a surge that strained Canada’s immigration system.
Officials say the drop is likely due to their warnings that winning asylum isn’t as easy as some believed.
Canadian officials say economic reasons are not grounds for asylum and that many crossing the border illegally won’t be allowed to stay
“While these numbers are promising, Canadians expect all levels of government to work together to live up to our international and humanitarian obligations,” said Mathieu Genest, a spokesman for Canada’s immigration minister.
Genest said the government is making investments to improve border security and speed up the processing of asylum claims.
Michelle Rempel, the opposition Conservative immigration critic, noted the numbers between January and August are up this year over the same period last year.
The surge in migrants to Canada began last year shortly after the Trump administration announced plans to withdraw temporary protected status for individuals living in the U.S. from certain countries, including Haiti and El Salvador.
Many of the migrants have said they left the U.S. fearing deportation due to increased immigration enforcement under President Donald Trump and believing Canada would automatically give them residence, only to experience a rude awakening upon arrival.
Of the 3,462 claims that were finalized between February 2017 and March 2018 just 36 percent were approved. The immigration department said 1,257 were rejected while others were abandoned or withdrawn for other reasons.
Rempel blamed part of the influx on Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s January 2017 tweet welcoming migrants. Trudeau reacted to Trump’s ban of Muslims from certain countries then by tweeting: “To those fleeing persecution, terror & war, Canadians will welcome you, regardless of your faith. Diversity is our strength #WelcomeToCanada.”