There have been a flood of stories in the wake of the 2016 election about immigrants living in the United States who have decided to cross the border illegally into Canada to seek asylum, rather than face an uncertain future in President Trump’s America. As one elected official in the province of Manitoba told The Washington Post in an interview last month, the influx was likely fairly modest given the cold weather. “I have this feeling that we’re going to see big numbers coming across once the weather gets better,” Greg Janzen, reeve (mayor) of Emerson said to our Alan Freeman in February.
Data provided to The Post by the Canada Border Services Agency shows that the influx has already increased dramatically. Relative to February of last year, the number of people seeking asylum at the Canadian border after crossing it illegally has more than tripled.
By contrast, Secretary John Kelly, head of the Department of Homeland Security, issued a statement last week trumpeting another bit of border data: The number of apprehensions made at the U.S.-Mexico border dropped 40 percent from January to February. Relative to February of 2016, the number of apprehensions at the border declined about 38 percent. The implication, of course, is that fewer people are trying to cross the border illegally, resulting in fewer being caught doing so.
Each border had its own inflection point. At the U.S.-Mexico border, apprehensions started to drop shortly after the 2016 election. At the Canadian border, asylum requests started to rise dramatically last May — the month that Trump secured the Republican nomination.
Notice that the scale of the activity at the border is dissimilar. If we put each on the same scale, the number of apprehensions dwarfs the number of people seeking asylum at Canada’s border. (We’ve excluded other monthly asylum claims from this data, such as claims at airports.)
But relative to one another, there’s been a sharp decline recently. In February 2014, 184 people were apprehended at the U.S.-Mexico border for every asylum claim at Canada’s. In February 2015, that figure was 128. In 2016, 97. Last month? It was 19.
Again: This is in the dead of winter, shortly after Trump’s election. Assuming that his presidency is spurring the increase in asylum claims — probably a fair assumption — it’s likely that Janzen will be proved correct and asylum claims at the Canadian border will spike further once the weather warms. The two borders will likely never achieve parity, but the shift in American politics seems to be spurring an at-least-temporary move in that direction.