Reports about DACA and the TPS are the most talked about immigration topic in Canada's ethnic media from August 30 to September 14.
News reports on irregular migration have swelled in Canada’s ethnic media over the summer, following a trend that began with the inauguration of Donald Trump and fears about his plans for immigrants, undocumented ‘aliens’, and those stuck somewhere in between.
As of January 2017, the US was providing Temporary Protected Status to over 300,000 foreign nationals from a total of 13 countries: El Salvador, Guinea, Haiti, Honduras, Liberia, Nepal, Sierra Leone, Somalia, Sudan, South Sudan, Syria and Yemen. The status is given based on dangerous conditions in the home country, and is extended for six or 18 months at a time by the Secretary of Homeland Security and the Secretary of State.
When Haiti’s TPS protection was extended only six months in advance, moving the expiration date to January 22, 2018, fear broke out among Haitians who felt they could not safely return to their home country. Uncertainty over the TPS and rumours circulating in the US that Canada would accept Haitians with open arms, meant Canada saw the highest number of asylum seekers in years—5,712—cross the Canada-United Stated border in August. Canada’s ethnic media was part of the conversation.
Latin Americans look north
Even as news began to spread in Canada that those high numbers were going down, concerns continued to rise around TPS ending for Latin American countries like El Salvador and Honduras. There are 260,000 Salvadorans and 80,000 Hondurans who would be at risk of deportation, and as a result are looking to Canada. Reports from ethnic media in the US touted Canada as a safe haven, and Canadian politicians scrambled once again to shut down rumours. Around the same time, Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced that the Trump administration would end the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program (DACA) in six months.
Since June 15, 2012, DACA has given hundreds of thousands of immigrant teenagers and young adults the chance to live in the US without the constant fear of deportation. It allowed them to get jobs, build careers, get a driver’s licence and settle into life in the US. Also known as DREAMers, after the DREAM Act, which has been working its way through congress since 2001, hoping to allow unauthorized immigrants who grew up in the US to stay legally, and eventually get citizenship. More than 780,000 people have taken advantage of DACA, and are now at risk of losing what they have gained.
Where chaos and confusion drove discussion in the US, people looked north for possible refuge—returning to where they came from for most was out of the question. Canada’s ethnic media was paying attention: During the weeks of August 30 to September 14, concerns that DACA and TPS policies could prompt a massive new wave of immigrants was the most talked about issue in Canada’s ethnic media’s immigration stories.
Trump's policy changes felt in Canada
Concerns coming from ethnic media about DACA and TPS were voiced across all languages and groups. Senator Ratna Omidvar’s call to welcome 30,000 DACA young people was regularly mentioned.
A column in Sing Tao Vancouver responded to Omvidar’s comments saying that at first glance, they are “positive and humane,” but Canada’s immigration and refugee policies should not be formulated only on humanitarian considerations—Canada must take into consideration the associated costs. The writer says that the Trump administration is expected to continue making unfavourable policies for refugees and immigrants, and Canadian politicians shouldn’t always have to clean up their mess.
An article in the Canadian Chinese Express out of Toronto warned that the influx of migrants due to DACA and the TPS cancellation could mean more stress on an already overwhelmed immigration system, and further grow anti-immigration sentiment in the country. Chinese news site 51.ca also warned that this could be bad news for Canadians. Comments on the article included criticism for Trudeau, saying welfare cheques being handed out at the border is a “waste of taxpayer money,” and that “these people are not refugees, they are illegal migrants.”
A column in Chinese Real Estate Weekly mentioned Ontario International Trade Minister, Michael Chan’s comments that Canada has a historical tradition of supporting those in need, but that doesn’t mean it takes in everyone and anyone. The author praised the government for upholding the integrity of the immigration system,
In a column for the online publication Magazine Latino, immigration consultant Vilma Filici urged the government to act quickly to educate and warn Salvadorans and Hondurans in the US of their options, noting that validating illegal border crossings isn’t useful; entering Canada trying to claim refugee status is unlikely to work, as most of them have been in the US 10 to 15 years. Ficili also warned in a column for Toronto Hispano that even a small percentage of the Salvadorans or Hondurans would overwhelm the refugee processing system.
Ming Pao Express and Canada Chinese Express covered the false report in La Prensa from Florida on August 30 which said Canada would meet Honduran TPS holders with open arms—and inferred that these open arms came with no strings attached. Shortly after, Spanish-speaking MP Pablo Rodriguez headed to Los Angeles to meet with community organizations and members of government to denounce the rumours. Spanish newspaper La Opinion from Los Angeles quoted Rodriguez saying “Canada is a country with doors open for immigration, but within a legal and organized process.”
Warnings in writing
Many editorials and articles urged readers to understand that crossing the border does not guarantee a claim for asylum. Stories about outreach and clarification were third most frequent issue during the two weeks period examined. In an editorial in Vancouver’s Contacto Directo the author mentioned the criticism Trudeau has received for opening the doors “too wide,” noting that jobs have not been secured should the influx of migrants come, and that Trudeau’s statement that “to those fleeing persecution, terror and war, Canadians will welcome you regardless of your faith” for many, is a deception. They warn of the legal process that not everyone will pass.
Since September 14, reports have shown that the number of irregular border crossers appears to be dropping. Montreal’s Nawa-i-Pakistan noted that the reassigning of roughly 80 immigration department staff to help with the influx made a difference.
Though numbers are down for now, for many Latin and Central Americans in the US as the end of DACA and the TPS looms, Canada is their best option; conflict and danger persist at home—even if the US decides otherwise. The potential wave of migrants will impact Canadian cities and communities, and the ethnic media in those communities. As uncertainty prevails on the issue of immigration, criticism falls onto Canada, and who is to take responsibility, or action in supporting these neighbours. As the situation develops, Canada’s ethnic media is following closely—especially when speaking about Latin American migrants.
Written by Caora McKenna, Data vizualization by Alex Irwin