Canadian politics used to be a cute, inconsequential thing that occurred somewhat north and to the left of New York, where people with slightly funny accents debated how to most efficiently prove they were not American while travelling. However, it appears all that is about to change now that their government has become more "conservative." You may recall the string of car arsons in Los Angeles, which allegedly were the work of a German-born man named Harry Burkhart. Well, it turns out Burkart had recently lost his three-year bid for refugee status in Canada, so he decided to come to LA and light a bunch of cars on fire instead.
It seems Canada is about to make that sort of stuff (foreigners setting our cars on fire) much more common. Starting this June, Canada will implement, "a $540-million ‘balanced refugee reform' program designed to speed up the asylum review process and start slicing through a backlog of more than 42,000 refugee cases, many of which have been awaiting a decision for years." This law will potentially send many of those seeking asylum in Canada to the States, where they will set our cars on fire. Says an expert:
"This is about to become a staging inventory for potential illicit entry into the United States," said Richard Kurland, an immigration policy analyst and attorney in Vancouver.
But since we are America and like to pretend that we welcome foreigners, we are playing it cool for now.
U.S. officials say that asylum claimants who are denied refugee protection in Canada will not be automatically turned away at the U.S. border, despite a 2004 agreement between the countries that bars new arrivals in either from entering the other to claim asylum. That pact was put in place to halt the flow of asylum-seekers from the U.S., with its comparatively tough immigration policies, into Canada, where winning asylum had been easier.
The question we all want to know is: what will Canadians cling to without their precious record of being generally decent and un-American to their immigrants? But it is possible it will not come to that, and that our cars will remain unburned.
In any event, U.S. officials say they do not anticipate a massive increase - at least in the number of those seeking to cross the border through legal channels - because they expect that Canada will allow some failed applicants to stay under other exemptions and will deport as many as possible of those deemed not at risk of persecution in their home countries.
The LA Times and that guy Kurland, however, are not quite done ratcheting up the fear.
"If you deprive a large number of people of asylum options, they're going to look for the next place to go, in large numbers," Kurland said. "So it is utterly incomprehensible to not figure out that come June-July 2012, when the new rules kick in, there will be a drive to seek sanctuary somewhere else, such as the largest neighbor in North America."
In at least one case, that may already have happened: Officials in both the United States and Canada, citing privacy laws, have refused to say when or how Burkhart and his mother, Dorothee, traveled to the U.S., though it is likely they arrived as tourists with the aid of their German passports.
"If they can't catch two obvious refugee claimants who spent years in Canada in the refugee system, how can we trust them to deal with the potential of thousands of folks turned away from Canada because of the new changes?" he said.
Basically, our cars are fucked.
Lost in all this car burning business, though, is the fact that this will potentially affect many refugees who really do need asylum, for immediate and terrible reasons, people who would (probably) never set our cars on fire, no matter how much we may deserve it.