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    Sunday, March 26, 2023

    US-Canada Agree to Turn Back Asylum Seekers at Border

    U.S. President Joe Biden and Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced an immigration deal Friday to stop asylum-seekers from crossing the U.S.-Canada border at unofficial crossings.

    The United States and Canada are working to "address historic levels of migration in our hemisphere," Biden told reporters at a joint news conference Friday in Ottawa during his first visit to Canada as president.

    The migration agreement allows each country to turn away asylum-seekers who reach the border at unofficial crossings and is aimed at helping Canada limit the rising number of asylum-seekers who have crossed into the country from the United States after entering the U.S. elsewhere.

    Under the previous migration pact, U.S. and Canadian officials were able to turn back asylum-seekers in both directions at formal points of entry, but this did not apply to unofficial crossings. Canada had been pressing the United States to expand the deal, called the Safe Third Country Agreement, to include unofficial crossings.

    Trudeau has faced growing pressure to stem the rising number of asylum-seekers coming to Canada, many of them traveling on Roxham Road, a dirt path between New York State and Quebec.

    Nearly 40,000 asylum-seekers crossed into Canada from the United States in 2022, the highest number since Canada began tracking such crossings in 2017.

    Trudeau said the agreement would go into effect after midnight Saturday. The quick implementation is aimed at avoiding a surge of migrants trying to cross the border before the change takes effect.

    As part of the deal, Canada has agreed to create a pathway for 15,000 refugees from Latin America to enter the country, to try to ease pressure on the U.S. southern border.

    "We continue to be open to regular migrants. And we will increase the number of asylum-seekers we accept from the Western Hemisphere in order to compensate for closing these irregular crossings," Trudeau said.

    Critics of the migration deal say asylum-seekers will still attempt to cross the border undetected but will now do so in more dangerous ways.

    In addition to immigration, Biden and Trudeau discussed a range of issues Friday, including the war in Ukraine, efforts to counter Russia and China, and a worsening security situation in Haiti.

    Trudeau announced Canada would invest an additional $100 million in Haiti to support the country's national police amid increasing gang violence in the country.

    Biden said "gangs have essentially taken the place of the government" in Haiti.

    He said that the idea of deploying an international force to Haiti was "not in play at the moment" but that it had not been taken off the table.

    "We also are looking at whether or not the international community through the United Nations could play a larger role," Biden said.

    On the economic front, Trudeau said Canada had signed an agreement with IBM to expand research and development to build semiconductors to counter China's growing economic power.

    "With growing competition, including from an increasingly assertive China, there's no doubt why it matters that we turn to each other now, to build up a North American market, on everything from semiconductors to solar panel batteries," Trudeau said in a speech to the Canadian Parliament earlier in the day.

    Also addressing the parliament Friday, Biden hailed the relationship between the two countries, saying Canadians and Americans are "two people … sharing one heart."

    In his nearly 40-minute speech, Biden said "no two nations on Earth are bound by such close ties, friendship, family, commerce and culture." He was warmly welcomed by Canada's Parliament, which gave the U.S. president loud cheers and a standing ovation.

    Biden and his wife, Jill, traveled to Canada on Thursday and met Trudeau and his family at their Ottawa home.

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