Trump’s immigration chaos making work … for Canada-U.S. border lawyers

March 1, 2017

By Ian Mulgrew, Vancouver Sun |

Canadian lawyers are scrambling to deal with the chaos U.S. President Donald Trump has created within North America’s immigrant and refugee communities.

His now infamous trilogy of January executive orders — that introduced impugned restrictions on seven Muslim countries and pumped “steroids” into border enforcement and deportations — has triggered a growing flight north.

“It’s unclear the numbers of people we may be looking at come spring,” says Peter Edelmann, a worried Vancouver immigration specialist.

“This may become a growing issue either as the situation in the U.S. becomes more problematic but also what we’re finding is not so much what is actually happening but also the fear of what might happen in the future. So the unpredictability of the Trump administration may create flows of migrants even if those regulations are not actually implemented.”

Hundreds of volunteers from the bar went to airports and entry points across the continent to assist people being stopped when the orders were initially issued, sowing much confusion.

This week 200 lawyers registered for a webinar, sponsored by Courthouse Libraries B.C., presented by Edelmann and Calif.-based legal expert Nikhil Shah on the implications of the orders and how to respond on the front lines.

Surprisingly, the two insisted that lawyers emulate drug dealers, crooks and terrorists by carrying only “burner” phones and computers if they were crossing the border because authorities on both sides were asserting the right to demand access and passwords to electronic devices and copying them.

The group that gets the attention are those crossing the border in B.C. and elsewhere, Edelmann says, because they’re among an estimated 11 million undocumented people in the U.S. facing removal.

“But we’re also getting calls from people already within the U.S. asylum system, the current estimate is about 620,000 people with pending claims in the U.S., significant numbers of people,” he adds.

There are others also affected, Edelmann explains, such as those in academia or the entertainment and technology sectors of the economy that rely on specialized international talent.

“A couple of profiles of people that we are seeing (at his office) that we haven’t necessarily seen before,” he says, “are high-skilled workers and companies that rely on high-skilled individuals from around the world who are either considering or already moving operations to Vancouver or into Canada in able to get the staff they need.”

The sizeable Vancouver Iranian and Toronto Somali communities also find themselves at the centre of the storm, given the controversial new vetting of those with ties to the Muslim-majority countries of Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somali, Sudan, Syria and Yemen.

Their dual status as Canadian-Iranians or Canadian-Somalis (like federal Immigration Minister Ahmed Hussen) put them at risk of being subjected to unwarranted scrutiny or sanction.

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