With the threat of a heightened immigration climate in the United States, immigrants residing in the U.S. are looking at Canada as a viable living option. The fear of deportation weighs heavily on the minds of families that are living in the United States illegally. With constant media coverage over the Trump administration’s policies and actions regarding U.S. immigration, the media elicits a fearful atmosphere for the millions of undocumented immigrants in the United States. With this in mind, some families take initiative by looking at churches near the famous international border for help.
A case in point is a family that sought refuge at Pilgrim St. Luke’s, a church in upstate New York. About 16 years ago, the family fled El Salvador where they were being threatened with gang violence. After 16 years of living in the United States, they felt the need to seek asylum in Canada in order to live peacefully without the threat of deportation looming over them. They, along with other families, make up a network of individuals filing refugee claims in Canada. With the underground assistance of churches and immigrant rights groups, these individuals hope to immigrate to Canada as efficiently as possible, and they use churches as stepping stones in the right direction. Without a church or immigration advocacy group, many of these individuals are left to hide from U.S. immigration authorities on their own. Having an active support system behind them facilitates the transition from the United States to Canada.
Under the Safe Third Country Agreement, the Salvadoran family would not have been eligible for asylum because they already resided in a “safe” country, which was the United States. However, due to the exceptions to the agreement, which included access to immediate family members in Canada, the family was indeed eligible. According to statistics, Canada should see an approximate 40% rise in asylum seekers by the end of the year if the current trend of applying for asylum in Canada remains.
After being housed in Pilgrim St. Luke’s, the Salvadoran family left for Canada to attend their interview with the office of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada. They expressed that the prevalence of gang violence in El Salvador has created a hostile environment for them, and their request to file an asylum claim was approved. Now the family awaits a formal hearing in Canada, which will take approximately two months as opposed to years compared to the United States.
The example of this family illustrates the strong desire to live peacefully in a country liberated from an atmosphere of gang violence that threatens the livelihood of millions of individuals living in impoverished countries. People want to feel safe, and Canada as a whole continues to provide this feeling for the number of people who are willing to undergo the long but rewarding Canadian immigration process.