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FUREY: The one solution to the border problem that no one wants to discuss

Let’s instead start talking about the things that are entirely in our control.

It’s getting a little tedious listening to the politicians go back and forth on the illegal border flare-up at Roxham Road.

The Conservatives say it’s unsustainable. The Liberals call them mean names. Then the Conservatives say we need to suspend or revise or revisit the Safe Third Country Agreement.

Sure, let’s certainly talk about revising that agreement as one possible solution – not that the conversation has gotten us very far to date. I’ve heard rumours that the Liberal cabinet has in fact done just that but isn’t getting much traction on the matter because it’s not a big priority for the United States government.

So let’s instead start talking about the things that are entirely in our control. Like the physical structures at the border – changing them for symbols that encourage illegal crossings to those that do not.

I’m finding it increasingly difficult to lay the blame at the feet of the refugees themselves. Because while the government claims they want to eventually bring an end to this unsustainable situation at Roxham Road, their actions say the exact opposite.

They’ve entrenched the border crossing as a quasi-permanent fixture. And I don’t mean through agreements or deals or legislation. Through the whole physical presentation.

Candice Malcolm offered up a good summary in a recent column:

“First, they built a land bridge so migrants wouldn’t have to walk through a ditch. Second, they permanently stationed RCMP officers at this unofficial crossing point (which is less than 5kms from the official crossing at Champlain, NY) to register incoming migrants. Third, they set up makeshift refugee camps so that asylum seekers could start their paperwork and quickly become eligible for government handouts. 
Finally, they began shuttling migrants to Montreal or Toronto — their choice — and setting them up in government-funded housing.” 

There really shouldn’t be any surprise that we have a steady stream of Roxham Road crossers with a welcome wagon like that set up. In fact, what is surprising is that the numbers haven’t drastically gone up even further because of it.

(And it is a steady stream, make no mistake about it. As I recently reported, the year-end numbers from 2018 are near identical to the year-end numbers from 2017, both around 18,500 people crossing into Quebec illegally each year.)

So here’s a novel idea: Wind down the welcome wagon. It’s one solution that not enough people are discussing.

The current Google Maps picture of Roxham Road is from the fall of 2011. The image shows two dead-end rural roads with fairly luscious grass right at the border and no structures whatsoever. The idea should be to get it back to looking like that as much as possible.

Here’s the second thing that should be done: Put up a fence. What few people realize is that the Roxham Road border is smack dab in the middle between two legal border crossings, one at Lacolle and one in Hemmingford. The two crossings are 10 km apart.

We know that human traffickers and activist groups have led migrants to this exact location on purpose. Let’s disrupt that migration pattern. Put up a temporary fence, 10 km long, between those two crossings. (It would hopefully only need to stay up for, say, 12 – 18 months.)

“But won’t they just go someplace else?” That’s the response I’ve received when I’ve previously floated this idea.

Yes, they very well may do that. We don’t know until we try though. It’s surely got to reduce the flow by a certain amount. And it would be informative to see just how much it does decrease the volume.

After all, I genuinely believe that some of these people aren’t even entirely clear that they’re not supposed to be crossing, given the mixed messaging coming from the government and Prime Minister Trudeau’s #WelcomeToCanada greeting. Whereas when a person sees a long fence without a gate, it’s a pretty clear visual cue that you’re not supposed to cross over it.

As for those who do decide to cross anyway and travel along the border to find a different spot, because this is an organized migration, there would be communication through the migrants channels to spread the message about the new crossing location. The feds would be able to watch in real time as the migration patterns change, learn about how it all occurred and how the various groups on the ground relay the message.

It’s rather sad that Canada, a country previously known for being welcome to immigrants and refugees, is now seeing heated debate over immigration simply because we can’t get this one border situation under control.

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