Conservative Party Leader Andrew Scheer promised on Wednesday to “closely monitor” the border for criminals trying to get into Canada—“especially MS-13 gang members.”
Scheer spoke to the media near Roxham Road in southern Quebec, where thousands of “irregular border crossers” have walked into Canada via the U.S. in the past two to three years.
Apparently the Conservative leader is fine with blatantly ripping a page out of U.S. President Donald Trump’s book of talking points.
MS-13 (or Mara Salvatrucha) is an infamous Central American street gang (with L.A. origins) that Trump shoved into the news cycle by repeatedly saying that its members are essentially invading the U.S.
That claim has been widely discredited. MS-13 has had a presence in the U.S. since the 1970s. But a ProPublica analysis shows that the gang is not growing, nor is it mounting some sort of foreign invasion on the U.S. or Canada.
Scheer, who’s currently losing ground to the Bloc Quebecois in Quebec, said at Wednesday’s press conference that he wants to renegotiate the Safe Third Country Agreement with the U.S. to close the “loophole” that allows so many “illegal border crossers” to enter Canada to claim asylum. He then promised to increase security at the border to help repel criminals trying to cross over, especially MS-13 members.
But overall numbers of migrants crossing into Canada from the U.S. have dramatically decreased in recent months. In the first half of this year, 6,858 people crossed the border seeking asylum here, compared to 11,772 in the first six months of last year, a 42 percent decrease.
And of the approximate 45,000 migrants trying to cross into Canada since the spring of 2017, just 0.3 percent have been either turned away at the border for a criminal background or had their claim denied due to similar reasons.
When a reporter asked Scheer why he decided to bring up MS-13, he gave a generic response about how there have been reports of criminals trying to cross into Canada and how it’s “paramount” to “we are putting the safety and security of Canadians first.”
“The use of MS-13 violence to tie insecurity to Central American migration is already a load of crap,” said Anthony Fontes, a geography professor at American University who has researched immigration, gangs, and violence in the U.S. “The idea that Canada is threatened by what is already an overblown boogeyman in the U.S. is not just tragic; it’s comic.”
Fontes emphasized how the MS-13, though known for gruesome crimes, is dwarfed by much bigger gangs such as the Latin Kings, “who’re likely 10 times bigger.”
“The idea that MS-13 is somehow a transnational organization crossing borders to do high-level illicit activities makes no sense,” Fontes said. “Gangsters are at the bottom end of the criminal landscape and they’re mostly organized around local rivalries.”
Fontes also noted that, viewed as undependable and volatile, street gangs aren’t usually trusted by major drug cartels or real global criminal organization to carry out high-level crimes.
Nor are they entering Canada in such high numbers that warrant a major security beef-up along the US-Canada border. But Scheer seems comfortable with using the bad-guys-at-our-doorstep cliche to galvanize support less than two weeks out from the election.
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