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U.S. border challenges to be a point of focus for Canada at the Summit of the Americas

The Canadian Press

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As a cornerstone of Canada's economic growth, federal immigration policy strikes a delicate balance between economic, humanitarian and labour-policy priorities.

If foreign policy was purely a matter of geography, one might assume Canada would be free to go check out the buffet at this week’s Summit of the Americas once the discussion turns, as it surely will, to the migratory tide flooding the U.S.-Mexico border.

But at the dawn of a turbulent new geopolitical era, evidence is mounting that America’s southern frontier — along with the political and economic challenges and opportunities it represents — is closer in many ways than most Canadians might realize.

And if President Joe Biden hopes to realize his vision of a comprehensive, holistic solution to the economic and social ills that imperil the Western Hemisphere, experts say he’ll need Canada to be an integral part of that conversation.

“Canada has an enormous amount to contribute, because Canada is the country in the Americas that has come closest to getting immigration right,” said Andrew Selee, president of the Migration Policy Institute, a non-partisan think tank based in Washington D.C.


“There’s a lot that the rest of the Americas, including the United States, could be learning from Canada.”

The idea behind the summit in Los Angeles, which Prime Minister Justin Trudeau will attend beginning on June 8, is to find a way to address some of the underlying political, economic and social causes of northward migration in the first place.

En route, Trudeau will stop on June 7 in Colorado Springs, Colo., where he and Defence Minister Anita Anand will meet with commanders and military officials from Norad, the joint-command continental defence system that’s awaiting a long-needed upgrade.

He’ll be joined in California by Environment Minister Steven Guilbeault and Foreign Affairs Minister Melanie Joly, who is scheduled to meet with U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Mexican counterpart Marcelo Ebrard.

As a cornerstone of Canada’s economic growth, federal immigration policy strikes a delicate balance between economic, humanitarian and labour-policy priorities, all the while preserving public buy-in to keep the ever-present political dangers at bay, Selee said.

Biden will propose what Gonzalez called a strategy of shared responsibility and economic support for those countries most impacted by the flow of migration. It will also include a multilateral declaration “of unity and resolve” to bring the crisis under control.

Leaders of “source, transit or destination countries” will seek consensus on how to tackle a problem “that is actually impacting all the countries in the Americas,” he said.

“We need to work together to address it in a way that treats migrants with dignity, invests in creating opportunities that would dissuade migrants from leaving their homes in the first place, and provide the protections that migrants deserve.”

The U.S. Border Patrol calls it “push and pull” — the myriad factors that spur people around the world to abandon one country in favour of another, often as clandestinely as possible. Those motivations were muted during the COVID-19 pandemic, but no longer.

Other summit priorities will include helping countries bring COVID-19 under control, forging new ties on climate and energy initiatives, confronting food insecurity and leveraging existing trade agreements to better ensure more people are able to reap the benefits.


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