Will Legal Aid Cut Off Counsel for Those Who Cross the Border Illegally?

The Canadian Press’s commentary about who Legal Aid Program should defend and who it shouldn’t has started a province-wide discussion about who is entitled to be defended and who is not. 

According to the Canadian Press, Canada should not be responsible for those who immigrate for economic purposes if they cross the border illegally and neither should the resources of the Legal Aid Program when it is already overworked and underfunded. 

As the warm weather of summer begins to heat up, so does debate regarding the many immigrants who will make their way illegally across the border in search of jobs. Adjudication has gotten tighter. Making a final decision used to take anywhere from one to two years, which gave lawyers plenty of time to collect the necessary evidence. Now, officials are pressured by a 60-day timeframe, which drastically reduces the opportunity to prove an immigrant’s claims. 

Thanks to the Liberal Party of Canada, once a legal claim is made for asylum, regardless of whether or not it has merit, the applicant is entitled to free healthcare, a work permit and other perks like dental, eye care and prescriptions. 

While the U.S. only takes in about 18 percent of those who apply to seek asylum on U.S. soil, Canada turns a blind eye currently approves as many as 70 percent of those who are seeking asylum for the first time without question. 

The number of immigrants trekking across the border has risen significantly since Trudeau's government put out a welcome sign for all those seeking asylum after being refused by the United States. Even the 30 percent that are rejected from Canada may submit an appeal to have the decision reconsidered. 

The percentage of acceptance is staggering when you compare it against that of the United States. A foreigner who claims asylum to Canada is about 400 percent more likely to be accepted, so Canada is where immigrants are flocking. 

Many believe that Manitoba is adding insult to injury since it fully funds those who cross the border illegally in order to get them help with their applications, which is putting a tremendous strain on housing, education, language courses, health care and all other aspects of Manitoba’s government systems. 

The number of asylum applicants has risen by over 500 percent in just the past five years, but no one in the Trudeau government seems very concerned. In total, the annual claims for asylum to Canada are over 100,000 a year. The conservatives who are in opposition to providing assistance and to granting so many immigrants asylum have yet to come up with any of their own solutions to make the problem better. 

With Trump putting tighter restraints on immigration in the U.S., there is a real fear that an even greater number of immigrants will find their way to Canada. 

Thrown out of the U.S. for legal reasons, an illegal U.S. immigrant is given no reason why they should not cross the Canadian border illegally and make a claim for asylum. Whether or not they get it isn’t the biggest problem They get to stay free of charge while a legal aid Manitoba office is defending them, meaning that Canada is paying their bills. 

Legal aid offices are already suffering huge losses, and there are estimates that those who are seeking refugee status might wait as much as a decade for their case to be heard in court. 

The illegal immigrants are well taken care of, but what about legal immigrants? No resources have been pulled from illegal immigration services to make more time for those who have been legally waiting nearly ten years. Most of the legal aid workers are turning their attention to the influx of those claiming to seek asylum, which is wreaking havoc on an already overworked immigration system. 

With so many other legal issues there is no reason why there shouldn't be some hierarchy that is safe and smart for Canada’s legal aid system in Manitoba and across Canada. That way, indigenous people and other Canadian citizens could receive attention for a system that has bit off more than it can chew. Time will tell if legal aid will cut off counsel to asylum seekers and illegal immigrants in order to ease an already burdened system.

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