Can the refugee caravan at the U.S. border simply fly up to Canada?

Back in January 2017 I asked “Why accept any refugees to the U.S. if they are welcome in Canada?” in response to Justin Trudeau’s promise to take anyone whom the U.S. rejects. From the Independent article cited in that post:

Justin Trudeau has responded to Donald Trump’s immigration ban by saying Canada welcomes refugees who have been rejected from the US.

“To those fleeing persecution, terror & war, Canadians will welcome you, regardless of your faith. Diversity is our strength #WelcomeToCanada,” he tweeted.

From this weekend: “Migrant Caravan, After Grueling Trip, Reaches U.S. Border. Now the Really Hard Part.” (New York Times):

A long, grueling journey gave way to what could be a long, uncertain asylum process Sunday as a caravan of immigrants finally reached the border between the United States and Mexico, setting up a dramatic moment and a test of President Trump’s anti-immigrant politics.

More than 150 migrants, part of a caravan that once numbered about 1,200 and headed north in March from Mexico’s border with Guatemala, were prepared to seek asylum from United States immigration officials.

With the migrants on the doorstep of the United States, Mr. Trump, in a tweet last week, ratcheted up his rhetoric, vowing “not to let these large Caravans of people into our Country.”

These folks have been rejected by the President of the U.S. Thus they would appear to be eligible for the Canadian Prime Minister’s offer. What is the practical obstacle to these 150 folks being welcomed in Vancouver?

Hipmunk says that AeroMexico will fly them one-way on May 7, for example, at $337 per person via Mexico City ($50,000 total). A chartered Boeing 757 would presumably be cheaper and I’m assuming that there are a sufficient number of good-hearted people who will fund the flight. It is only 1037 nautical miles between the two airports, about 2.5 hours of flight time, so roughly $15,000 in hourly operating costs.

In fact, let this blog post serve as my personal commitment to pay up to $50,000 either to charter an Airbus or Boeing or to fund airline tickets at up to $337 per refugee. I would love to be able to tell my friends in Cambridge that I personally rescued 150 asylum-seekers from, not only the persecution that they faced as Latin Americans in Latin America, but also from crime and prejudice in the U.S., from living under the cruel dictatorship of Donald Trump, from income inequality, etc.

Philip says #WelcomeToCanada!


36 thoughts on “Can the refugee caravan at the U.S. border simply fly up to Canada?

  1. @philg – “These folks have been rejected by the President of the U.S.”

    Not quite. They have a right to an asylum hearing and nobody has said they won’t get that.

  2. Bill: Wouldn’t they be better off with guaranteed (by the Prime Minister, no less!) admission to Canada than the possibility of a “hearing” with a U.S. bureaucrat? What is their statistical chance of being admitted to the U.S. after a hearing? And if they “win” the right to live in Detroit (median home value $42,600, which tells you the market’s opinion of the value of living in Detroit) is that better than living in Vancouver, where the median home price is between $1 million (condos) and $3 million (houses)? (source: )

    Also, wouldn’t they be better off living under the enlightened leadership of Mr. Trudeau rather than under the thumbs of Donald Trump and, indirectly (according to NYT), Vladimir Putin?

  3. That’s perfect virtue signaling—price tag attached so it sounds expensive, but when you multiply by the probability of actually being taken up on it, pretty cheap!

  4. There’s a difference between asylum-seekers and other types of migrants. Under international law, asylum-seekers have the right to a fair hearing to determine if their claim of fear of persecution is legitimate. The system is not perfect, but it exists for a reason and should be maintained. Economic migrations who cross a border illegally are not asylum-seekers (and vice versa).

    But if you want to try to further your idea, go for it.

  5. Joe: Exactly! But I wouldn’t mind if the Canadians took me up on the offer. It would be well worth $50,000 to see how these folks end up doing in the Northern Trump-free Paradise (TM). We spent pretty close to $50k yesterday at the LEGO store (or at least it felt like it).

    Bill: But why do they want a hearing at all? Canada says they will accept anyone we reject. So instead of keeping these 150 folks in limbo, if we reject them immediately they are immediately eligible for permanent residence in Canada. The U.S. has some virtues, but I don’t think there are many places in the U.S. that are as nice as Vancouver and most of the nice parts of the U.S. are out of reach unless you’re (a) a multi-millionaire, or (b) a no-income or low-income person who got favored by a housing ministry with a free apartment.

  6. (Separately, the NYT photo appears to show a border wall between the U.S. and Mexico. We know that Congress did not approve Trump’s “build the wall” plan. We know that the U.S. was previously governed for at least 8 years by a virtuous person. Did the depicted wall spontaneously arise?)

  7. Contrary to what our Selfie Prime Minster and King of the North says, it is not that easy to claim asylum in Canada. There is quite a process that they have to go through and currently the system is backlogged.

  8. @Bill S

    Anybody not a Mexican citizen showing up at the US southern border is not a legitimate refuge/asylum seeker, as he or she did not apply for asylum in the first safe country possible.

  9. Pavel: Thanks for the links. I love your Prime Minister saying that keepng the door closed by keeping people out “allows us to continue to be open”. What is more open than a closed door?

    Viking: is a NYT article on the Mexican government’s system: “Under published guidelines, the government should rule on asylum requests within 45 days. But in an overtaxed system, waits have frequently been far longer, often lasting three months or more.” How does a three-month wait compare to the American system? Under President Obama, in 2015, asylum weekers would “wait for years without a decision” ( ).

  10. Viking and Phil: The first safe country isn’t a law that applies to the migrants themselves, but rather a practice that is considered to comply with the 1951 refugee treaty and widely used by nation states. Though of course it does beg the question, why did they not apply in Mexico or Guatemala?

    The 1951 treaty was clearly meant to deal with displacement from WW2 and decolonization and is completely unsuited for the present day, where it de facto creates open borders unless it is violated. The western nations should withdraw from it and replace it with something new.

  11. @Philg – you need a hearing to determine who is a legitimate asylum seeker. It is not a free-for-all, there is an established process, and making that determination is a fundamental principle of refugee protection as no person fleeing persecution should ever be sent back to that which they fled.

    Is Canada willing to accept anyone, regardless of situation? I doubt it. I’m not aware of the specifics of their “offer,” but I suspect it is most likely to encompass those who they determine are deserving of protection that the US is not willing to help.

    Years ago, asylum hearings in the US took place relatively quickly. These days there is a backlog of hundreds of thousands of cases and many wait in detention centers. Also, asylum seekers do not have the right to an attorney (though they can have one), so many face a Federal judge (sometimes via video conference) all by themselves.

    WNYC ran an excellent piece last week on how some asylum seekers arriving in NY, who honestly declare their intention to stay in the US, are now routinely put into detention.

    If you’re sincerely interested in the current state of asylum in the US, check out this “game” just launched last week by ProPublica and WNYC radio:

  12. @viking Under international law, anyone has the right to apply for asylum in any country that has signed the 1951 Convention and to remain there until the authorities have assessed their claim. There is nothing in international law to say that refugees must claim asylum in the first country they reach.

  13. Bill S: Whichever government employee could look at the fact that they crossed Mexico and Guatemala and didn’t apply for asylum there and conclude that they want to come to the US and therefore are immigrants who should face the same restrictions as anyone else. They can deport them to Mexico or Guatemala or hold them indefinitely.

    The 1951 treaty should be “repealed and replaced”. People are using it to justify de facto unlimited immigration from the developing world to the developed world which was not its intent.

  14. Aren’t we also the country that has voluntarily re-settled the most refugees since the treaty? From what I understand most of those people have been the best of immigrants. That doesn’t mean scaling it to millions of people will work. All it will do is move favelas from the third world to California. Advocates of open borders shouldn’t be allowed to use the asylum system to salami slice their way to their fantasy world.

  15. @ Bill S, Tony Doe:

    Irregardless of Bill S’s assertions, here are the guidelines from UNHCR:

    “B. Safe Country of Asylum

    11. According to this use of the concept, asylum-seekers/refugees may be returned to countries where they have, or could have, sought asylum and where their safety would not be jeopardized, whether in that country or through return there from to the country of origin.”

    There is Tony’s logic, that makes a Guatemalan at a US southern port of entry an immigrant rather than refugee, and then there are the guidelines, straight from the horse’s mouth.

  16. Trump’s statement, probably on Twitter, doesn’t represent a change in US law. Your Trudeau quote doesn’t represent a change in Canadian law either. Asylum seekers would still have to apply for asylum. Canada never stated that they would take any individual who shows up. Also, I doubt that you find a link showing that the New York Times claims that Americans live under Putin’s thumb. It’s unclear what the point is of mentioning the fact that there exists an American city with very low housing costs and a Canadian city with very high housing costs. (By the way, the outrageous house prices are causing a lot of problems for Vancouverites.)

    It’s also bizarre that you would suggest chartering a Boeing 757 from Mexico City when these people are at the border in Tijuana, which has its own airport. Are you also proposing to fund the ground transportation from Tijuana to Mexico City. And is there some point to mentioning the Boeing 757 specifically instead of some other aircraft?

  17. We know that Congress did not approve Trump’s “build the wall” plan. We know that the U.S. was previously governed for at least 8 years by a virtuous person. Did the depicted wall spontaneously arise

    I’ve never heard of an example of a wall arising spontaneously. A better question in the same vein might be, “Why does Trump demand a wall when there is photographic evidence that a wall already exists?”

  18. Viking: Bill S is strictly speaking correct in that the migrants have not broken any law or requirement under the 1951 treaty. On the other hand, we are not required to make a habit of letting people use the Asylum system as an immigration loophole.

    Vince: I think what Phil G is trying to do is impose a cost on Trudeau for his virtue signaling. He’s doing it in typical hacker smart ass fashion, but politicians really do need to start paying a price for this moral vanity as it imposes costs on both immigrants and citizens.

  19. Tony:

    You think that Philip wants to punish Canada for making this statement: “To those fleeing persecution, terror & war, Canadians will welcome you, regardless of your faith. Diversity is our strength”?

    You think that such a sentiment upsets Philip so much that he wants to do something to make Trudeau STFU? Where do you think that that anger comes from?

  20. Vince: I don’t know if he actually expects to do it. I know I talk about solutions to problems I never do anything about all the time, I’m guessing you probably do to.

    What’s so bad about what Trudeau and others like him is Canadian immigration law is actually pretty strict. That reality doesn’t get broadcast to the third world, but Trudeau’s nonsense does. It incentiveizes migrants, especially young males. If immigrants come in small numbers, they risk death and will probably be returned anyway, since they aren’t actually welcome, certainly not regardless of faith. If they come in large numbers they will still face possible death but will be subject to apartheid instead of deportation. The prospect of a third world death lottery and moving favelas from the developing world to Ontario or California angers many people, not just Phil.

  21. Tony: There is no way for a humble citizen such as myself to impose any kind of cost on a Davos-attending luminary such as Trudeau (maybe he can’t get crazy rich after leaving office as a U.S. president might, but I assume that he is now immune to any of the challenges that might be faced by ordinary folks).

    I sincerely feel badly for these 150 migrants and, as long as Canadian officials say that they’re willing to take in an unlimited number of folks, my attitude is “Why not make everyone happier and better off if all that it takes is a chartered airliner?” That’s short money when compared to the value of being able to live in Canada (maybe on welfare?) for generations.

    I’m anti-population growth for the U.S. due to our inability to build new infrastructure (or maintain the old stuff, either!), our traffic jams, and our out-of-reach housing prices that put everyone in a bad mood (bad enough to vote for Bernie and/or Hillary!). But when a country such as Canada says that it wants population growth and doesn’t care who the new citizens might be, I say that it is time to spin up the turbines!

  22. Enough of this shit. Our prime minister is a clueless twat with a trust fund and he doesn’t speak for the majority of Canadians. Keep your fucking human garbage out of Canada.

  23. What Phil is doing with this blog post is ask the questions that the media should be asking. Instead, the media seems to be more about how unfair the US has become.

    The media would not been at war with Trump if:
    1) Trump was a smooth talker, and
    2) Trump was liked by the media.

    This is not to say Trump is not to be blamed, but it is clear the media has an agenda against him and love to provoke him so they get rating. In short, the media is to be blamed, as much as Trump, for what’s going on.

  24. What is the practical obstacle to these 150 folks being welcomed in Vancouver?

    That’s definitely a question that the media is not asking. I doubt that note worthy portion population considers that something that they should be asking.

  25. You all raise an interesting question that no journalist seems to be willing to ask, i.e., “If they are eligible for asylum, why didn’t they apply in Mexio?”

    I wonder if the answer is “Because Mexico is too dangerous and the U.S. has a lower crime rate”. suggests that Mexico has slightly higher crime overall and a much higher murder rate (though much less “gun crime” than the U.S.).

    But by the same argument they shouldn’t apply for asylum in the U.S., but should instead keep traveling north to Canada. shows that Canada has a much lower crime rate than the U.S.

    So if they prefer the U.S. to Mexico I don’t know why they wouldn’t prefer Canada to the U.S. And if they are eligible to travel through Mexico to apply for asylum in the U.S., why aren’t they eligible to travel through both Mexico and the U.S. to apply for asylum in Canada?

  26. @Philg #26:

    Isn’t it obvious? Applying for asylum in Mexico, means you are still living in a 3rd word country. Applying for asylum in Canada, means you will have to work your butt off. So anyone will want to move to the US (crossing all the way through many countries) or in Germany (again crossing through many countries).

    However, the REAL reason of this caravan migrant, is to make an example out of the USA on how bad we have become an ignorant nation. Those who came on the caravan were organized by some organization to make this into news. Of course, the media will air picture of women and children as victims due to inhuman USA laws rather than report facts.

  27. Among all the speculating here about what those on this caravan – or any other asylum seekers or other migrants – might do or not do and where they might do it, there’s a surprising lack of research. Ok, there were a few links presented, but it isn’t that hard to find our more about this subject, specifically the answer to “why didn’t any of these caravan members seek asylum in Mexico?”

    Well, it turns out (at least according to Vox) most did. This caravan was more than 1000 strong when it started and now only numbers a few hundred.

    And yes, it seems this was somewhat of a stunt to draw attention (and the President’s ire) to this issue.

    How about that!

  28. Anonymous: I’m not sure folks asked “why didn’t any of [people who were previously] caravan members seek asylum in Mexico?” or “Why aren’t there ever any people who apply for asylum in Mexico?” The question was “why didn’t any of the 150 people who came from Honduras and who are currently applying for asylum in the U.S. apply in Mexico?” (Since Honduras and Mexico do not share a border, though, maybe the correct question is “Why didn’t any of these 150 folks apply in Belize, Guatemala, or El Salvador?”)

    Regarding previous caravan members, not featured in the NYT story, there are still some questions even if we accept that they could not apply for asylum in the first country in which they arrived. If their intention was to apply to asylum in Mexico, why were they part of a “caravan”? Why wouldn’t they have applied right at the border with, e.g., Belize or Guatemala?

    Note that, regardless of application status in Mexico, everyone is welcome to hop on Philip’s chartered B737 (max seating 230) or A321 (max seating 240) to Vancouver or any other Canadian city to which Justin Trudeau wishes to welcome rejected-by-the-U.S. migrants.

  29. Separate question: Our constitution protects us from the tyranny of being forced by the government to quarter a British soldier. Would it protect virtue signalers from being punished by being forced to quarter the migrants they care so deeply about?

    Phil: I just flew on a 737 on Saturday, not much leg room. I don’t think the migrants will be happy with that. Better go for the BBJ.

  30. As a Canadian (living in Vancouver, even!), I like Joseph Heath’s description of the “coconut model.” Canadian exceptionalism:

    My own sympathies, by contrast, lie with what is sometimes called the “coconut model,” that a country should have a hard exterior and a soft interior. Basically, it rests upon the conviction that (for essentially second-best reasons), the only way to get support for flexible internal policies, vis-a-vis cultural pluralism, is by convincing people that these policies are being driven by a genuine choice that we are making as a society. And in order to persuade them that it is a choice, they must be convinced that the state actually has control over the process (a conviction that is undermined by large-scale illegal immigration).

    I haven’t seen anyone in Canada advocating open borders. I’d describe Canada as willing to resettle refugees, provided that we can screen them to make sure they have a good chance at integrating successfully. We can’t accept unlimited numbers, of course, but we’re willing to do our part: 37,000 Hungarian refugees in 1956, more than 6,000 Ugandan Asians expelled by Idi Amin in 1972, more than 60,000 Vietnamese boat people in 1979-1980, more than 25,000 Syrian refugees recently.

    Phillip: “I’m anti-population growth for the U.S. due to our inability to build new infrastructure (or maintain the old stuff, either!), our traffic jams, and our out-of-reach housing prices that put everyone in a bad mood (bad enough to vote for Bernie and/or Hillary!). But when a country such as Canada says that it wants population growth and doesn’t care who the new citizens might be, I say that it is time to spin up the turbines!”

    Depopulation is actually a significant issue in Canada’s Atlantic provinces. Frank McKenna: Immigrants need a home, Atlantic Canada needs people. An on-the-ground view, from Prince Edward Island: Canada’s immigration lab.

  31. Russil: I like Canada’s actual policies a lot more than Trudeau’s rhetoric.

  32. Russil: “Depopulation is actually a significant issue in Canada’s Atlantic provinces.”

    So… the native-born Newfoundlanders were motivated to move to Toronto, thus leaving Newfoundland depopulated and Toronto overcrowded and unaffordable. But when Canada brings in refugees whom the U.S. has rejected (under Trudeau’s stated plan) and flies them one-way to Newfoundland they will just stay there? The “New Canadians” as you call them won’t figure out that moving to Toronto is a good idea and they will simply stay in Newfoundland, thus repopulating a province that does not have an economy sufficiently vibrant to support the existing population?

    Why would someone from Honduras or Syria find Newfoundland or Nova Scotia more appealing than does a person who was born in Newfoundland or Nova Scotia?

  33. Tony: On the whole I think Trudeau’s charisma and visibility has been a significant asset for Canada, in his role as chief spokesman for the country. In this case, though, I agree that his tweet – in the wake of Trump’s Muslim ban, it was presumably intended to signal continued official support for pluralism and acceptance of refugees in Canada – wasn’t carefully enough calibrated. Canada does indeed screen refugee applicants, it’s not enough to just apply.

    Of course I would assume that the tweets from Trudeau’s official account aren’t written and posted by Trudeau himself, unlike Trump’s.

    You mentioned quartering of refugees. In fact Canada has a large private sponsorship program: each privately sponsored refugee is supported by a group of five Canadians for a year or more. They help with getting people around, finding language classes, looking for jobs, financial support, etc. 13,000 of the Syrian refugees resettled in Canada are privately sponsored, and there’s more people willing to act as sponsors; in fact application backlogs are becoming a problem. New York Times article.

    Philip: “Why would someone from Honduras or Syria find Newfoundland or Nova Scotia more appealing than does a person who was born in Newfoundland or Nova Scotia?”

    I can’t comment on Newfoundland, but I just visited Halifax, Nova Scotia for the first time recently. It seems like a pretty good place to live – not as warm as Vancouver, but still relatively mild, and the cost of housing is far lower.

    Why would someone choose Halifax over Toronto? Moving to Toronto has disadvantages as well as advantages (the high cost of housing, for example), and each individual will weigh those tradeoffs differently. So if several thousand people move to Halifax from elsewhere, some proportion of them may move away in a few years; but for others, Halifax will be where they want to live, not Toronto.

    The main challenge that Atlantic Canada faces is economic development. People are still trying to figure out what the region can export, besides post-secondary education and tourism. It’s similar to the challenge faced by southwest Ontario. Mike Moffatt, Reforging Ontario:

    Why would a firm perform better in Brantford rather than in Boston? Lower prices are an obvious competitive advantage, including more reasonable property values and an overall reduced cost of living. Between cheaper office costs and lower employee remuneration, firms located in large centres can get priced out of the market by their Southwestern Ontario competition, if geographic proximity is not vitally important. I own a chemical regulatory compliance firm and most of our competition is in places such as Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, and College Park, Texas. Workers in our industry mostly work on documents and talk on the phone, so work can be performed virtually anywhere. Firms in expensive real-estate markets simply cannot compete, as they get undercut on cost by their competitors. Firms in developing countries cannot compete either, as they lack the skilled workforce needed to perform these tasks, as well as finding themselves up against issues around the protection of intellectual property.

    The comparative advantage sweet-spot for Canada’s rust belt is the combination of a high-skilled labour force, significant quality controls and a low cost of living. There are all kinds of industries that benefit from this type of environment, from consulting firms to biomedical research, from video game design to advanced manufacturing. These are also industries that require a significant level of infrastructure. For instance, audio and video editing is an industry that can do quite well in a lower-cost city. Footage shot in Vancouver or Toronto can be sent digitally to Windsor or Chatham for editing and returned in the same fashion. For this model to work, cities must have sufficient internet bandwidth infrastructure.

  34. I love Halifax too, but I’ve been there only in the summer.

    I think there is a general logical fallacy that immigrants will respond to incentives differently than natives. If the natives are soaking up SSDI, living in means-tested public housing for $50/month, and taking Medicaid-funded OxyContin then surely legal immigrants and their children would never do this. If natives are fleeing Detroit for LA then immigrants will just park themselves in Detroit and make the whole city awesome.

  35. Philip: “I think there is a general logical fallacy that immigrants will respond to incentives differently than natives.”

    Interesting. I have some opinions on this subject, but I think this thread is already long enough!

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