Will Trump build a wall on the Canada-U.S. border and make Canada pay for it?
Trump’s immigration policies appear to be working. That’s great for the majority of Americans who are opposed to open immigration, and for Trump’s re-election prospects, which depend on his delivering on his campaign promise to control illegal immigrants crossing the U.S. border.
But that isn’t great for Canada. Trump’s immigration policies — and our government’s response to them — point to peril for us. The peril includes harm to our trading relationship, ill will towards Canadians by Americans and the prospect of a wall on America’s northern border.
In February, Trump’s first full month in office, illegal border crossing from Mexico dropped by 40 per cent, a number all the more surprising given that February usually sees a 10- to 20-per-cent increase in illegal crossings. This dramatic drop — the first in nearly 20 years — is attributed to Trump’s tough talk on immigration as well as tough actions. U.S. Customs and Border Protection, now free to do its job after being restrained by the Obama administration, has been enforcing the rules strictly.
One upshot for migrants is the increased cost of smuggling. Coyotes — the term for Mexico’s smugglers — now charge as much as US$8,500 to bring people across the cartel-controlled smuggling routes, up from US$3,500. Another is deterrence. Many would-be illegals, facing diminished odds of being able to stay in the U.S., are reluctant to risk the sums needed to cross the border. As put this week by Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly, “the early results show that enforcement matters, deterrence matters, and that comprehensive immigration enforcement can make an impact.”
One other thing matters, too: reading the riot act to the Mexican government, which for years was content to export its citizens. Mexico didn’t want the worst ones — the drug runners and human traffickers in the criminal cartels. And the best ones — the economic migrants seeking a better life — could be counted on to send remittances home. Remittances now exceed oil as Mexico’s No. 1 source of foreign exchange.
Mexico’s failure to regulate its own border — which was Trump’s justification for holding Mexico accountable and making it pay for a wall — has now ended. By all accounts, Mexico has become tough on would-be migrants, stopping many before they enter the U.S.
Canada is not tough, which will be a liability should Americans in the future come to see our welcome of tens of thousands of Syrian refugees and illegal migrants fleeing the U.S. as reckless and irresponsible. Some of those asylum seekers, both from Syria and the U.S., are almost certainly ISIL plants.
Asylum seekers are a major terrorist threat to the U.S. Of the FBI’s 1,000 active domestic terrorism investigations, 80 per cent of which involve ISIL, more than 300 involve suspects who came to the U.S. as refugees. Successful attacks are inevitable, says FBI Director James Comey, because the FBI lacks the manpower to properly track the overwhelming number of terrorist threats it must deal with, many of them deemed “high-risk,” requiring at least a dozen agents each to provide 24/7 tracking.
Although the mainstream media claims otherwise, the potential for terrorist attacks by refugees and other asylum seekers looms large. The Tsarnaev brothers from Chechnya, aka the Boston Marathon bombers, are the best known of the jihadis who turned on the U.S. after it gave them safe harbour. Others include Iraqi refugees who pleaded guilty in 2013 to plotting to kill U.S. military personnel, a Somali sentenced to 30 years in prison in 2014 for plotting to bomb a Christmas-tree lighting in Oregon and an Ohio State University student originally from Somalia who in November ploughed a car into a crowd, then attacked students with a butcher knife.
Trump’s immigration policies — and our government’s response to them — point to peril for us.
The millions of illegal immigrants in the U.S. who haven’t committed a crime are not under threat of arrest or deportation; neither are the peaceable refugees to whom the U.S. has granted refugee status. Who are the migrants, then, fleeing the U.S. for Canada? The CBC describes them as regular folk fleeing the “unwelcoming climate” in Trump’s America. Some, perhaps, are. Others might have more pressing reasons to flee, such as fear that they might soon be wanted by authorities.
Terrorists have used Canada as a base for U.S. attacks before — one example is the LAX bombing plot, in which an al Qaida-affiliated Algerian based in Montreal was apprehended crossing the Canada-U.S. border with a cache of explosives to bomb L.A.’s airport. If Canadian-based terrorists launch successful terrorist attacks against the U.S. in the future, and if Trump perceives Canada’s lax security as a danger to Americans, building a wall along America’s northern border and having Canadians pay for it — even if only a virtual wall monitored by satellite and patrolled by drones — may well become a campaign theme for his reelection. Security threats would at a minimum lead to disruptions in trade, with border inspections holding up exports of Canadian goods.
Canadians have good reason to be vigilant, for our own safety, about those we welcome to our country. We also have good reason to be vigilant for the safety of Americans. We proudly share with Americans mutual trust and the world’s longest undefended border, but we may not share that pride much longer.