Talking the talk is easy. Walking the walk is not so easy. Justin Trudeau, the prime minister of Canada, thought he could take an easy shot at the United States, and Donald Trump in particular, for American determination to get out-of-control immigration under something resembling control. Lesson apparently learned.
When President Trump tried to bar immigration last year from seven particularly high-risk countries sending waves of their own people to the United States, and these nations happened to be Muslim-majority nations, Mr. Trudeau thought it would be satisfying to mock Mr. Trump for his policy on refugees and other asylum-seekers and his determination to restore order on the border.
“To those fleeing persecution, terror and war,” Mr. Trudeau tweeted, “Canadians will welcome you, regardless of your faith. Diversity is our strength.” That sounded generous and sincere, and thousands of Haitians took Mr. Trudeau at his word and surged across Canada’s southern border.
But that was then, and this is now, when poetry must defer to prose. When the U.S. Department of Homeland Security announced the other day that after 17 years it would end “temporary” protected status for 262,500 refugees from El Salvador, giving them 18 months to renegotiate their immigration status or face deportation, Mr. Trudeau bit his tongue. If he had anything to say, he didn’t say it. When the Department of Homeland Security announced that it would similarly end “temporary” protected status granted to Salvadorans after an earthquake in El Salvador eight years ago, Mr. Trudeau further kept his peace.
Citing Immigration and Refugee Board figures, the Canadian Broadcasting Corp. reported in late November that Haitians made up 44 percent of the 14,500 refugee claims of “irregular border-crossers” into Canada in the nine-month period from February to October last year. Mr. Trudeau’s government, wary of a Salvadoran surge sending thousands of migrants to follow the Haitian example, is undertaking an “information campaign” to persuade them to stay home. Enough, apparently, is enough, even for the man so eager to tutor his neighbors.
“We don’t want people to illegally enter our border, and doing so is not a free ticket to Canada,” Ahmed Hussen, Canada’s minister for immigration, refugees and citizenship, told The New York Times. “We are saying, ‘You will be apprehended, screened, detained, fingerprinted, and if you can’t establish a genuine claim, you will be denied refugee protection and removed.’” Deported, to use the word shorn of euphemy.
The words of Mr. Hussen — a refugee himself, born in Somalia — could have been lifted verbatim from almost any of Mr. Trump’s many stump speeches about illegal immigration.
To further make Mr. Trudeau’s government’s point, officials in Ottawa are dispatching a Spanish-speaking member of parliament to California with a blunt message for ethnic community groups and Spanish-language media there. “Canada has a robust and structured immigration system that must be respected,” Member of Parliament Pablo Rodriguez told Canada’s French-language La Presse, in remarks that will have to be translated into Spanish when he arrives in what historian Victor Davis Hanson calls “Mexifornia.”
“Before leaving your job, pulling your child from school and selling your house to come to Canada, make sure you understand the rules and the laws,” warned Mr. Rodriguez, an immigrant from Argentina, “Because if you don’t fill these criteria, chances are you’ll be returned, not to the United States, but to your native country.”
The prime minister recognizes that inconvenience and disappointment that his big talk has inflicted on those attempting to immigrate to Canada. “Canada is an opening and welcoming society,” he said at the height of the cross-border surge in August, “but let me be clear. We are also a country of laws. Entering Canada irregularly is not an advantage. There are rigorous immigration and customs rules that will be followed. Make no mistake.” Mr. Trudeau has dispensed with soft and soothing language.
Immigration, some of it controlled and much of it not, is a phenomenon that many nations must deal with, and certain politicians prefer to exploit rather than alleviate the misery of the millions who seek a way out of hopelessness and despair. This is writ large at the moment in Washington, where Congress is attempting to write some kind of relief for the Dreamers. There’s a lesson for pious Democrats in Justin Trudeau’s late education.