Managing Immigration Tensions on Northern Border: Biden and Trudeau Walk a Tightrope

President Joe Biden is facing mounting pressure over migration along the southern border, which is also impacting his relationship with Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau. As Trudeau

attempts to fend off critics concerned about a surge of migrants in Canada, both nations are being urged to finalize changes to a decades-old asylum agreement that would restrict certain migrants from seeking protection in Canada.

While discussions between the US and Canada on migration have been ongoing for years, the sharp increase of people crossing into Canada from the US has added urgency to talks. The surge in migration has placed added pressure on both leaders to toughen their stance on immigration.

Trudeau is facing blowback domestically over hundreds of migrants crossing Roxham Road, a remote street that connects Champlain, New York with Hemmingford, Quebec. This has become a political priority for Canada, particularly in Quebec, where local officials have said their system is strained.

“The only way to effectively shut down, not just Roxham Road but the entire border, to these irregular crossings is to renegotiate the Safe Third Country Agreement,” Trudeau told reporters last month. The agreement, signed in 2002, applies to individuals who have transited through a country where they could’ve made an asylum claim because it’s deemed safe.

Crossings between ports of entry were not initially included in the agreement because of limitations to information sharing, but Canada is now trying to close that loophole. Sean Fraser, Canada’s immigration minister, recently discussed the agreement with Homeland Security Alejandro Mayorkas, calling it a “productive meeting” in a tweet.

Migrant crossings along the US-Canada border are still significantly lower than those along the US southern border, but US Border Patrol has also recently seen a historic high number of migrant crossings in the northern region. As winter continues, the level of concern for the lives and welfare of Border Patrol agents and those encountered – particularly vulnerable populations – continues to climb.

The issue of migration has impacted the relationship between the US and Canada, which have often worked together to manage migration in the Western Hemisphere. However, both leaders have previously touted their relationship on a slew of issues, including accepting refugees, and a Canadian official told CNN it’s unlikely the latest migration trend along the northern border will damage that bond. Nonetheless, pressure is mounting for the two nations to finalize changes to their asylum agreement in light of the recent surge in migrants. Photo by RGB2, Wikimedia commons.


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