Canada's Syrian Refugees Pose a U.S. Security Risk

By Marguerite Telford on December 14, 2015

The significant national security threat presented by the United States' northern border receives minimal media coverage. But as the longest common border in the world, dramatically longer than the border the United States shares with Mexico, the U.S.-Canada border provides ample opportunity for illegal border crossers to enter the United States. After the recent terrorism attack in San Bernardino, Calif., and Canada's pledge to take in a large number of Syrian refugees, Americans need to be aware of the national security threat existing to the north.

Canada's first 300 Syrian refugees arrived from Turkey and Jordan last week. The government has pledged to take in 25,000 Syrian refugees. Despite knowledge of vetting difficulties, the new Liberal government hints that another 25,000 could be welcomed by the end of the year. That's 50,000 new permanent residents from an area with a widespread terrorist presence.

The government had originally set January 1 as the date for having all of the refugees processed. But in the face of public concern the date has been pushed to the end of February. In addition, the government has said it will focus on families and not include unaccompanied males in the resettlement program.

But these small tweaks do not alleviate the safety hazards associated with the refugee resettlement program. Canada does not have access to different databases than the United States to detect criminal background or terrorist links; Canada does not have better access to contacts, documents, or criminal history in Syria than the United States. But Canada's new Liberal government under Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has refused to let the public's national security concerns deter it from opening wide the floodgates to thousands of refugees from a jihadi war zone.

The previous Conservative government, which had also committed to admitting Syrian refugees (albeit in smaller numbers), at least seemed to recognize the risk; its immigration minister said earlier this year, "We cannot ignore the risk of jihadi terrorists seeking to exploit the generosity of western nations like Canada."

The majority of these refugees, all receiving permanent residence, will settle in Toronto and Montreal — cities in close proximity to the U.S. border. How many of these refugees will enter the United States to join the 11 million-plus illegal aliens already here? How many will join terrorist sleeper cells, which we are told exist in all 50 states?

Evidence of the porous border was seen earlier this month when an illegal alien who had walked across the border was apprehended after his entry was reported by an American citizen. Border Patrol agents picked up the Guatemalan man in Vermont. His associates were found to be U.S. citizens, who were released. He merely walked across the border and into Vermont — it can be just that easy.

Other policy changes in Canada will exacerbate the security threat. Trudeau plans to lift the present visa requirement for Mexicans in March 2016. Lifting the visa requirement also means removing the vetting process. Former Prime Minister Harper said in the past that the visa requirements existed due to security and illegal immigration issues.

Canada could alleviate the national security risk by redirecting its resettlement resources to take care of these U.N.-selected refugees in their home region. They would know the language, be comfortable in their own culture, and be ready to go back into Syria to rebuild the country when the situation changes.

More importantly, this option allows for more persecuted individuals to be helped. A recent CIS Backgrounder shows that 12 refugees could be taken care of in the Middle East for the cost of one being brought to the United States. One would think the number would be similar in Canada, which provides for essential services and income support until refugees become self-sufficient. Like the U.S. states, the provinces are likely to bear the brunt of the long-term costs.

So how secure is the 5,525 mile U.S.-Canada border? It would not be exaggerating to say that Canada's refugees could one day be U.S. illegal aliens, with the national security risk transferred to American citizens.

NOTE: The Center for Immigration Studies will be leading a tour of the Canadian border in September, focusing on the region where New York, Vermont, Ontario, and Quebec meet. See here for more information.