Illegal immigrants warned
Francis tells border jumpers not to consider Canada a soft touch
Canwest News Service
Tuesday, June 03, 2008
NEW YORK - Windsor Mayor Eddie Francis said Monday Ottawa needs to begin a massive publicity campaign across the United States to warn illegal immigrants they should think twice about seeing Canada as a soft touch.
Speaking after telling an immigration conference in New York of the crisis Windsor suffered last fall -- when hundreds of Mexicans fleeing an illegal immigration crackdown in Florida crossed through the tunnel and made refugee claims -- Francis said undocumented people need to know that heading for Canada may not be in their best long-term interest.
"It should be made clear that, yes, they may be allowed entry into Canada, and yes, there may be a delay before your case is heard, but once your case is heard, the likelihood of success is very slim," Francis said at the Center on Media, Crime and Justice at John Jay College.
"And they should also be told not to relocate your families because you may be sent back."
Starting in August, Mexican illegal immigrants began crossing from the United States into Windsor by the hundreds, followed by Haitians -- many originating in Naples, Fla., where some say they paid a local operator $500 for an information and transportation package that would supposedly result in their receiving refugee status in Canada.
Under Canadian law, Windsor and Ontario were obliged to offer shelter and welfare funds to applicants while cases made their way through the process.
But the majority of such cases are rejected -- and the people are deported back to their home countries.
The success rate for Mexicans is about 13 per cent, although the rate for Haitians is higher. More than 550 have come to Windsor, though the numbers have slowed considerably since the first two months.
"In Naples we were reactive in terms of the federal government of Canada," Francis said of a publicity campaign the government launched in Florida to warn locals of the likely outcome unless they were bona fide refugees.
"The government at the federal level now has to be proactive in terms of communicating, and getting out ahead of the curve in other parts of the United States."
The necessity of an immediate campaign, Francis said, stems from the observation of several conference speakers that state and city authorities in the U.S. are expected to become increasingly involved in turning in illegal immigrants in the absence of comprehensive federal reform to deal with an estimated 12 million undocumented people. As the threat they will be discovered increases, people search for a way out.
"That's what triggered the Naples (exodus)," Francis said.
He acknowledged the campaign might be costly -- but financing it was "better than having to provide social services and health care" to increasing numbers of people.
"We have our consulates, we have our local agencies, we have the network there to get the message across," he added of Canada's reach into the United States.
Francis also said the federal government should work to speed up the refugee application process -- which can currently take up to two years to complete. Doing so would reduce the window during which applicants who are eventually unsuccessful can live in Canada.