Illegal border crossings just part of larger problem

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Along with increased tariffs, the U.S. president is blamed for another unwelcome expense at the border: a surge in (largely bogus) refugee claimants.

Most are people worried about their status in an America increasingly divided and unstable. They’re flocking to Canada, particularly at points on the border south of Montreal, because they see a chance to latch on to generous welfare payments. Once on Canadian soil and claiming asylum, they have the right to a hearing, a process that can take months and years, all the while costing taxpayers a fortune.

Much of what’s happening can be attributed to the Trudeau government’s open-door policy, hanging out a welcome mat in response to tighter policies in the U.S. – a shot across the president’s tweeting bow. It’s also in line with Ottawa’s ill-considered plan to boost the number of immigrants and refugees coming into Canada. Already high, the numbers could increase yet more.

Worse still, the Liberals have loosened some of the requirements that newcomers be ones most likely to contribute to the economy and society. There will be more family reunifications, fewer marketable skill prerequisites.

This comes at a cost, short- and long-term.

Once net contributors to the economy, immigrants have been an overall drain for decades now, the result of welfare state provisions that didn’t exist for previous waves of new arrivals. Combined with a faltering economy, the decline of the middle class and generally poor prospects for the future, the newcomers are unlikely to contribute in the way previous immigrants have.

Then there’s the issue of rising real estate prices, particularly in markets where immigrants are prone to form enclaves – think Toronto and Vancouver. That boosts house prices and keeps younger Canadians out of the market.

Increasingly, these enclaves can lead to cultural issues given the changing demographics of immigration in the last few decades. Certainly the inherent problems are exacerbated by today’s political climate – it’s not just immigrants, but the types of immigrants – but in the longer-term there could be major conflicts of the type we see growing in Europe, which has been ahead of us on the curve. Their current problems are the ones we’ll face before too much longer given the level of immigration we’ve adopted.

Can we discuss immigration without sinking into accusations of racism and xenophobia? Probably not.

Does that mean we shouldn’t have that discussion? Certainly not.

While Canada has done a better job of integrating newcomers into its population than have countries in Western Europe, many of the problems could easily surface here. Avoiding that probably means drastically curtailing, or even halting, this country’s high levels of immigration, exactly the opposite of what a string of governments has done.

Canada’s immigration is the highest per capita level in the world. Government officials, however, can provide no good reason for doing so. Few of the economic arguments stand up to scrutiny.

Worst still are the impacts to our culture and social cohesion. That topic, however, is a political hot potato, rife with accusations of racism, which stifles debate.

Being welcoming is one thing, but governments continue to sell out the bulk of the country’s citizens by not dealing with the underlying economic, political and social weaknesses. The current goings-on at the border are a small, but telling part of the story.