TORONTO (Reuters) - Asylum seekers who illegally crossed the U.S. border into Canada this year are obtaining refugee status at higher rates, new data shows, as authorities accept claims from people who say they feared being deported by U.S. President Donald Trump’s administration.
More than 15,000 people have crossed the U.S.-Canadian border illegally to claim refugee status in Canada this year. Many were in the United States legally and some interviewed by Reuters said they might have stayed were it not for an immigration crackdown.
The influx, mainly at the Quebec/New York border, prompted the military to set up a temporary tent encampment in Quebec and sparked a backlash from anti-migrant groups.
Lawyers who have handled dozens of cases said that members of refugee tribunals, who evaluate requests for asylum, have grown more sympathetic toward people who have spent time in the United States and who say they now fear immigration policies under Trump.
Trump took office in January with a goal of sharply cutting refugee admissions, in line with the hard-line immigration policies that were a focal point of the Republican’s 2016 election campaign.
Of the 592 claims from border crossers finalized between March and September, 69 percent - or 408 in total - were accepted, according to Immigration and Refugee Board figures. An additional 92 appeals of rejected claims are pending.
That 69 percent acceptance rate is higher than the acceptance rate for all refugee claims from people who came to Canada through any method last year.
In a January asylum hearing whose transcript was seen by Reuters, a tribunal member told a Syrian refugee claimant and her daughter who had crossed near Lacolle, Quebec, that their explanation for not staying in the United States was “reasonable,” citing the woman’s worries about the new U.S. government.
“Certainly, that seems to be playing out as you have feared, and today on the news I know that President Trump has suspended the Syrian refugee program,” the member is quoted as saying. “You have provided, in my view, a reasonable explanation of your failure to claim in the U.S.”
A second refugee decision reviewed by Reuters, issued in May, cites an Iraqi woman’s detention in a U.S. airport and subsequent racist incidents she said she experienced at school as credible reasons for her leaving the United States.
Reporting by Anna Mehler Paperny; Editing by Matthew Lewis