RCMP, Border Services say they're ready for influx of illegal migrants
Published Monday, February 20, 2017 6:21PM EST
Last Updated Monday, February 20, 2017 6:27PM EST
As migrants continue to cross the border illegally, authorities are demonstrating exactly what happens to the people they arrest.
The number of illegal migrants has skyrocketed in recent months, with dozens of people crossing this past weekend alone in Quebec and Manitoba.
It has opposition MPs calling for the federal government to take action to send "a strong message to those considering an illegal crossing that there are proper channels to do this."
Crossing the border illegally is a strategic move on the part of those seeking asylum in Canada.
If they attempt to claim refugee status at a Canadian border crossing they can be refused because Canada officially recognizes the United States as a safe country.
But by coming into Canada elsewhere, refugee claimants are first arrested by the RCMP, then brought to border officials.
Brian Byrne is on the RCMP team that has arrested hundreds of men, women, and children since the beginning of the year.
"There's no doubt it's touching," said Byrne. "We try to make their misery as short as possible.
Everyone caught crossing the border illegally, like the family arrested Monday, is taken just a few kilometres away to agents working at the Lacolle border crossing to be processed.
Those deemed "receivable" are free to claim refugee status within a matter of hours but about three percent are detained for more screening and possible deportation.
Dominique Fillion of the Canada Border Service Agency said crossing the border illegally does not mean people are allowed to remain in Canada.
"If they are not identifiable then we can detain them. If they pose a threat to the security of Canadians we can detain them. And if we don't think they'll show up to their immigration hearings we can also detain them," said Fillion.
The dramatic increase in border crossings -- 452 in January, compared to one-third that number 12 months earlier -- has put pressure on border guards.
Cargo space has been transformed into a processing office.
The RCMP and the U.S. Border Patrol are also doing all they can to monitor the longest undefended border in the world.
Brad Curtis of the U.S. Border Patrol said many people are noticed when they reach the border, but cannot be prevented from committing a crime.
"If we determine that they have valid immigration visas -- they have, say, a tourist visa and they don't have any outstanding warrants -- they're free to continue," said Curtis.
He said many people caught and released have come into the United States as tourists.
The RCMP also warns people before they cross that they will be arrested.
"It's not my power to determine the actions that should be taken for regulating or stopping this," said Byrne.
Both the RCMP and the U.S. Border Patrol said they expect more migrants to cross into Canada as temperatures warm up, and both say they will take steps to keep things under control.
But exactly what will be done is not being disclosed.