The number of US citizens seeking refuge in Canada skyrocketed last year.
Exactly 2,550 Americans applied for asylum in Canada in 2017, according to data from Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada. That’s more than a sixfold increase from the 395 Americans who applied in 2016.
It’s believed that the hard-line immigration policies of President Donald Trump have fueled the increase in the number of Americans fleeing to Canada.
The United States supplied the third-highest number of asylum-seekers to Canada in 2017, topped by Haiti (7,785 applicants) at No. 1 and Nigeria (6,005 applicants) at No. 2.
There’s a large number of asylum-seekers this year as well, with 1,215 Americans requesting refuge in Canada through the end of August.
Canadian officials said that while Canada remains an open, welcoming country, crossing into it is not “a ticket for permanent residence.”
“Coming to Canada, asking for asylum in Canada is not a guarantee for permanent residence in Canada,” Louis Dumas, a spokesman for the immigration ministry, said last year.
About 80% to 85% of the US asylum-seekers are of Haitian descent, according to the Royal Canadian Mounted Police. And most of this group are American-born minors crossing the border with their immigrant parents.
“The vast majority of US citizens claiming asylum are minor asylum claimants who were born in the United States whose parents are citizens of another country,” said Peter Liang, a spokesman for Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada.
“In these instances, the claims of persecution are made against the parents’ country of origin, not the United States. However, given their citizenship, the minor children appear as US citizens in these tables. These children predominately accompanied Haitian or Nigerian national adults.”
Why Haitians are leaving the US
Many Haitians have headed to Canada over concerns they’ll lose their temporary protected status or TPS, in the United States.
The Trump administration moved to end the TPS program, but those plans have been temporarily blocked by a federal judge. US District Judge Edward Chen granted a preliminary injunction last month stopping the government from terminating TPS for immigrants from Sudan, El Salvador, Haiti and Nicaragua.
The Haitian part of TPS started shortly after the devastating 2010 earthquake in Haiti when the Obama administration granted Haitian immigrants – who had already been living in the United States – temporary protected status.
The program allowed them to work and shielded them from deportation. It also provided temporary refuge considering that Haiti had suffered one of the deadliest earthquakes in history, and the country was seen as too unstable for people to return.
The program has since been repeatedly renewed. But in 2017, Department of Homeland Security officials said conditions in Haiti were improving since the earthquake and that the program should be terminated.
A wave of Haitians moved across the northern border. Many have expressed concern they’ll be deported if they stay in the United States.
Canada ended its version of a program that was similar to the TPS for Haitians in 2016, the Canadian Broadcasting Corp. reported. This means Haitians without status can be deported from Canada.
Many asylum-seekers have headed for Quebec, where Montreal has a large Haitian community.
At one point last year the asylum-seekers were being sheltered at Olympic Stadium, where Montreal hosted the Summer Olympics in 1976.
CNN’s Madison Park and Catherine E. Shoichet contributed to this report.