Canada’s refugee plan draws raised eyebrows from U.S. border union
America is watching its neighbour to the north closely as thousands of Syrian refugees arrive on Canadian soil, says one U.S. border official, and the sense of unease over the rapid influx is growing.
“These people are coming from countries that are in complete turmoil,” said Shawn Moran, a vice-president of the National Border Patrol Council, the union representing approximately 18,000 U.S. border agents and support personnel.
“Whether (refugees) come into Canada with the best of intentions or whether they’re part of a terrorist cell that is trying to do harm either to Canadian or American society, that’s a border that they can easily slip across.”
In an interview with The West Block’s Vassy Kapelos this weekend, Moran expressed particular concern over the background checks being conducted by the Canadian government before welcoming refugees, saying that although working with Ottawa to secure the border has produced “great results” in the past, the latest wave of new arrivals is raising eyebrows.
The Canadian government has stressed repeatedly that every refugee arriving on Canadian soil has been vetted by both CSIS and the UN refugee agency. In addition to biometric scans, refugees are required to pass deep background checks that cross reference information in several international security databases.
The government has also said it is prioritizing vulnerable women, children and families, along with members of the LGBT community. Single males have not been prioritized, but may be eligible to apply to come to Canada after the initial wave of 25,000 refugees has arrived by late February, officials have said.
Moran said that in spite of these assurances, there are potential problems with the background checks.
“The infrastructure that existed in (a refugee’s country of origin) is no longer there, so the databases that may have existed, the police sources, the government sources, are no longer available to properly vet and run background checks,” he explained.
“So it’s very disconcerting to our members and to American citizens to hear that we’re bringing in people from countries like Syria where all those authorities are in disarray and we have nothing to check these people against.”
Moran’s organization is one of several expected to testify this coming week before the U.S. Senate Committee on Homeland Security, which is holding a special hearing on the flow of refugees into Canada and how it may impact security in the United States.
“I think both countries need to slow down a bit and really dig into the backgrounds of the people,” Moran said. “We understand trying to help out people that are in need, but as Paris attacks have shown, a very small number can do a great deal of damage, both physically and psychologically.”
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