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No One Is Illegal Statement: The Wrongs of the Immigration System!

No One Is Illegal has produced an important statement on Canadian immigration and foreign worker policy. I’m reproducing it in full below. Though the Security and Prosperity Partnership is formally dead as a venue for pursuing closer integration of Canadian and American security and regulatory policy, one unfortunate consequence is that the border is again the American weapon of choice when it comes to pushing Homeland Security-friendly policies in Canada. DHS chief Janet Napolitano has declared the northern border with Canada an international checkpoint like any other and Public Safety Minister Peter Van Loan has taken the point. Since their meeting in May, we’ve seen visas slapped against Mexican and Czech travellers to Canada, and a reversal of former minister Stockwell Day’s promise that new lawful access legislation will now allow Canadian security agents to access computer and online data without a warrant. A common theme appears to be the Conservative government’s willingness to rethink perimeter security with the Americans, where both countries jointly “secure” external borders while letting “low risk” people and goods cross the Canada-U.S. border hassle free, and to speedily remove regulatory and legal impediments to increased police and security information sharing with American agencies. The No One Is Illegal Statement is a crucial reminder what those who are deemed not to be “low risk” have to look forward to in this new security environment. It’s also a reminder that the policy changes are Canada’s responsibility and cannot be blamed entirely on U.S. pressure.

– a statement by No One Is Illegal – Toronto –

Some believe that the Canadian immigration system is fair and generous. It isn’t. And Stephen Harper and Jason Kenney are swiftly making it even worse.

They are underhandedly taking apart the so-called ‘objective’ points-based system. They are moving quickly to get rid of its ‘humanitarian’ part, the refugee process. In its place, they are setting up temporary work programs that are designed to push most migrants in to vulnerable, precarious and temporary jobs without access to services or the ability to unionize.

In 2008, for the first time, more people arrived on exploitative temporary work programs than people with some access to permanent residency!

Major changes have been sneaked through a budget bill and other seemingly disconnected regulation announcements. Bill C-50 and Bill C-45 gave powers to immigration minister and officers to arbitrarily decide who can come in to Canada and who cannot. The family reunification program has been modified to actually deter reunification. Visas have been imposed on Czech Romas and Mexicans. Deportations have increased with moratoriums on return lifted for many countries. Only people in 38 professions can now immigrate to Canada – everyone else is banned. A new clause within the Temporary Foreign Worker manual means that migrants are permanently temporary, they can stay indefinitely in Canada without having to leave to renew their work permit but are unable to apply for permanent residency.

Kenney is bent on breaking the already dysfunctional refugee system.

Refugee acceptance rates have dropped each year, halved in the last two decades. Now the Harper government is ‘revising’ this system. For the first time, Canada could fast-track rejections of refugee claimants from ‘safe’ countries. These ‘safe’ countries are mostly those which Canada has trade relations with. The proposed changes follow a months-long, carefully orchestrated xenophobic campaign, led by Kenney.

Even those granted citizenship are seemingly never fully recognized as Canadian. They are excluded and ignored in and by Canada. Maher Arar, Abou Soufian Abderazik and Suaad Haji Mahmood are three of the many citizens in whose torture and abuse Canada is complicit.

Canada champions itself as a beacon of progressive immigration and settlement policy as it moves towards a temporary immigration system. But, migrants of color earn 40% less than their white counterparts. In Toronto, the number of immigrants who are poor has grown by 125%, and almost 60% of poor families are from racialized groups. Immigrant neighborhoods are underserved and marginalized. Immigrant families have little access to recognition of credentials or good jobs, or to services such as affordable childcare.

Many immigrants sacrifice themselves and their aspirations for the betterment of their children. But often second and third-generation immigrants remain in exploitative jobs, pushed out of schools and universities, unable to fully access opportunities promised.

Even more than immigrants, temporary migrants like farm workers, live-in caregivers, construction workers, others, face exploitative and precarious work and living conditions. They pay taxes and build communities but are unable to access the most basic services. Migrant workers are not allowed to bring their families.

During the recession, attacks against migrants have greatly increased. In the last year, immigration enforcement has carried out large workplace raids and forcibly deported people. The enforcement arm of immigration targets non-status people that it considers most vulnerable – women at shelters and people at community gardens. These tactics push already vulnerable undocumented people into situations where they face greater risk and exploitation.

The changes to the Canadian immigration system are a violent continuation of exclusion of migrants. The present Canadian immigration system, set up by settlers on colonized land engages with migrants, mostly of color, only to exploit their labor. As we fight against the recent and coming regressive changes by Harper and his cronies, we must challenge the entire exclusionary basis of the immigration systems themselves.

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