Unlike Biden, Trudeau has no excuse for his failure to manage population growth

Canada’s only land border is with the United States, which should make it easy to manage population growth. The Americans face a much more difficult challenge. The problem is magnified by political disfunction in Washington.

Their southern border is 3,145 kilometers long, more than half the length of the northern border with Canada. According to a special report in The Economist, the president with the lowest number of arrivals in at least four decades is Barack Obama, averaging well under 50,000 per month. He became known as the deporter-in-chief.

In the 2016 presidential election, Donald Trump (“We’re gonna build a wall!”) used the border as his major issue, dishonestly claiming that the asylum seekers included large numbers of rapists and murderers. Hilary Clinton’s response was ineffective.

Ironically, during Trump’s presidency the monthly number of apprehensions grew to well above 50,000 in the early years, and never averaging lower than Obama.

Under Biden, the monthly numbers, which now include expulsions as well as apprehensions, have skyrocketed to more than 150,000. The make-up of the arrivals has changed.

Historically it was mostly Mexicans, with much of the rest coming from Honduras, Guatemala, and El Salvador. The Central American numbers have more than doubled, and are supplemented by large numbers of Venezuelans.

In addition, there are large numbers from places like India, Russia, and China. Clearly, they feel that this is the best way to skip the lineup for immigration.

After apprehension, the migrants are scheduled for a hearing with a citizenship judge. The number of those has more than quadrupled since Obama’s years. Nevertheless, the backlog exceeds three million cases, meaning that migrants will be in the United States for years before getting their hearing. When it finally takes place, about half of the applicants succeed.

In border states like Texas and Arizona the support services for new arrivals are overwhelmed. The state governors have been chartering buses to send crowds of claimants to Washington, New York, Chicago, and other northern cities. They have also been stretched and are calling for federal assistance.

Opinion surveys show that increasing numbers of Americans, in both parties, are supportive of tighter border control. A porous border will be Joe Biden’s biggest liability in the 2024 presidential election.

Meanwhile, Congress has been struggling to find a consensus on financial support for Ukraine and Israel, together with changes to the way the border is managed.

A deal seemed to be in the offing until Trump, not wanting to lose the border problems as a campaign weapon, intimidated many congressional Republicans into renouncing their support.

This caused considerable friction in that caucus. “The border is a very important issue for Donald Trump. And the fact that he would communicate to Republican senators and Congress people that he doesn’t want us to solve the border problem — because he wants to blame Biden for it — is really appalling,” Sen. Mitt Romney, R-Utah, told reporters.

Meanwhile Canada is experiencing its own chaos. International student numbers have ballooned, as have the numbers of temporary foreign workers (TFWs) and asylum seekers arriving by plane, replacing what used to arrive by Roxham Road.

It is not because of our land border with the United States. Belatedly, the Liberals reached an agreement with the Americans that anyone crossing the land border legally or illegally can be sent back. The governors of Texas and Arizona will not be sending buses to Canada.

It is not the result of political differences; the Conservatives favour managing the population growth to the number “that we can house, employ and care for in our health-care system.”

They made a beginning a month ago by limiting the number of international student permits.

They also hinted that changes would be announced to address the large and growing numbers of people flying in to make asylum claims. Canada’s capacity to deal with the growing numbers is not keeping up. A month later, there have been no announcements. A simple policy change on visas would get things back under some degree of control.

The third source of uncontrolled growth is TFWs. On this is there is as yet no action. The TFW website has more than 11,000 different postings some of which seek to attract multiple qualified candidates.

That population numbers were out of control was evident in the 2023 Annual Report to Parliament on Immigration, yet the Liberal response is late and incomplete.

Housing Minister Sean Fraser must wish he had paid attention to the numbers when he was Minister of Immigration.

The government says that they “… are pursuing strategies to realign our immigration policies to adapt to the realities faced by Canadians and temporary residents alike.”

But there is no plan. There is no goal for what population growth should be in 2024 and subsequent years. Nor are there well-considered estimates of what each of the factors will contribute. Voters will rightly blame the Trudeau government for the shortages of housing and health care capacities.


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