The U.S. and Canada have reached a deal that would allow both countries to turn away asylum seekers who cross the border illegally as the effects of irregular migration span the hemisphere, according to a U.S. official.
President Joe Biden and Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau will make the announcement on Friday after the two leaders hold a bilateral meeting in Ottawa. They are also scheduled to speak at a joint press conference.
The agreement, first reported by the Los Angeles Times, will allow Canada to turn away migrants from unofficial crossing points like Roxham Road, a small, well-traveled road that straddles the Canada-U.S. border between Quebec and New York. Quebec Premier François Legault has hammered Trudeau, calling on the prime minister to raise the issue with Biden. Roughly 40,000 asylum seekers entered Canada through this path last year.
In exchange, Canada will also announce plans to welcome an additional 15,000 Central American migrants over the next year through legal pathways, the official said, citing the Los Angeles Declaration, which emphasized a regional response to unprecedented levels of migration.
News of the agreement is a welcome headline for both Trudeau and Biden. Just as the U.S. southern border remains a vexing political issue for Biden, the influx of migrants is also putting pressure on Canada.
“We’re seeing an increase in irregular migration going north into Canada, which reflects the regional and global migration challenges we have been talking about,’’ White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said on Air Force One on Thursday, without confirming the reports of an agreement. “We’re committed to working with them to address it, including by prioritizing orderly and safe migration through regular pathways.”
The agreement is a revamping of the Safe Third Country Agreement, a treaty the U.S. and Canada signed in 2004 that requires asylum seekers to make their claim in the first country in which they arrive. Under the agreement, asylum seekers can be turned back to the United States if passing through an official border entry. Friday’s deal will expand this to asylum seekers who cross the border illegally.
“This is something that is as everyone knows a deep, important, complex issue that involves vulnerable individuals,” Trudeau told reporters on Wednesday, hinting that a deal could be coming. “It involves sovereignty, it involves ensuring our own citizens that we have a strong and effective immigration and asylum system.”
Friday’s announcement is in line with the Biden administration’s recent strategy for deterring migrants from crossing the southern border. Border crossings have dropped since Biden unveiled a plan earlier this year to accept 30,000 migrants a month from Cuba, Haiti, Nicaragua and Venezuela while cracking down on those who fail to use the plan’s legal pathways.