(CNN) The United States and Canada have made changes to a decades-old asylum agreement that would bar certain immigrants from seeking protection in Canada, two Canadian officials told CNN, marking a significant shift in how Canada accepts asylum seekers.
While discussions have been ongoing for years, a sharp increase in people entering Canada from the United States — some of whom are believed to have initially crossed the U.S. southern border — recently added urgency to the negotiations.
US President Joe Biden and Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau are expected to announce changes to the deal. Before Biden concluded his visit is traveling back to the United States, according to a Canadian official.
Ahead of Biden’s visit to Canada, Trudeau faced hundreds of internally displaced people as they crossed Wroxham Road, a remote street that connects Champlain, New York, to Hemingford, Quebec.
The Safe Third Country Agreement, signed in 2002, applies to people who have passed through a country where they can make an asylum claim because it is considered safe, as the name of the agreement suggests. This applies at ports of entry, and individuals who enter at a land port of entry may be ineligible to claim and be returned to the United States.
But Wroxham Road is not an official crossing, meaning people going there can seek protection in Canada even if they pass through the US. Crossings between ports of entry weren’t initially included in the deal because of limits on information sharing, experts say, prompting Canada to close that loophole now that those limits have been eased.
Trudeau said CNN’s Paula Newton On Thursday, he said “a lot of work is being done” but “we hope to be able to make an announcement assuring Canadians and Americans that we will continue to take immigration seriously” — an apparent endorsement of the deal.
“Canada is always ready to do more,” Trudeau told Newton, adding that such an announcement would include taking in some immigrants directly from the United States. “We’re a country built by America and we welcome people from all over the world. As Canadians we always have to make sure our citizens stay on top of immigration and we do it in responsible, formal ways. There are.”
U.S. officials have begun processing migrants crossing into Texas from Canada and those who are eligible, deporting them to Mexico or their country of origin under Covid-19 border controls, a Homeland Security official said.
The U.S. Border Patrol has recently seen a historically high number of migrant crossings in the northern region, prompting the agency to send additional officers to the region to help.
The Swanton Sector, which covers approximately 24,000 square miles along the US-Canada border, is less staffed than sectors along the US southern border and is overburdened by an increase in border crossings.
“Swanton Sector agents are seeing high levels of illegal entry from Canada. We have arrested more people in 5 months than in the last 3 (3) fiscal years,” Swanton Sector Chief Patrol Agent Robert N. Garcia said in a tweet. , calling it “unprecedented”.
This story has been updated with additional details.
CNN’s Paula Newton contributed to this report.