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A sign advising people that entrance to Canada via Roxham road is illegal is shown on the Canada/US border in Hemmingford, Que., on March 25.Graham Hughes/The Canadian Press

George Melnyk and Crystena Parker-Shandal are the co-editors of Finding Refuge in Canada and co-founders of The Refugee Story Bank of Canada.

After an amendment last month to Canada’s Safe Third Country Agreement with the United States, which extended the STCA across the two countries’ entire shared land border, the Roxham Road story is now behind us. But what lies ahead?

Last year, 40,000 irregular migrants crossed the border into Canada at Roxham Road. As part of the new agreement with the U.S., we will now accept 15,000 controlled entrants from the U.S.-Mexico border. That is 25,000 fewer people to process, house, and look after. It’s allowed a breather for Quebec and Ontario, who complained they couldn’t handle any more irregular migration.

On the surface, it looks like a good deal. But is it?

The closing of Roxham Road shut down a magnet for those seeking entry into Canada outside of the formal immigration system. The irregular crossing had become semi-official and a beacon to many in the era of instant messaging apps, such as WhatsApp (which is used by hundreds of millions of people worldwide). We recently heard from an Afghan refugee in Canada that his conversations on WhatsApp informed him of a way for his relatives to get a one-year humanitarian visa from Brazil, which would then allow them to join the stream of migrants making their way through Central America’s Darien Gap. From there, they could go to Mexico and then through the U.S. to get to Roxham Road and claim refugee status. The refugee said he had heard of one family that had managed to complete the journey to Roxham Road in just two weeks using that route. His own family members, however, were unable to embark on the same journey when Roxham Road closed.

We mention this story because it highlights how those on the asylum trail perceived Roxham Road when it was open. Without it, new options for irregular crossings are likely being determined among migrant communities since the whole length of the U.S.-Canada border is now a possibility for those who want to enter and make an in-country claim for asylum. A primary concern here is that sporadic entries along the whole length of the border may lead to an underground existence for some, or to a refugee claim from within the country for others when it is safe to do so. This development would signal a lack of border control.

In a highly integrated world of instant communication, many migrants have immediate knowledge of access points and routes that work. Roxham Road became a relatively safe and easy entry point. With it gone, what should the Canadian government do to maintain an orderly entry system in the face of lengthy delays for applicants, especially for those who do not fit the country’s economic priorities?

First, we must take stock of the lessons that the Roxham Road experience taught us. These include the importance of controlling – and being seen to control – migration at the border, not just by public opinion in Canada but by potential migrants as well.

It also demonstrates, however, that we need to maintain some sort of release valve, or loophole, for informal methods of migrant entry. Without one, there is a real risk of increasing illegality for border crossings via physical smuggling and/or fraudulent documentation. Roxham Road has taught us the importance of constantly reassessing an evolving situation, and generating novel ways of dealing with whatever the migration trail may throw at us.

Most importantly, we must create a practical balance between the constant pressure for increased entry, and the opposing pressure to restrict. That is not easy, but it is necessary for social integrity and coherence. That balance involves disseminating a narrative that is a truthful reflection of how and why we have the system we do. We are neither an open-door nor a closed-door society. We are a balance of both.

Historically, Canada has moved to the left, then to the right, and then back again in dealing with asylum seekers. It has taken this teeter-totter approach in order to balance the demands of humanitarianism, economic need, and public opinion. This back-and-forth approach has kept the overall system in a delicate balance, thereby winning a majority of support from the public during much of the country’s recent history.

Closing Roxham Road has been a move to the right (tightening), and was, overall, a development welcomed by the Canadian public. But, most likely, a loosening, or move to the left, is not far off. Another crisis, another war, another outcry, and the pendulum will swing back in the direction of more open borders for those seeking asylum. It’s the Canadian way.

Offering protection for vulnerable people is essential, but it must be done in a thoughtful way. That is what balance is all about.