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WHAT'S WRONG WITH THE IMMIGRATION SYSTEM?

- a statement by No One Is Illegal - Toronto -

Updated: October 17, 2009

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 entered the work force on exploitative temporary work programs than with 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.

New regulations mean that temporary migrant workers are permanently temporary. They can stay up to four years in Canada without having to leave to renew their work permit but are unable to apply for permanent residency. At the end of the four years, they are forced to leave and cannot return on any visa for another six years.

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, Abousfian Abdelrazik and Suaad Haji Mohamud 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 recently 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, targeted by the police and are 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.

There are over 20,000 people that that leave the country each year because their bosses fly them out, their visas are denied, they are tired of inhumane treatment, or they are unable to find work. Many of these are not voluntary. They are deportations.

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. The Immigration system enforces temporariness through militarized borders and by denying access to basic rights.

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