Usually, you hear stories of people fleeing to America, not the other way around.But the jittery state of the U.S. economy is driving an increasing number of its citizens to seek better prospects north of the border.Americans are the latest economic refugees, and they’re heading to Canada.As he prepares to campaign for re-election, U.S. President Barack Obama is expected to make a speech Thursday night that calls for immediate stimulus spending to create jobs and improve infrastructure.But those reforms will be difficult to make. Republicans, who control the House of Representatives, have resisted any efforts to boost the economy through additional spending.As life in the U.S. worsens, prospects in Canada seem all the brighter.

Canadian officials say the number of Americans applying for temporary work visas doubled between 2008 and 2010.Immigration lawyers in Toronto and the border city of Windsor, right across from job-starved Detroit, say they’re seeing a dramatic growth in clients seeking to come to Canada to work, or even as permanent residents.So, is this a reversal of fortunes on an historic scale? Has Canada become ”el Norte”?Well, not quite. The number of U.S. citizens working in Canada is, at least by global migration standards, relatively small with some 30,000 at the beginning of last year.Still, Americans make up the second-largest group of temporary workers in Canada, behind only Filipinos, most of whom work as nannies.

Canada was one of the few to escape the 2008 financial meltdown relatively unscathed, a turn of events largely attributed to Ottawa’s long-standing refusal to deregulate the banking sector.“I’m looking for a quiet, calm, sane, civilized society to start the next phase of my life,” said Michael, an out-of-work, white-collar professional from Michigan who is seeking a temporary visa to come to Canada.Like several others interviewed for this article, he did not want his full name used for fear of drawing unwanted scrutiny to his application.Though he describes himself as both patriotic and a conservative, Michael says he’s lost faith in U.S. leadership — “on both sides of the aisle” — for failing to stem the excesses that led to the collapse of Wall Street, and for the current political brinkmanship over the debt ceiling.“I’m looking for a country where the first role of the government is to protect its citizens,” he said. “It looks to me like all [of Canada’s] three major political parties seem to have proven that they are much more responsible than our leadership.”