THE WALL STREET JOURNAL:
A small group of people from Nigeria and Mali stepped off a shuttle bus here on a recent evening and lugged suitcases and backpacks along a country road toward the border with Canada. A Canadian police officer was waiting there to arrest them.
The group is part of a fresh wave of asylum seekers flooding into Canada in recent weeks, undeterred by the threat of arrest and posing the latest test for Canada’s immigration-friendly stance.
Roughly 2,600 people used unofficial border crossings like this one to enter the country in April, according to Canadian police data. That marked the latest surge following the crossing last summer of some 8,500 asylum seekers.
People breaching the border is a new challenge for Canada. The country’s geographic isolation has traditionally allowed it to maintain a highly selective immigration and refugee system, as migrants from Africa and the Middle East have poured into Europe in recent years and the U.S. has grappled with illegal immigration from Mexico and Central America.
“It forces Canadians, who have always patted themselves on the back for being very open to immigration, very welcoming, to deal with the kinds of challenges Italy, Greece and others have been facing and to realize it’s not so easy,” said Irene Bloemraad, a migration expert and the chair of Canadian studies at University of California, Berkeley.
Canada’s Liberal government has faced heated criticism over its handling of the influx. The opposition Conservatives want the government to shut down unofficial border crossings, saying the asylum seekers using them are sapping resources normally devoted to processing applicants from other immigration and refugee streams. The Immigration and Refugee Board, which decides on asylum claims, has a backlog of 53,000 cases, and the labor union representing Canada’s border officers has said that staffing is insufficient to deal with the added pressure of asylum seekers.