Poll: Almost half of Canadians want illegal border crossers deported

WINNIPEG, Manitoba/OTTAWA (Reuters) - Nearly half of Canadians want to deport people who are illegally crossing into Canada from the United States, and a similar number disapprove of how Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is handling the influx, according to a Reuters/Ipsos opinion poll released on Monday.

A significant minority, four out of 10 respondents, said the border crossers could make Canada "less safe," underlining the potential political risk for Trudeau's Liberal government.

The increasing flow of hundreds of asylum-seekers of African and Middle Eastern origin from the United States in recent months has become a contentious issue in Canada.

There has been broad bipartisan support for high levels of legal immigration for decades in Canada. But Trudeau has come under pressure over the flow of the illegal migrants. He is questioned about it every time he appears in parliament, from opponents on the left, who want more asylum-seekers to be allowed in, and critics on the right, who say the migrants pose a potential security risk.

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A man from Yemen crosses the U.S.-Canada border into Hemmingford, Quebec, Canada February 14, 2017. REUTERS/Christinne Muschi
A man from Yemen is taken into custody by Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) officers after walking across the U.S.-Canada border into Hemmingford, Quebec, Canada February 14, 2017. REUTERS/Christinne Muschi
A man from Yemen is taken into custody by Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) officers after walking across the U.S.-Canada border into Hemmingford, Quebec, Canada February 14, 2017. REUTERS/Christinne Muschi
A woman who told police that she and her family were from Sudan is taken into custody by Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) officers after arriving by taxi and walking across the U.S.-Canada border into Hemmingford, Quebec, Canada February 12, 2017. Picture taken February 12, 2017. REUTERS/Christinne Muschi TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY
A man who told police he was from Mauritania drops on his knees as he arrives at the U.S.-Canada border into Hemmingford, Quebec, Canada February 13, 2017. Picture taken February 13, 2017. REUTERS/Christinne Muschi
A man who told police that he was from Mauritania is helped up a hill and taken into custody by Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) officers after walking across the U.S.-Canada border into Hemmingford, Quebec, Canada February 13, 2017. Picture taken February 13, 2017. REUTERS/Christinne Muschi
A man who told police he was from Sudan is confronted by a Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) officer as he attempts to cross the U.S.-Canada border into Hemmingford, Quebec, Canada February 13, 2017. Picture taken February 13, 2017. REUTERS/Christinne Muschi
A man who told police that he was from Sudan is taken into custody by Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) officers after arriving by taxi and walking across the U.S.-Canada border into Hemmingford, Quebec, Canada February 13, 2017. Picture taken February 13, 2017. REUTERS/Christinne Muschi
A family from Yemen crosses the U.S.-Canada border into Hemmingford, Quebec, Canada February 14, 2017. REUTERS/Christinne Muschi
Luggage sits on the United States side of the border after a woman who told police that she and her family were from Sudan is taken into custody by Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) officers after arriving by taxi and walking across the U.S.-Canada border into Hemmingford, Quebec, Canada February 12, 2017. Picture taken February 12, 2017. REUTERS/Christinne Muschi
A woman who told police that she and her family were from Sudan is taken into custody by Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) officers after arriving by taxi and walking across the U.S.-Canada border into Hemmingford, Quebec, Canada February 12, 2017. Picture taken February 12, 2017. REUTERS/Christinne Muschi
A family from Yemen crosses the U.S.-Canada border into Hemmingford, Quebec, Canada February 14, 2017. REUTERS/Christinne Muschi
A family from Yemen is taken into custody by Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) officers after walking across the U.S.-Canada border into Hemmingford, Quebec, Canada February 14, 2017. REUTERS/Christinne Muschi
A woman who told police that she and her family were from Sudan is taken into custody by a Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) officer after arriving by taxi and walking across the U.S.-Canada border into Hemmingford, Quebec, Canada February 12, 2017. Picture taken February 12, 2017. REUTERS/Christinne Muschi
A man who told police he was from Mauritania is taken into custody by Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) officers after walking across the U.S.-Canada border into Hemmingford, Quebec, Canada February 13, 2017. Picture taken February 13, 2017. REUTERS/Christinne Muschi
The children of a woman who told police that she and her family were from Sudan are placed in a vehicle as they are all taken into custody by Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) officers after arriving by taxi and walking across the U.S.-Canada border into Hemmingford, Quebec, Canada February 12, 2017. Picture taken February 12, 2017. REUTERS/Christinne Muschi
Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) officers stand on a hill looking over the U.S.-Canada border into Hemmingford, Quebec, Canada February 14, 2017. REUTERS/Christinne Muschi
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Canadians appeared to be just as concerned about illegal immigration as their American neighbors, according to the poll, which was conducted between March 8-9. Some 48 percent of Canadians said they supported "increasing the deportation of people living in Canada illegally." (For graphics on asylum process, immigration poll see http://tmsnrt.rs/2nyY8CJ)

When asked specifically about the recent border crossings from the United States, the same number - 48 percent - said Canada should "send these migrants back to the U.S." Another 36 percent said Canada should "accept these migrants" and let them seek refugee status.

In the United States, where President Donald Trump was elected partly on his promise to boost deportations, 50 percent of adults supported "increasing the deportation of illegal immigrants," according to a separate Reuters/Ipsos poll that was conducted during the same week in the United States.

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Illegal migrants interviewed by Reuters in Canada said they had been living legally in the United States and had applied for asylum there. But they had fled to Canada for fear of being caught up in Trump's immigration crackdown.

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In the poll, support for deporting the border crossers was strongest among men, adults who do not have a college degree, people who are older and those with higher levels of income.

"There are so many people in the world who want to come in and go through the right channels," said Greg Janzen, elected leader of a Manitoba border municipality that has seen hundreds of border crossers. "That's what's pissing most people off. These guys are jumping the border," he said.

Forty-six percent of Canadians feel the influx would have no effect on safety, while 41 percent said it would make Canada less safe, according to the poll.

"Refugees are much more welcomed when we have gone and selected them ourselves as a country, as opposed to refugees who have chosen us," said Janet Dench, executive director of Canadian Council for Refugees.

Of those polled, 46 percent disagreed with how Trudeau was handling the situation, 37 percent agreed, while 17 percent did not know. In January, a separate Ipsos poll found that 59 percent of Canadians approved of Trudeau, while 41 percent disapproved.

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Justin Trudeau and bride Sophie Gregoire leave the Sainte-Madeleine D'Outremont Church, Montreal, after their wedding ceremony here, May 28, 2005. The car a 1959 Mercedez 300SL, was Pierre Trudeua's car and was recently renovated and given its original silver grey colour.

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With son Justin in her lap; Margaret Trudeau; wife of Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau; sits in a car outside the Inn on the Park just before a lunchtime visit to the home of friends. Star photographers Dick Loek had been waiting in the Don Mills hotel's lobby hoping the family might emerge. Mrs. Trudeau; with Justin in her arms; walked to her car accompanied by three security men. At the time; her husband was visiting an Etobicoke Ukrainian home for the elderly.

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Justin steals the show. Margaret Trudeau; the Prime Minister's wife; and son Justin walk along the lake at Mont Tremblant. 

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Justin Trudeaus (R)

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Canadian Prime Minister Pierre E. Trudeau joins sons Justin, Sacha, and Michel in this photo for his 1980 Christmas card. Justin and Sacha will be nine and seven years, respectively on Christmas Day. Michel is five

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Justin Trudeau pictured at age 14 in December, 1986.

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Justin Trudeau, the eldest son of former Canadian Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau, speaks about the loss of his brother Michel as he is accompanied by his mother Margaret, as they launch an awareness campaign with the Canadian Avalanche Foundation, January 14 on Mt. Seymour. As a result of the loss of Michel in an Avalanche accident in 1998, the Trudeau family is helping support avalanche safety awareness.

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Sacha(L) and Justin Trudeau(C) and former wife Margaret Kemper(R) of former Canadian Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau look over his casket in the Hall of Honor on Parliament Hill in Ottawa, Canada 30 September, 2000. The former prime minister died 28 September after a a battle with prostate cancer.

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Justin Trudeau (L) and his brother Alexandre, sons of the late Canadian Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau, pose with a stamp honouring their father at it's unveiling in Montreal, July 3, 2001. Pierre Trudeau, one of Canada's most popular politicians, died in September 2000. 

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Justin Trudeau speaks at the countdown to World Youth Day 2002at Nathan Philips Square. The international youth conference and papal visit to Canada from July 18-28, 2002 will be held at the old Downsview airport.

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Justin Trudeau, on stage, during the tribute to Jean Chretien at the ACC.

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His Holiness the Dalai Lama of Tibet (R) greets Justin Trudeau, son of former Canadian Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau, at the Kalachakra Teachings at the Sky Dome in Toronto, April 25, 2004. His Holiness will confer the Kalachakra Initiation for World Peace, the largest Buddhist ritual and initiation regularly conferred by the Dalai Lama.

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Justin and Alexandre Trudeau stand by the plaque which offically renames Dorval Airport in honor of their late father former Prime Minister Pierre Elliot Trudeau in Montreal on September 9, 2003. The new name "The Montreal Pierre Elliott Trudeau International Airport" will be effective January 1, 2004.

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Justin Trudeau and bride Sophie Gregoire share a kiss as Margaret Trudeau looks on as they leave the Sainte-Madeleine D'Outremont Church, Montreal, after their wedding ceremony here, May 28, 2005.

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Justin Trudeau introduces Liberal leadership candidate Gerard Kennedy at the Liberal convention in Montreal, December 1, 2006.

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Liberal leadership candidate Gerard Kennedy and Justin Trudeau, son of former Canadian Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau, attend the Liberal convention in Montreal, November 29, 2006. The Liberal Party will elect a new leader later in the week.

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Justin Trudeau, son of former Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau, talks to supporters after winning the Liberal nomination for the Montreal riding of Papineau April 29, 2007.

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Justin Trudeau, son of former Canadian Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau and candidate for the Liberal Party in Montreal, is seen during an interview in his campaign office on October 12, 2008 in Montreal, two days before the federal elections on October 14. One of three sons of Pierre Elliott Trudeau, prime minister of Canada from 1968 to 1979, and 1980 to 1984, Justin Trudeau swapped a teaching career for a chance to represent his father's Liberals in the Montreal electoral district of Papineau, and win it back from the separatists who took it in 2006.

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Mia Farrow and Justin Trudeau

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Canadian Liberal Leader Michael Ignatieff serves pancakes with Liberal MP Justin Trudeau as they attend a pancake breakfast in Frampton, July 21, 2010.

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Liberal Party leadership candidate Justin Trudeau speaks to supporters at a rally in Mississauga, October 4, 2012.

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Sophie Gregoire and Justin Trudeau arrive at the 'Midnight's Children' Premiere at the 2012 Toronto International Film Festival at Roy Thomson Hall on September 9, 2012 in Toronto, Canada.

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French President Francois Hollande welcomes Canadian Prime Minister, Justin Trudeau prior to attending a meeting at the Elysee Presidential Palace on November 29, 2015 in Paris, France. France will host climate change conference COP21 in Paris from November 30 to December 11, 2015.

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Canadian Liberal Party leader Justin Trudeau and his wife Sophie wave on stage in Montreal on October 20, 2015 after winning the general elections.

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Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau poses with Quebec Premier Philippe Couillard and Montreal Mayor Denis Coderre as they visit the site of the Universite de Montreal's new Science Complex in Montreal, December 16, 2016.

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Canada's Prime Minister Justin Trudeau takes part in a news conference in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada, December 12, 2016.

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Prime Minister of Canada Justin Trudeau and US President Barack Obama exit the Hall of Honour on Parliament Hill following the North American Leaders Summit in Ottawa, June 28, 2016.

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(L-R) Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, Prince William the Duke of Cambridge, Sophie Gregoire Trudeau, and Catherine the Duchess of Cambridge take a walk at the Kitsilano Coast Guard station, in Vancouver, British Columbia on September 25, 2016.

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Canada's Prime Minister Justin Trudeau speaks during a meeting with representatives of the Congress of Aboriginal Peoples on Parliament Hill in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada, January 10, 2017.

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Trudeau faces no immediate threat, since the next elections are not until 2019. Trudeau's office declined to comment on the poll, as did the opposition Conservative Party.

Brian Lee Crowley, head of the Macdonald-Laurier Institute public policy think-tank, said the number of illegal migrants could spike as the weather warms, and "if people become convinced there's a large uncontrolled flow of illegal immigrants, I think that will be a very serious political issue for the government."

Canadian authorities dismiss the idea they are being lax.

Dan Brien, a spokesman for Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale, said "trying to slip across the border in an irregular manner is not a 'free' ticket to Canada," noting that all asylum-seekers were detained.

"If they are found to be inadmissible without a valid claim, deportation procedures are begun," he said by email when asked about the poll.

SEE ALSO: Canadian refugees embrace their new home by learning how to curl

According to a separate Ipsos poll in Canada, 23 percent of Canadians listed immigration control as among the top national issues in March, up from 17 percent in December. It ranks behind healthcare, taxes, unemployment and poverty as top concerns.

The Canadian government set an immigration target of 300,000 for 2017, or just under 1 percent of the population, the same level as 2016. It reduced the 2017 target for resettled refugees to 25,000 from 44,800 in 2016, a year when it welcomed 25,000 refugees from Syria.

The Reuters/Ipsos poll was conducted online in English and French throughout Canada. It included responses from 1,001 people who were at least 18 years old. Individual responses were weighted according to the latest population estimates in Canada, so that the results reflect the entire population.

The poll has a credibility interval, a measure of accuracy, of 4 percentage points.

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