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Pitfalls in Safe Third Country Agreements

Posted on in Immigration
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b2ap3_thumbnail_third-country-agreements-Chicago_20170411-162932_1.jpgMany countries around the world, including the United Kingdom and the United States, have become signatories to what are called safe third country agreements. These agreements essentially restrict asylum seekers in terms of when and where they may apply, which can sometimes have little effect on individual cases. However, they can sometimes cause significant problems, especially if an entire family wants to immigrate or pass through. In the current climate, knowing your options is imperative if you intend to apply for asylum in the United States.

Differences in Ports of Entry

The United States has a safe third country agreement with Canada, classified as a treaty and implemented in 2004. Under this agreement, refugees or anyone intending to make an asylum claim in one of the two countries must do so in the country they enter first. The crux of the matter, however, is that the agreement only applies to those who choose to make their claim when entering via a land border, and even then, there are exceptions to the rule. If someone drives or walks across the international border, and wishes to make a refugee claim, he or she will be barred from doing so unless the individual meets one of the four categories of exception.

The exceptions to the safe third country agreement are fairly straightforward, and all come out of the idea that allowing families to stay together and the best interests of the family should be followed. The exceptions allow a person to make a refugee claim in the second country he or she enters, even if he or she enters via a land border, if he or she has:

  • A valid visa for that country (someone transiting through the U.S. to Canada, if he or she holds a valid visa for Canada, would be permitted to request asylum in Canada);
  • An immediate family member such as a parent, child, grandparent, grandchild, or aunt/uncle who holds a valid immigration status there (a citizen, permanent resident, student, refugee/asylee, or one who has an application pending); or
  • Unaccompanied minor status.

Why Does This Matter?

One may wonder why an obscure provision of U.S. immigration law might be gaining importance in recent months, especially for those in cities and states where it is impossible to cross into Canada via a land border. The answer is twofold. The first is that this rule can put families in difficult positions, especially those coming from Latin America. Many cross the border via land, and are thus stuck making any asylum claim they would wish to make in the United States, even if they have families or other incentives to go to Canada.

The second reason why is that this may mean desperate measures are called upon. Reports have been appearing from Canadian media of asylum seekers attempting to walk into Canada over frozen rivers and via other points that are not technically land borders—in other words, where no checkpoints exist—in order to avoid the ramifications of this agreement. Most are crossing from Minnesota as of this writing, but some have come from Wisconsin and even Illinois to cross over land at that point. This could lead to penalties and even jail time, if not outright deportation.

Ask a Knowledgeable Attorney

In the current climate, immigrants—documented and undocumented—have significant amounts of fear about potential enforcement actions, and sometimes, they may do things that can land them in worse trouble than before. If you or a loved one is confused about your rights as an asylee, consulting an attorney is a good idea. The zealous Chicago immigration attorneys at Mevorah Law Offices LLC are happy to help answer your questions. Contact us today to set up an initial appointment.

Source:

http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/manitoba/more-refugees-cross-at-emerson-manitoba-1.3978714

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