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Biden and Trudeau announced an agreement concerning asylum-seekers


President Joe Biden went to Ottawa this week. The president and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced a deal on an issue with which they've both struggled, how to handle asylum-seekers at the U.S.-Canada border. Emma Jacobs joins us from Montreal. Emma, thanks so much for being with us.

EMMA JACOBS, BYLINE: Thanks for having me.

SIMON: And please tell us about this agreement.

JACOBS: Canada and the U.S. have modified an existing agreement signed after 9/11. Under the Safe Third Country Agreement, both countries could already turn people back who requested asylum at official crossing points along the border. But in what often gets called a loophole, people who made it across the border between official entry points could claim asylum. The change taking effect expands the agreement, so now Canada and the U.S. can turn everyone back to the U.S. or Canada, wherever they arrived first. This was Prime Minister Trudeau speaking yesterday at a press conference with the president.


PRIME MINISTER JUSTIN TRUDEAU: Keeping people safe also includes keeping asylum-seekers safe, keeping our borders secure, and keeping our immigration system strong. Both of our countries believe in safe, fair and orderly migration, refugee protection and border security.

JACOBS: Mostly, Canada wanted this change. This is because since 2017, the vast majority of people crossing irregularly have been headed north at what has become a sort of semiformalized, unofficial border crossing. There's a rural road in upstate New York, Roxham Road, that ends at the border with the province of Quebec. About 40,000 people arrived there in 2022. Trudeau has been under political pressure to stop this. The U.S. will also be able to turn back people it apprehends coming in the other direction from Canada. This does happen, and the numbers have risen a little, but still they are relatively low.

SIMON: And what will happen to people who get turned back?

JACOBS: We've actually had previews of this. The problem is that not everyone has understood the rules. And also during the pandemic, Canada was turning people back at Roxham Road. They turned them over to the U.S. border agents. I spoke with people who ended up in U.S. immigration detention facilities. The actual numbers of people who got detained or deported were very hard to track. One possible response to this change is that people stop coming to the border. But the other possible impact this change could have is that more people may try to cross in a clandestine way. People that have died elsewhere along the border in the winters - most of them had been trying to reach the U.S. from Canada. Now we could see that happening more to people headed north.

SIMON: Emma, what else came out of this meeting?

JACOBS: Relatedly, Canada has committed 15,000 of its refugee resettlement spots to people from the Western Hemisphere. Canada will also speed up deployment of new radar technology that's part of NORAD, the joint Canada-U.S. Aerospace Defense Command. This is the kind of tech that can spot more flying objects like the ones NORAD pilots shot down over Canada and the U.S. last month. Trudeau also announced about 70 million in U.S. dollars to support the Haitian National Police. Both countries want to see more stability there, but neither government committed to sending their own troops.

SIMON: Emma Jacobs in Montreal, thanks so much.

JACOBS: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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Scott Simon is one of America's most admired writers and broadcasters. He is the host of Weekend Edition Saturday and is one of the hosts of NPR's morning news podcast Up First. He has reported from all fifty states, five continents, and ten wars, from El Salvador to Sarajevo to Afghanistan and Iraq. His books have chronicled character and characters, in war and peace, sports and art, tragedy and comedy.