Liberal MP Pablo Rodriguez spent a busy day in Los Angeles trying to head off a possible next wave of misguided asylum seekers who could be forced to leave the United States in the coming months.
Canadian officials fear thousands of migrants could come streaming across the Canada-U.S. border when President Donald Trump makes a decision on the fate of a special immigration designation, known as a Temporary Protected Status, afforded to citizens of El Salvador, Honduras and Nicaragua.
“We want to relay the message that there’s a whole bunch of misinformation that’s circulating and before folks decide to sell their homes and uproot their families and potentially make a really rash decision based on false information, we want these folks to have all the facts – the true facts about what lies ahead with the Canadian immigration system,” said a government spokesperson, speaking on background about the objectives of the L.A. trip.
In total, more than 300,000 citizens of 10 countries that are suffering the effects of conflict or disaster are eligible for the TPS protection. More than 250,000 are from El Salvador and Honduras alone.
On Aug. 30, Honduran newspaper La Prensa also published an article citing a Miami-based Honduran immigration activist as saying he had been contacted by the Canadian government about the possibility of welcoming desperate Hondurans to Canada. Canadian officials scrambled to deny the report the following day.
Immigration anxiety also peak again this week when Trump decided to scrap a program known as DACA, or Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, that provided work permits to people who were young children when they entered illegally into the U.S. with their parents. The program will formally expire in six months.
Rodriguez’s L.A. trip is modelled on a similar visit to Miami in August by Haiti-born Liberal MP Emmanuel Dubourg. There, he met with members of Miami’s Haitian diaspora as well as local elected officials and groups working with new immigrants.
Dubourg had a tough message – that those choosing to sneak across the border into Canada risk eventual deportation to their home country if their claim is not accepted. But Dubourg was chosen because he could deliver it in English, French and, most importantly, Haitian Creole.
Similarly, Rodriguez gave Spanish-language interviews to La Opinion and the Univision television network Friday.
Rodriguez also held a meeting with the consuls general for Honduras, El Salvador and Nicaragua.
“They were very anxious to get all those facts so they can start to relay them to the folks that are coming in to see them and asking questions,” the Canadian government official said.
The three countries, whose TPS designation expires between January and March 2018, have been lobbying the American government for an extension, arguing that the housing shortages, damage to infrastructure and the security challenges that have risen in the years since make it tough to resettle so many people all at once.
Nicaragua and Honduras have had the designation since shortly after Hurricane Mitch ravaged the countries in 1998. El Salvador was designated as a TPS country after two major earthquakes in 2001 killed 1,000, injured about 8,000 and caused serious damage in 165 of the country’s 262 municipalities.