OTTAWA — The federal government is planning to build temporary housing for up to 520 people at a Quebec border crossing that has seen an influx of asylum seekers.
The move comes as speculation mounts that tens of thousands of Hondurans are on the verge of losing their protected immigration status in the United States and may look northward for refuge.
Public Works and the Canada Border Services Agency say in a notice that the housing units are for Saint-Bernard-de-Lacolle — the municipality where the majority of RCMP interceptions of irregular migrants in Quebec take place.
The Opposition says the Liberal government is effectively setting up a refugee camp at the Canada-U.S. border by building the housing.
"I'm not sure any Canadian would think that this is an acceptable response," Conservative immigration critic Michelle Rempel said Friday.
Rempel said there is a frustrating lack of information from the government about the makeup and needs of asylum seekers:
"How can I say how much money they should be needing when we don't even know what their needs are? And that is the result of having no plan for immigration. It's bananas."
The majority of irregular crossings currently take place in Quebec.
The housing notice calls for "heated, ventilated and illuminated canvas shelters" for three-season use that must include areas for sleeping, security, reception and warehousing. The government is also looking for other units to serve as quarantine space, toilets and showers as well as systems for drinking water and drainage.
Tens of tents were set up at the Lacolle crossing in August of last year, many of which were dismantled when numbers of border crossers slowed.
About 2,500 asylum seekers crossed into Canada from the U.S. in April, Mike MacDonald, a senior Immigration Department official, told the House of Commons immigration committee on Thursday.
MacDonald said the figure was just an estimate and that the exact number for April would be known "in the fullness of time."
Rempel said it wasn't good enough that federal officials came to testify without having an exact number.
"That's not fair," she said. "This is of immediate concern."
On Friday, the Trump administration was expected to cancel temporary protected status for Hondurans in the U.S., similar to what it did to Haitians and El Salvadorans, which triggered last year's influx of border crossers.
That would end special immigration protections for about 57,000 Hondurans that have been in place since 1999, after Hurricane Mitch tore through the country a year earlier.
Trump and his supporters have said the protections were never meant to be permanent.
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However many of the migrants have put down roots in the U.S. That includes giving birth to children who have no knowledge of their parents' homeland.
"We work hard and do not have criminal records. I own a home and business with my family and every year I pay my taxes," Orlando Lopez, a Honduran living in Miami, said in a statement.