In a private dining room at Zov’s restaurant in Tustin, a Canadian envoy made his pitch to about a dozen immigration attorneys and immigrant rights leaders.
Pablo Rodriguez, a member of Parliament, leaned over from his seat in the middle of the table and asked everyone to spread the word: Please do not cross into Canada illegally.
“Get the facts and make a decision based on the right facts, before leaving your jobs and taking your children out of school and going up there hoping to stay there forever,” Rodriguez said. “Because if you don’t qualify … you will be returned and in this case not to the United States. You will have lost your status and would be returned to your country of origin.”
Worried that anti-immigrant rhetoric and decisions from the Trump administration could drive more people across its border, the Canadian government is trying to nip that in the bud.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau dispatched Rodriguez to California.
The whip for the majority Liberal Party in Parliament, Rodriguez arrived in the U.S. a few days after President Trump announced his decision to end temporary protected status of an estimated 200,000 Salvadorans in the country.
His message was not that different from immigration hardliners in the U.S. But it was delivered with a nicer Canadian soft sell.
Rodriguez was a young boy when he arrived in Canada as a political refugee from Argentina. He said he can empathize with those looking north.
He said that Canada is “an open country” and a nation of immigrants. But, he stressed, immigrating to the country needs to be done legally.
“You can’t just come to Canada and cross the border and stay there the rest of your life,” he said. “We want to avoid a humanitarian crisis along the border.”
The Canadian government, Rodriguez said, wants to avoid a repeat of what happened last summer when thousands of Haitians crossed Canada’s southern border “irregularly” after losing temporary protected status in the U.S.
The influx created a massive backlog of refugee claimants.
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