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More than half of Quebec asylum seekers had some kind of ‘legal status’ in U.S. before crossing to Canada

An asylum seekers, claiming to be from Eritrea, is confronted by an RCMP officer as he crosses the border into Canada from the United States on August 21, 2017 near Champlain, N.Y.
An asylum seekers, claiming to be from Eritrea, is confronted by an RCMP officer as he crosses the border into Canada from the United States on August 21, 2017 near Champlain, N.Y. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Paul Chiasson

More than half of the asylum seekers who have crossed the border into Canada through Quebec over the past year held some kind of “legal status” in the U.S. prior to doing so.

However, it is not clear how many of those actually held permanent residency status versus a soon-to-expire temporary protected status or even a travel visa.

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In new numbers released this week by Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada in response to an order paper question from the Conservatives, a total of 15,935 or 65 per cent of the 24,657 people intercepted by police in Quebec between June 30, 2017, and June 3, 2018, held what the IRCC calls “legal status in the U.S. prior to their travels to Canada.”

Of those, 56 per cent of 13,867 held a valid U.S. non-immigrant visa.

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A source tells Global News the latter most frequently refers to Nigerians who arrived via a travel visa to the U.S.

The individual also noted that there are any number of reasons why a person can have legal status in the U.S. and that does not necessarily mean the person had permanent residency or any other right to settle in the country before coming to make their claim in Canada.

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IRCC said in the document it does not track the type of visas held by the people intercepted, nor does it track whether the individual had permanent residency status or temporary protected status.

Individuals who are classified as UN refugees and settled in the U.S. are not eligible to make asylum claims in Canada if they cross the border.

The document also notes that 3,937 or 16 per cent of the 24,920 asylum seekers intercepted in Quebec between June 30, 2017, and June 17, 2018, “reported having previously sought and/or claimed asylum in the U.S.”

Those individuals were identified by checks such as biometric testing that was cross-referenced with American records.

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Between April 1, 2017, and June 17, 2018, 891 of the 29,389 asylum seekers who crossed the border during that period were subject to a removal order in the U.S.

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It is not made clear in the response whether that specifically refers to an order of deportation or something like a lack of legal status that meant they could be removed at any time.

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