U.S. Revoking El Salvadorans’ “Protected Status” could test Canada’s Asylum Contingency Plans

The federal government’s contingency plans for a new surge of asylum seekers at the border this winter could be put to the test with the pending U.S. decision on the fate of as many as 200,000 Salvadorans.

The Trump administration is on the cusp of announcing whether it will renew the temporary protected status that’s allowed Salvadorans to live in the United States without fear of deportation since 2001.

Their status expires in March, and with the U.S. ending what’s known as the TPS program for thousands of nationals from other countries in recent months, it’s likely Salvadorans are next.

The U.S. has argued the temporary nature of the program has been abused, and the conditions – like natural disasters or conflict – that had made it unsafe for people to return to certain countries have changed.

But that’s left thousands of people facing deportation to countries they haven’t lived in for years.

When asked what he’d do if he lost his TPS status, Salvadoran Carlos Reyes, 40, who lives in Long Island, N.Y., told Newsday that Canada was an option.

“One thing I know is I’m going to lose my job, and if I don’t have a job, what can I do? I don’t want to go there to El Salvador but I won’t be able to stay here,” he told the American newspaper this week.

“…There’s Canada, but I don’t know anything about Canada. My life and everything is here.”

Salvadorans represent the largest population covered by the temporary protected status program and the potential for them and other Central Americans to come to Canada was flagged in briefing notes by Canadian diplomats in the U.S. earlier this year, following a surge of Haitian asylum seekers showing up at the border.

The Haitians began arriving even before a final decision had been made on their temporary status and the surge – upwards of 200 people a day in the summer months – saw the Liberal government scramble to mount a response.

Both Spanish-speaking and Creole-speaking MPs, and the federal immigration minister, were dispatched to Florida, New York, Texas, California, and Minnesota for outreach to affected populations. As well, consulates in a dozen cities ramped up their own outreach efforts in local media and elsewhere to try to communicate the rules around Canada’s asylum system.

Challenges remain. As late as November, the consul general of Nicaragua in Miami was telling local media that Canada was offering immigration alternatives to nationals from that country whose TPS status had been revoked.

Meanwhile, would-be refugees continue to flock online seeking advice on how best to get to Canada from the U.S. via unofficial channels. They’re seeking those routes because of an immigration agreement between Canada and the U.S. that precludes people from filing asylum claims at legal border entry points.

The Canadian government is now trying to target those people as well, said Hursh Jawal, a spokesman for Immigration Minister Ahmed Hussen.

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