Revealed: how Canada border agency tried to conceal Chinese immigration mega-fraud files from tax collectors

More good reporting from Ian Young of SCMP:

Last year, Canadian tax collectors and border officers were hailing their cooperation on the biggest immigration fraud case in Canadian history – that of unlicensed consultant Xun “Sunny” Wang, who helped Chinese millionaires fabricate evidence needed to maintain residency and obtain citizenship in Canada.

“The CRA [Canada Revenue Agency] works closely with other law enforcement agencies and departments, including the CBSA [Canada Border Services Agency], to help maintain the integrity of the tax system,” said Elvis Dutra, Assistant Director of Criminal Investigations for the CRA, in a press release about the sentencing of Wang’s staff for their role in the scam. “Tax evasion costs all of us,” Dutra added.

But in contrast to that depiction, a 2013 court ruling reveals how the CBSA resisted the CRA, and tried to conceal the vast haul of evidence about Wang and his wealthy clients, hundreds of whom have since been blacklisted from the country for fraudulent behaviour.

The failed effort to impede the tax collectors is described in a judgment by Associate Chief Justice Austin Cullen; listed as the applicant in pursuit of the files in the Supreme Court of British Columbia is the CRA, while the CBSA is listed as a respondent alongside Wang himself and his firm, New Can Consultants.

Cullen’s April 8, 2013, ruling describes the respondents attempting to withhold from the CRA 90 boxes of files and 18 computers that were seized from Wang by the CBSA in 2012 raids. The CRA’s demand for the material was an invasion of privacy, the respondents said, and the tax agents should be required to demonstrate probable grounds for suspicion of an offence – but not based on the contents of the actual documents being sought.

The respondents also offered an alternative argument – that handing over the files would amount to a breach of a sealing order imposed on “records pertaining to [the] search warrant”.

Cullen was dismissive.

“I conclude that the CRA is not obliged to demonstrate the existence of reasonable and probable grounds to be permitted to examine the materials seized by the CBSA pursuant to a valid warrant. Nor do I find that the provision of information from CBSA to CRA implicates a reasonable expectation of privacy on the part of the respondents in the circumstances.”

Cullen also said the sealing order on the search warrant did not cover the actual material seized in the searches, which were conducted on Wang’s home and offices on April 17, 2012. “It is apparent from reading the sealing order that what it refers to is ‘the records’ comprising the basis for obtaining the search warrant and the search warrant itself, not the fruits of the search,” he said, as he ordered the CBSA and Wang to relinquish the files to the CRA within 14 days.

‘Protecting taxpayer information’

In response to questions lodged separately with the CRA and CBSA, the agencies issued a joint statement to the SCMP, saying that “the opposition of an action does not reflect on the level of cooperation between the two agencies.”

“Federal partners must exercise due diligence when exchanging information with each other, and ensure they do so in accordance with the legislation and policies in place,” the response said. “At times, requests for information exchanges will not be covered by these policies and as such, could be subject to specific rules or require that requests be made to the courts to support transparency and to protect taxpayer information.”

It added: “In cases in which another Government Department or entity are seeking access to evidence seized through a warrant execution it must apply for a court order to obtain copies.”

In a response to a follow-up question, the CRA refused to describe what actions it was taking against Wang’s clients, saying “the CRA does not comment on other compliance actions related to this case that it may or may not be undertaking”.

However, a large number of possible tax offences are outlined in court cases and immigration hearings resulting from the demise of Wang’s scam (Wang was sentenced to seven years’ jail in 2015 but was freed late last year after serving a third of his time).

“In fact, 146 [of Wang’s] clients received a total of almost C$188,000 in Working Income Tax Benefits meant for working taxpayers with low incomes,” wrote immigration tribunal panellist Susy Kim in a November 2017 ruling, that imposed an exclusion order against Wang’s client Rui Zhang, husband Zhe Li and their minor son.

Other cases involving Wang’s clients feature immigration tribunalists loudly flagging a core problem – the clients’ failure to properly declare worldwide income.

One such client was Ying Wang, who was deemed “vague and evasive” about her millionaire husband Pi Long Sun’s business activities and earnings in China.

Sun’s “nominal income tax returns in Canada” did not represent his global income” and “he was evasive about his actual income,” wrote tribunalist Craig Costantino in a 2017 ruling that the couple be excluded from Canada for five years. “On a balance of probabilities, Mr Sun was not reporting his worldwide income to the Canada Revenue Agency,” Costantino added.

Another Wang client – whose exclusion order was overturned last year, and who the SCMP has therefore decided not to name – lived in a C$10million Vancouver mansion, on which he was paying a C$2 million mortgage on his son’s behalf. But he too was deemed to have filed “only nominal” tax returns in Canada.

“[These] I find do not represent his global income. I find that he was evasive about his actual income,” wrote the tribunalist. “I find that it is clear that his business activities in China generate significant income as nothing he or his family have done in Canada can account for the value of their properties in Canada, let alone the C$6 million worth of assets that the appellant stated he currently holds in China.”

Current and former CRA auditors have previously complained to the SCMP about a historical lack of cooperation from immigration officials. CBSA was carved off from the immigration department and other agencies in 2003.

In 2016, one former veteran auditor, who acted as a go-between for the SCMP and a current auditor, said “there was/is no cooperation between CRA and Citizenship and Immigration Canada [the former name of Immigration and Refugees Canada] that we are aware of.

“If there is, then a memorandum of understanding would have to exist. There may in fact be one – but no one I talked to knows of it,” the ex-auditor said. “And even if there is then you have to go through an intergovernmental affairs officer to get anything – red tape and time. There is no bulk data that we ever knew of, no database easily accessible by an auditor.”

Both the current and former auditor requested anonymity to discuss CRA matters without authorisation.

This month, the SCMP reported that 860 of Wang’s clients had already either lost immigration status – resulting in expulsion and five-year bans from entering the country – or been reported for inadmissibility. The CBC has separately reported that more than 200 others face the potential loss of their Canadian citizenship.

Source: Revealed: how Canada border agency tried to conceal Chinese immigration mega-fraud files from tax collectors

If you want a fair definition of Zionism, it’s best to ask a Palestinian

Interesting and provocative column on the IHRA definition of antisemitism and its use:

There are lots of good reasons to think the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance’s (IHRA) definition of anti-Semitism, now adopted “in full” by Labour’s national committee and by Labour MPs, is, well, a bit rubbish.

  • The actual definition of anti-Semitism is not up to much
  • The illustrations are a legal mess
  • It appears to be having no impact on anti-Semitism in the (few) countries which have endorsed it
  • And it’s already being used to prevent open debate on university campuses

A recent article by Tony Lerman gathers together all of these points and more.

It was short-term political expediency which drove this week’s decision-making, necessitated by an ongoing high-stakes campaign of vilification that takes no prisoners.

The Liberal Democrat Party has also fallen into line, no doubt realising that attempting to conduct a rational discussion over the merits of the IHRA burns up too much political capital. And now we read that the Church of England wants to adopt it too. The sanctification of this document is going ecumenical.

But there’s a further problem which should be reason enough to dump the whole IHRA definition, and its illustrations, in the rubbish bin. And it goes beyond the need to guarantee freedom of speech.

The truth of the matter is, the Jewish community can no longer define “Zionism,” or indeed “anti-Semitism,” without the help of Palestinians.

The right to define

I know what some people will be thinking.

Surely, it’s for the Jewish community, through its leadership, to determine what anti-Semitism is? What Zionism is? Surely, an oppressed people should have the right to define the nature of the oppression perpetrated against them? Hence the insistence that the Labour Party adopt, in full and without amendments or caveats, the IHRA definition and illustrations.

That’s what the Board of Deputies of British Jews has asked for. So surely, that’s what it should get?

It’s become a politically difficult task, if not impossible, to challenge this assertion of the right to define what’s perceived as exclusively Jewish experience and terminology, especially at a time when identity politics rules our daily discourse.

The President of the Board of Deputies, Marie van der Zyl, provided a good example of the accepted parameters of the debate in her statement welcoming the National Executive Committee’s (NEC) decision.

“It is very long overdue and regrettable that Labour has wasted a whole summer trying to dictate to Jews what constitutes offense against us.”

Similarly, the NEC’s addition of a one-sentence free speech caveat was characterized by Simon Johnson, CEO of the Jewish Leadership Council, as driving “a coach and horses” through the anti-Semitism definition:

“It is clearly more important to the Labour leader to protect the free speech of those who hate Israel than it is to protect the Jewish community from the real threats that it faces.”

Devoid of context

But this is a perspective devoid of historical context. It just doesn’t work for the situation in which we as a Jewish community now find ourselves, and which our leaders have done so much to create.

If defining “anti-Semitism” has become, to a considerable extent, what can and can’t be said about Israel and Zionism, then how can it be a question which only (some) Jews get to answer?

And if this is really all about the right to define your own oppression, then why does this rule not apply to the Palestinians?

It’s a bit like trying to define “British colonialism” by only asking the opinion of a 19th-century British diplomat. Or praising “American freedom and values” without acknowledging the experience of Native Americans or African Americans. It makes no sense because you only get half the story, half the lived experience (at most). The language and the ideas in question have more than one owner.

Inextricably linked

For more than 100 years, the history of the Palestinians and the Jews has been inextricably linked. Neither of us can understand our past or present condition without reference to the other. Neither people’s story is complete without the other.

Of course, our interlinked relationship is not one of equality. Our story is shared but the consequences of our entanglement are vastly different.

One side has rights and national self-determination. The other side is denied those same things in the name of Jewish security and Jewish national sovereignty. In short, one side has been empowered by dispossessing the other.

The Palestinians have even become caught up in the telling of the Holocaust. Successive generations of young Jews have been taught to see Israel, as it’s currently constituted, as the only rational response to our 20th-century catastrophe. The Palestinians are seen as attempting to thwart that response.

It’s this entanglement of narratives and the need to defend Israel’s legitimacy that have led to the muddle, the confusion and the deliberate politicization of “anti-Semitism” as a concept. And, by contrast, it’s led to the spiritualization of “Zionism” so it has become not a political project but an expression of Jewish faith.All of this has forfeited our right to independently define our oppression without consulting the victims of our new faith in Jewish nationalism. The meaning of “anti-Semitism” and “Zionism” is no longer ours to determine alone. These words, and most importantly the experiences they bring with them, now belong to the Palestinian people too.

To get beyond this, we as a Jewish community, need to confront Zionism’s past and present. We need to rethink Jewish security in a post-Holocaust world. We need to build broad coalitions to tackle all forms of discrimination. That must include antisemitism from the left, and more often the right, which uses anti-Jewish myths and prejudices to promote hatred of Jews for being Jews. And that includes those who use anti-Jewish tropes to critique Israel.

Above all the though, if we want to be serious, rather than tribal, about a fair definition of Zionism, we need to ask the Palestinian people what they think and believe and feel about it. And if they tell us “Zionism is a racist endeavor” we’d better pay attention.

Reflection and repentance

The Jewish High Holidays are coming up. They are a time for reflection and repentance as an individual Jew and as part of a Jewish community. I doubt we’ll see much sign of reflection or repentance on the question of Israel/Palestine. The denial is too deep. The fear of “the other” is too great. The emotional layers of self-preservation are too many.

Not all Jews can or should be held responsible for what’s done in the name of Zionism or the actions of the State of Israel. That’s anti-Semitism. But all Jews ought to feel obligated to speak out against the discrimination, ill-treatment, and racism carried out in the name of protecting Israel. To me, that’s Judaism. And if you don’t see the discrimination, ill-treatment and racism – then read more books, listen to more Palestinian voices, open your heart.

But whether we choose to face into it or not, our relationship with the Palestinian people will remain the single most important issue facing Jews and Judaism in the 21st century.

To my Jewish readers, Shana Tova! A good New Year! May our names be written in a Book of Life that is filled with love and justice for all who call the Holy Land home.


Ten questions to the President of the Board of Deputies

For those not following me on Facebook or Twitter, I’ve been asked to reproduce the ten questions I put earlier this week to Marie van der Zyl, the President of the Board of Deputies of British Jews. No response forthcoming so far.

In a critical week for Labour and the Jewish community in Britian, here’s my ten questions to the president of the Board of Deputies, Marie van der Zyl.

1. Why are you ignoring the Jewish academic experts, notably: David Feldman, Director of the Pears Institute for the Study of Antisemitism; Dr. Brian Klug of Oxford University; and Tony Lerman, the former Director of the Institute for Jewish Policy Research, who have all made critical studies of the IHRA document and found it inadequate and unhelpful in numerous ways?

2. Why are you ignoring the concerns expressed by the original drafter of the IHRA definition and its illustrations, Kenneth Stern, who has said the document is already being used around the world to chill free speech?

3. Why are you ignoring the legal opinions of the document provided by Sir Stephen Sedley, Hugh Tomlinson QC and Geoffrey Robertson QC, who have drawn out its failings in detail?

4. Why do you defend Jewish rights to determine antisemitism but support a document which will deny the Palestinian people their right to define their experience of racism caused by Zionism?

5. Can you explain why you think that Israel’s 51-year occupation of the West Bank does not meet the international definition of Apartheid?

6. Will you acknowledge the findings of the 2016 Home Affairs Select Committee report on antisemitism which noted that “there exists no reliable, empirical evidence to support the notion that there is a higher prevalence of antisemitic attitudes within the Labour Party than any other political party”?

7. Are you able to provide evidence that antisemitism is “rife” among the Labour Party’s half a million members?

8. Can you explain why the Board chose to pursue its campaign against the Labour Party only after Jeremy Corbyn became its leader and despite a YouGov survey indicating a fall in anti-Semitism among Labour voters since 2015?

9. Are you at all concerned that the Board’s campaign against Jeremy Corbyn is creating an environment of fear within the Jewish community in Britain which is unjustified and disproportionate?

10. Having stated your commitment “to being a leader for the entire community,” when do you plan to meet formally with Independent Jewish Voices, Jews for Justice for Palestinians, Jewdas, Jewish Voice for Labour, or Na’amod – British Jews Against Occupation?

Source: If you want a fair definition of Zionism, it’s best to ask a Palestinian

The part of Brexit everyone’s been avoiding is finally here: immigration

Some good commentary regarding Brexit and immigration:

Brexit was never really about immigration.

Or so liberal leavers fall over themselves to claim, at least. They can’t bear the idea of being associated with a racist backlash and so they insist it was really all about sovereignty; that all those inflammatory posters of dark-skinned migrants queuing at European borders and the cynical scaremongering about Turkey didn’t really have any bearing on the result, and that all they really wanted was just a fairer and more open system in which people could come to Britain more easily from Commonwealth countries.

Even Nigel Farage sounded as if butter wouldn’t melt in his mouth on the radio this morning, insisting all he ever wanted was control of our borders and equal opportunities for Indians to come here just as Romanians once did.

So it will be interesting to see what happens now the migration advisory committee has taken leavers at their word. Its long-awaited report on immigration after Brexit concludes, as expected, that once we leave the EU free movement should end, although it notes drily that that may leave us in the position of scrapping it “just as public concern falls about the migration flows that result from it”, and that both the benefits and the supposed negative impacts of it have been over-egged.

You can’t help wondering where its chart coolly summing up the facts – no evidence that EU migration has reduced wages or job opportunities for Britons on average, although some possible impact on the young and lower-skilled; some evidence that migration has pushed up house prices but also confirmation that migrants pay more in taxes than they take in benefits – was during the hysteria of the referendum debate.

But what’s done is done, so the committee recommends a Canadian-style system favouring higher-skilled workers over lower-skilled ones, focusing on what individuals contribute to the country rather than where they come from. It doesn’t put numbers on the table, or answer the potentially explosive question of whether Theresa May will now ditch her mythical and so far entirely unachievable target of reducing net immigration below 100,000.

But in suggesting that Britain could use work visas essentially as a bribe in trade talks, offering preferential access to countries prepared to strike free-trade deals with us, it certainly doesn’t suggest the goal is to keep numbers down at all costs. The question is whether that’s quite what angry voters who responded to Leave EU’s ugly rhetoric really had in mind, or whether this divides the leave movement between those for whom it genuinely wasn’t about keeping foreigners out and those for whom, to be blunt, it was.

Immigration has been oddly sidelined as an issue so far in the Brexit negotiations, partly because the EU didn’t make it an early priority for talks and partly because it suited much of Westminster to keep it that way. Downing Street is caught between two awkwardly irreconcilable opposites – the desire of many leave voters to pull up the drawbridge, versus employers’ fears that doing so will decimate the economy – and has been more than content to put the whole thing off for a bit.

Immigration has been a profoundly touchy issue for the prime minister personally ever since the “hostile environment” she herself created as home secretary returned to haunt her in the shape of the Windrush scandal. And Labour was no more eager for a showdown with voters in some of its heartlands who don’t see eye to eye with Jeremy Corbyn’s liberal views on immigration.

But like every other impossible question thrown up about Brexit, it can’t be dodged for ever. If nothing else, today brings us one step closer to the moment when everyone has to show their hand.

Source: The part of Brexit everyone’s been avoiding is finally here: immigration

And, in a related story, business leaders have been speaking out more:

UK employers condemn ‘ignorant, elitist’ Brexit immigration reportBusiness leaders have lined up to criticise the government’s migration advisory committee (MAC) after it proposed an “ignorant and elitist” ban on foreign workers earning less than £30,000 a year from obtaining visas to work in the UK after Brexit.

Organisations representing hauliers, housebuilders and the hospitality sector were among those to sound the alarm after the committee said only “higher skilled” workers should be allowed visas, with no preferential access given to European Union citizens.

Richard Burnett, the chief executive of the Road Haulage Association, which represents 7,000 hauliers, said: “We need an immigration policy across all skill levels. It is about what our businesses need. The idea that only high-skilled immigration should be allowed is both ignorant and elitist.”

Brian Berry, the chief executive of the Federation of Master Builders, warned that his industry would be crippled: “It’s not at all clear that EU workers with important skills already in short supply, like bricklaying and carpentry, will not fall foul of a crude and limited definition of ‘high-skilled’ worker.”

Des Gunewardena, the chairman and CEO of D&D London, the owner of 40 upmarket restaurants, warned that businesses like his could be affected if the recommendations were taken up. “I’ve got no doubt that if movement of staff becomes difficult, we will need to scale back sharply,” he said.

Source: UK employers condemn ‘ignorant, elitist’ Brexit immigration report

Federal stats show slight increase in irregular migrant claims in August

Numbers may be stabilizing but will need to see full year numbers to assess. But government must be relieved with significant drop in numbers from summer 2017:

The number of irregular border crossers seeking asylum in Canada increased slightly in August, but were far below the record spikes seen last summer.

Statistics published Tuesday by the federal government shows the Mounties apprehended 1,747 irregular migrants between official border crossings in August, a jump of 113 from July, marking the second consecutive month of increases following a downward trend that began in May.

Overall, this summer saw less than half of the just over 8,800 irregular migrants who crossed into Canada during July and August last year.

Conservative immigration critic Michelle Rempel suggested the issue of irregular migrants has not gotten better, noting that the total number of asylum seekers so far for this year — 14,125, federal data shows — is higher than during the same period in 2017 when 13,221 irregular migrants were counted.

“The problem is getting worse,” Rempel said.

Rempel has repeatedly called on the Liberals to close a loophole in the Safe Third Country agreement between Canada and the United States, which has been cited as a major factor in the ongoing stream of asylum seekers crossing the Canada-U.S. border through non-official entry points.

The agreement prevents asylum seekers from asking for refugee protection when they present themselves at an official port-of-entry, which is why thousands have crossed the border on foot so they can get into the country and claim what they would likely be denied at an official entry point.

Border Security Minister Bill Blair said he has asked to meet with U.S. Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen to discuss ways to modernize the agreement and continued to defend the government’s handling of the border during the daily question period.

The issue of irregular border crossers has been an ongoing topic of heated debate and one that has become divisive among federal and provincial parties.

The federal and Ontario Tories have labelled the situation at the border a “crisis” and called irregular border crossers “illegal” — two terms the federal Liberals reject. The Trudeau Liberals insist the border is being managed in an orderly way and that Canada is accommodating asylum seekers as required under human rights obligations.

Ontario has also demanded millions in federal funding to cover unanticipated costs from the influx of refugee claimants and is refusing to co-operate in Ottawa’s plan to identify individuals or families willing to relocate to areas outside Toronto while awaiting the outcome of their refugee claims.

The government said a pilot project for this triage program started last week in the southwestern Ontario municipality of Chatham-Kent that will see five families relocated to the town just east of the border with Michigan, instead of Toronto. Blair’s office said the families chosen for the pilot were willing to go to Chatham-Kent, where temporary housing may be easier to find.

Speaking to reporters, Blair said the number of asylum seekers involved in this project is small, but it will allow the community the opportunity to see how families settle there and give the federal government a chance to learn from any successes — or failures.

Blair said he would have “very much preferred” to work with Ontario’s government on the triage program, rather than with individual municipalities, but he is hopeful about resolving the tension between the two governments.

Source: Federal stats show slight increase in irregular migrant claims in August

Memo Contradicts Ross’s Rationale for Adding Citizenship Question to Census

The truth will out but whether it will be consequential is another matter:

The Trump White House produces no shortage of eye-catching, headline-grabbing acts of malfeasance. Brazenly blatant acts of corruption, titillating tell-alls from the president’s porn-star paramours, and proto-authoritarian Twitter tantrums are constantly competing for limited headline space.

And yet, this administration is arguably most dangerous when it’s at its most boring. In the dull, gray innards of the federal bureaucracies, Donald Trump’s minions are making profoundly consequential (and, in many cases, deeply corrupt) decisions that will never make the “A block” of a single cable news show.

And no set of decisions has broader potential implications for our democracy than those the Commerce Department has made regarding the 2020 census.

The U.S. government’s decennial attempt to count every human being within its borders might seem like one of Uncle Sam’s most anodyne activities. But when those overseeing the count belong to a political movement that explicitly regards demographic change as its enemy — and disenfranchising Democratic constituencies as fair game — the Census can begin to resemble an ominous enterprise. Census data shapes the contours of political districts, and determines each state’s clout in the Electoral College. It dictates what proportion of federal funding for schools, roads, and libraries each state is entitled to. Thus, if a Republican administration found a facially neutral way of systematically undercounting residents in Democratic-leaning areas, it could inflate red America’s (already disproportionate) influence over our political system.

And the Trump administration appeared to be doing just that last March, when it decided to add a question about citizenship status to the 2020 census. By that point, the White House had already (unsuccessfully) attempted to put a leading proponent of GOP gerrymandering (who had no experience managing a large bureaucracy) in charge of overseeing the Census, while refusing to hire noncitizen Census-takers for the purpose of reaching immigrant communities. Meanwhile, Census Bureau researchers had already warned that test surveys were prompting “unprecedented” levels of concern from immigrants, who feared that providing the government with information about themselves would result in their deportation. Census data cannot be legally used for immigration enforcement. But, for understandable reasons, undocumented immigrants weren’t eager to bet their capacity to live in the United States on the Trump administration’s commitment to the letter of the law.

Thus, the Commerce Department’s decision to ask Census respondents about their citizenship status, for the first time since 1950, looked like a deliberate attempt to exacerbate this problem. And if the citizenship question did, in fact, depress undocumented immigrants’ participation in the Census — and thereby, lead the federal government to systematically undercount them — there would be obvious benefits to the GOP: Most undocumented immigrants live in Democratic-leaning metropolitan areas, so the fewer of them the government counts, the greater the share of federal money and political influence that rural, Republican-leaning areas will receive.

And the GOP had another, equally controversial incentive for surveying the American public about their citizenship. The judiciary has long insisted that U.S. House districts must be drawn on the basis of total population — not total voters — so that children, prisoners, undocumented immigrants, and others who lack access to the ballot are provided with indirect representation. But some conservative groups have mulled drawing state and local districts on the basis of eligible voters (ostensibly, so as to minimize the influence that godless city slickers wield over state capitols). In 2016, the Supreme Court indicated that it might approve of such a practice. But without Census data on citizens and noncitizens, red states would have no means of giving voters-only districting a try.

Still, the Trump administration insisted that its decision to alter the Census was rooted in only the purest of motives — specifically, a heartfelt desire to protect the voting rights of African-Americans. In congressional testimony, Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross explained that his bureau only began considering the citizenship question after the Department of Justice indicated that it needed such information to fully enforce the Voting Rights Act of 1965.

Of course, the idea that Jeff Sessions was desperate for new tools he could use in lawsuits against southern states with racially discriminatory political practices never passed the smell test. Anyone with a rudimentary understanding of American politics knew that Ross was “trolling the libs.”Still, it wasn’t clear whether the administration’s bad faith could be proven. And this was an important distinction — because if advocates for immigrant communities could establish, through documentary evidence, that the Trump administration had a discriminatory intent when it added the citizenship question to the Census, they just might be able to get a court to strike it down.

And on Monday, New York attorney general Barbara Underwood revealed what appears to be a smoking gun. As part of her lawsuit challenging the Census question, Underwood publicly filed a newly unredacted internal Commerce Department memo, which reveals that the Justice Department (DOJ) did not initiate the request for the citizenship question — but rather, resisted Commerce’s initial attempts to extract such a request from it.

Now, the DOJ did issue a formal request for a question about citizenship status in December of 2017 — but only after the Commerce Department had spent months lobbying for such a request. As NPR reports:

[M]emos and emails released previously as part of the lawsuits over the question already have contradicted Ross’ testimony. They make clear that Ross was eager to add the question shortly after he was confirmed as commerce secretary in February 2017 … Earl Comstock — a key Commerce Department official on census-related issues — first approached Justice Department officials in May 2017. Comstock eventually discussed the issue with James McHenry, a Justice Department official working on immigration issues who now oversees the immigration courts as the head of the Executive Office for Immigration Review.

“Justice staff did not want to raise the question given the difficulties Justice was encountering in the press at the time (the whole Comey matter),” Comstock wrote to Ross in a newly unredacted portion of the memo, which is dated Sept. 8, 2017.

With the DOJ looking to avoid controversy amid the fallout from Trump’s firing of James Comey, the Commerce Department began searching for other agencies that might force it to ask U.S. residents about their citizenship. The memo reveals that Comstock sought a request from the Department of Homeland Security, only to have DHS refer him back to the DOJ. Comstock then directed an attorney at the Commerce Department “to look into the legal issues and how Commerce could add the question to the Census itself,” according to a previously redacted portion of the memo.

All of which is to say: On Monday, the state of New York ostensibly revealed that the Commerce Secretary lied to Congress about his rationale for adding a citizenship question to the 2020 Census — a development that lends credence to the claim that the Trump administration is deliberately trying to engineer an inaccurate count of the U.S. population in hopes of consolidating their party’s grip on power through anti-democratic means.

And this wasn’t enough to qualify as headline news.

Source: Memo Contradicts Ross’s Rationale for Adding Citizenship Question to Census

L’Institut du Québec remet les pendules à l’heure en immigration

Good initiative in presenting the data:

Parce que plusieurs données sur l’immigrationsont semées à tort et à travers en cette campagne électorale, l’Institut du Québec (IdQ) a cru bon de remettre les pendules à l’heure en publiant une « mise à jour » pour clarifier certaines informations. Car si certains politiciens confondent encore des statistiques, d’autres ne prennent pas le soin de les mettre en contexte.

L’IdQ travaille sur les thèmes de l’intégration des immigrants au marché du travail depuis un certain temps, mais a senti une certaine urgence à préciser certaines données. « En voyant à quel point c’est devenu important dans les élections, surtout la question des seuils migratoires et la rétention, […] on a senti que notre mission était de sortir rapidement », a dit Mia Homsy, directrice de l’IdQ, auquel s’associent le Conference Board du Canada et HEC Montréal. « Je ne suis pas certaine des chiffres que [les chefs de partis] utilisent. Je vois aussi qu’ils essaient d’en éviter certains… ce n’est pas toujours clair. »

Le taux de rétention

Mme Homsy invite à ne pas confondre « solde migratoire net », qui est la somme de la migration internationale (entrées et sorties) et de la migration interprovinciale (entrées et sorties) qu’on soit immigrant ou natif, et taux de rétention, qui mesure le nombre d’immigrants encore au Québec plusieurs années après leur arrivée. Ce que pourrait avoir fait le chef de la Coalition avenir Québec, François Legault, qui se plaît à répéter que, des 50 000 immigrants qu’il accueille, le Québec en perd 13 000. Parle-t-il du solde migratoire net, qui est de 12 600 ?

M. Legault pourrait avoir plutôt fait allusion aux 26 % d’immigrants qui ont quitté le Québec, mais, dans ce cas, il omet de préciser que c’est entre 2006 et 2015 (soit sur 9 ans). Ce qu’il ne dit pas non plus, c’est que ces chiffres sont du ministère de l’Immigration et se basent sur les renouvellements de la carte d’assurance maladie, qui ne tiennent pas compte des décès et des non-renouvellements volontaires.

Les chiffres publiés par l’Institut du Québec, qui se basent sur les déclarations de revenus, ont une connotation beaucoup plus positive : seulement 18 % des immigrants arrivés entre 2005 et 2015 auraient quitté la province. Et le Québec se classe 4e au Canada pour son taux de rétention. « J’avais en tête que c’était catastrophique, mais on n’est quand même pas si loin de l’Ontario », a déclaré Mme Homsy. Selon le rapport, le taux de rétention sur cinq ans est encore plus encourageant, soit 84,3 %, et il constituerait une nette amélioration par rapport à il y a 15 ans.

Peu de francophones

Le chef de la CAQ et celui du Parti québécois, Jean-François Lisée, ont aussi répété que trop peu d’immigrants (42 %) parlent français à leur arrivée au Québec. Or, ils omettent souvent de préciser que cette donnée est pour 2017 seulement, année où le Québec a reçu beaucoup de réfugiés. En 2016, 48 % des personnes qui arrivaient ici parlaient le français, et en 2015, 56 %.

Brahim Boudarbat, professeur à l’École des relations industrielles de l’Université de Montréal, fait remarquer que, pour avoir l’heure juste, il faudrait uniquement s’intéresser à la catégorie des immigrants économiques, car ce sont eux qui sont sélectionnés avec, notamment, le critère de la langue française. Et là, toutefois, les politiciens n’auraient pas tort de s’alarmer sur la proportion d’immigrants francophones, qui sont en diminution constante depuis ces dernières années, passant de 67 % en 2012 à 53 % en 2016. « Ça, c’est un problème, puisqu’on voit que ça baisse », dit-il. Le ministère de l’Immigration a reconnu qu’elle avait admis un plus grand nombre de personnes déclarant uniquement connaître l’anglais, notamment parce que l’adéquation entre les besoins du Québec dans certains secteurs d’emploi et les compétences des travailleurs migrants était devenue plus importante que le seul critère de la langue.

Seuils et chômage

M. Boudarbat fait remarquer que les partis parlent peu de régionalisation, mais débattent beaucoup des seuils d’immigration. « On s’attendrait à ce que les libéraux, qui ont un discours de pénurie de main-d’oeuvre, parlent d’augmenter les seuils, mais ils ne le font pas. Moi, j’interprète ça comme une réduction », indique le professeur. « Dans sa tête, [le chef Philippe Couillard] pense sans doute à 60 000-65 000, mais il ne le dit pas, parce qu’il serait obligé de le justifier, comme le font les autres partis. »

Pour sa part, le chef de la CAQ justifie son intention d’accueillir moins d’immigrants en répétant que le taux de chômage parmi cette population est de 15 % dans les cinq premières années. Or, s’il est effectivement de 14,1 %, comparativement à 9,1 % en Ontario, ce taux a tendance à diminuer, étant donné la conjoncture économique favorable. Après avoir oscillé entre 10 % et 13 % depuis 2007, le taux de chômage des immigrants âgés de 25 à 54 ans atteignait 8,7 % l’an dernier. « Les employeurs vont désormais considérer un CV d’immigrant qu’ils auraient peut-être mis sous la pile il y a 15 ans, voyant que leur production est compromise », avance Mia Homsy.

Pour un portrait plus juste de la situation, les politiciens devraient toutefois s’intéresser de plus près à certaines données qui ne ressortent pas souvent, soit le taux de surqualification et la provenance des immigrants. « Les gens des pays musulmans ont un taux de chômage plus élevé », rappelle M. Boudarbat.

Source: L’Institut du Québec remet les pendules à l’heure en immigration

Douglas Todd: Popular Canadian student visas leading to exploitation

More from Douglas Todd on Indian student visa holders:

Senior Indian politicians are warning tens of thousands of young Punjabis about the dangers of trying to take advantage of student visas to try to become Canadian citizens.

Indian nationals — some of whom are using student visas primarily to work rather than study in Canada — are being exploited in both countries for their money and cheap labour, say South Asian media outlets and officials in both India and Canada.

The Punjab’s education minister, Charanjit Singh Channi, says he recently travelled to Canada and “saw the plight of students there,” with many working 16 hours a day to make ends meet and attending fly-by-night colleges with just five students enrolled.

Channi, who is concerned about a growing brain drain of young Punjabis to Canada, told the Indian media he is cautioning students against “falling into the emigration trap.” He is one of many officials raising alarms about fraudulent immigration agents who are financially bleeding low-income families in India with false promises their offspring will easily obtain immigrant status in Canada.

Many Indo-Canadians in Metro Vancouver and Toronto are in an uproar over the surge in students from India, with their presence feeding community tensions, allegations of financial exploitation by colleges and universities, employer abuse and fears some young newcomers are “buying jobs” in Canada while working for less than minimum wage, undercutting local South Asians.

The number of Indian students in Canada, mostly from the Punjab, has increased about five-fold in the past few years, since the federal government began to favour international students as future permanent residents.

Canada has 130,000 students from India now, compared to 20,000 in Britain, 70,000 in Australia and 186,000 in the U.S., which has almost 10 times Canada’s population.

“Most international students, especially from China and India, see being an international student as an opportunity to migrate to Canada for greener pastures, to pave way for their families to eventually join them,” says Barj Dhahan, a major B.C. employer and philanthropist.

“They end up paying large sums of money to ‘immigration consultants’ … to help them obtain admissions to Canadian institutions and get visas to Canada. Many of these students are enrolled in short-term degree programs” And, he said, many end up working more than the 20 hours a week are allowed under student study permits.”

Dhahan, owner of the Sandhurst Group of companies that specializes in B.C. restaurants, gas stations and commercial real estate, said some of the 500,000 international students in Canada “work illegally under the table to make ends meet, and are usually paid in cash.” In the process, he said, many are exploited by dubious employers and so-called consultants.

The Tribune is one of several Indian media outlets reporting that young Punjabis and their often-rural families are being gouged by educational institutions, landlords and employers in Canada, as well as by so-called “immigration consultants” in India.

The Punjab newspaper says it typically costs Indian students more than $15,000 Cdn for their first year in Canada, but that consultants don’t tell families that educational fees and housing costs will mushroom to $100,000 to $150,000 for a multi-year program. Last month, Indian headlines trumpeted a police raid on the office of a prominent Punjab immigration consultancy headed by Vinay Hari, who had sponsored large ads celebrating the visit of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.

Immigration lawyers in Metro Vancouver, such as George Lee and Richard Kurland, say international students from India and China, the two biggest source countries for Canada, are among those who end up trying to extend their chances of gaining immigrant status in Canada by “buying jobs,” some of which don’t exist.

Burnaby immigration lawyer George Lee says some international students from India and China are among those who try to extend their chances of gaining immigrant status in Canada by “buying jobs.”

Shinder Purewal, a Kwantlen Polytechnic University political scientist and a former citizenship court judge, said “Immigration is the main motive of most international students coming to Canada,” particularly those who sign up with low-tier public and private educational institutions with little intention of obtaining a serious diploma and a much stronger inclination to find work.

One of the most lucrative money-making schemes for fraudulent immigration agents in India and Canada, Purewal said, is arranging often-fake Canadian labour-market impact assessments for international students who seek a long-term work permit to cement their chance of being approved for permanent resident status, the precursor to becoming a Canadian citizen.

Some Indo-Canadian business owners, Purewal said, collude with the agents to charge Indian students $20,000 to $50,000 for a false labour-market assessment, which claims a foreign national is needed for a job because Canadians cannot be found.

Although newcomers on student visas are limited to working 20 hours a week, Purewal said most end up “working more than full time to cover costs, simply because Canadian employers don’t even pay them minimum wage. The system allows ‘immigration consultants’ and businesses to cheat, commit fraud and brutally exploit young people.”

Vancouver immigration lawyer Sam Hyman says there is a “rampant” underground economy devoted to creating false labour-market assessments for international students in Canada, regardless of their nationality. If the students who buy such fraudulent job offers are caught, Hyman warned, “they are likely to bear the enforcement consequences — including deportation — more readily than the fraudsters who victimize them and reap the profits of such illegal activity.”

Source: Douglas Todd: Popular Canadian student visas leading to exploitation

Germans upbeat about immigration, study finds

Interesting results from a large scale poll, providing a more nuanced view of German public opinion than the election results and support for AfD would indicate (article more nuanced than header):

People living in Germany continue to view the country’s multicultural society positively, according to a new study published by the Expert Council of German Foundations on Integration and Migration (SVR).

The “Integration Barometer 2018” is the first representative study on the matter to come out since the start of the so-called refugee crisis in 2015, which saw hundreds of thousands of people escaping war and poverty in their home countries enter Europe.

Despite refugees and immigration policy dominating the news and politician’s speaking points in Germany, the study found that most people still think that life with their immigrant or non-immigrant neighbors is going well.

Main takeaways

  • Some 63.8 percent of local Germans — people described as not having an immigrant background — view the integration situation positively, down marginally from the 65.4 percent logged in 2015. Residents with immigrant backgrounds viewed the integration situation even more positively, rating it at 68.9 percent.
  • The study found a particular divide between the eastern and western states, with 66 percent of western Germans satisfied with the status of immigration, while eastern Germans rated it at 55 percent.
  • The study found that areas where fewer migrants live, such as in the eastern German states, there are more reservations about immigration and integration.
  • Men viewed the status of integration in Germany more negatively than women.

Solution to tensions in education

Researchers noted that skepticism about immigrants can be overcome by having more “personal encounters.”

“The everyday experiences are significantly better than what the [media] discourse would suggest,” researchers wrote in the study.

Germany’s integration commissioner, Annette Widmann-Mauz, said the study’s results were “a good sign” and that it’s important to support schools and other places where people have more opportunities to come into contact with their neighbors. She noted that the attitudes about integration are most positive “wherever there are direct contacts in the neighborhoods, among friends or at work.”

Majority want to help refugees

Attitudes towards refugees were largely positive from both people with and without immigrant backgrounds in Germany. Around 60 percent of local Germans support continuing to take in refugees, also if Germany were the only country accepting asylum-seekers in the European Union. However, a majority of them also want to curb refugee arrivals.

How successful is linguistic integration?

Three quarters of German-born Muslims grow up with German as a first language. Among immigrants, only one fifth claim that German is their first language. The trend of language skills improving with successive generations is apparent across Europe. In Germany 46 percent of all Muslims say that their national language is their first language. In Austria this is 37 percent, Switzerland 34 percent

Split on headscarf bans

Around 80 percent of Muslims questioned in the study supported women and girls being allowed to wear headscarves to school. Only 41 percent of Christians, on the other hand, thought that headscarves should be allowed in schools. Local Germans were more open to allowing headscarves in public authorities, with 52 percent backing the idea.

Muslim women living in Germany were specifically asked in the SVR study about their opinions on headscarf bans. Out of the 29 percent of women who said they wear a head covering, a majority backed measures for them to be allowed at school and public authorities. Around 66 percent of Muslim women who don’t wear head coverings said they should be allowed.

Representative study

The “Integration Barometer 2018” is a representative study of people with and without immigrant backgrounds in Germany. A total of 9,298 people were surveyed between July 2017 and January 2018.

The results of the latest “Integration Barometer” come after weeks of far-right protests against refugees and immigrants rocked several eastern German cities, including Chemnitz and Köthen. Although topics focusing on migrants and refugees dominate headlines and dictate and within the German government, opinion polls suggest that concerns about pensions, housing, education and infrastructure top the list of issues people are most concerned about in Germany.

Source: Germans upbeat about immigration, study finds

British Culture Wouldn’t Exist Without Multiculturalism

On the complexities of identities and the sticking to tired tropes regarding immigration in the UK:

As a born and bred product of British multiculturalism, it’s hard for me to comprehend the ongoing demonisation of immigrants. Growing up in a mixed-race family was getting a new pencil case before the start of term; plastering Spice Girls posters on my wall; eating fish and chips on a Friday in the school canteen; Sundays spent wrapped in the love of my nana’s chicken curries, gulab jaman and jalebis.

My childhood feels typically British because multiculturalism is my norm – something that, in my lifetime, has been the bedrock of British culture and, historically, a source of great pride. Yet, in this post-Brexit climate, it’s hard not to notice the mood shifting.

At a time when global anti-immigrant sentiment is reaching fever pitch, a study claiming that four in 10 people believe multiculturalism has undermined British culture feels like sticking the knife in. It’s just another reminder to the UK’s migrant or minority ethnic communities that they will never be British enough.

It’s baffling to me that a sizeable minority of people could feel that British culture is being stifled by multiculturalism. Are we talking about the same tea-drinking culture that includes chicken tikka masala as a national dish and holds St George as its patron saint?

Researchers found negative opinions around Islam were often mentioned during panel discussions, with participants regularly citing the Rotherham and Rochdale sexual abuse scandals involving Asian men and white British girls. Those in rural areas also tended to have less positive views about immigration, according to the study.

It’s hard not to feel this is just the same lazy racism of the sort my family weathered in the 50s, 60s, 70s – and every decade since. It seems odd that Islam and Asian immigration are now automatically associated with the Rotherham and Rochdale scandals, yet I didn’t see white men being vilified following decades of child abuse scandals in the Catholic Church.

To those who don’t support multiculturalism, I’d love to ask: do you know any immigrant families? Have you taken the time to understand who they are or their stories? Or do you just hate people who don’t look like you? People are scared of what they don’t know but surely it’s time we stopped indulging ignorance. It’s hurtful and alienating to the millions of us whose legitimacy is placed second to the views of the xenophobic.

This constant othering of migrants, first-generation or otherwise, is tiring. I know immigration – and it’s not something to fear. My Muslim grandfather grew up in India, the son of an army officer supporting the British during World War II. He idolised British customs and since his arrival to the UK in the 50s has dedicated his life to working as a doctor for the NHS. He wears tweed and eats marmalade on toast – but he also attends his local mosque and eats lime pickle. Surely he’s as British as they come? And isn’t that exciting?

We have to stop conflating immigration with low-skilled workers and segregation of communities – it is bigoted and unrepresentative. No two immigrant families are the same, every family has their story. It’s frustrating to see the same tired tropes of British immigrants wheeled out with clockwork regularity – and the framing of this study feels particularly unhelpful.

It feels sad remembering how many times I tried to assimilate as a child and downplay my ethnicity – “no, but my mum was born here”, “we’re not really Indian Indian”, “we don’t eat Indian food that much” – trying to preempt the ignorant questioning that would follow as soon as I mentioned my heritage. But as an adult, I feel fiercely unapologetic, and increasingly unwilling to be an educator to those who need convincing why immigration is good.

The researchers did find a majority (59%) of those surveyed felt diversity brought by immigration had enriched British culture and 63% felt migrant workers supported the economy and brought valuable skills to the UK, so clearly all is not lost. These are the stats we need to be focusing on – the resounding consensus that multiculturalism is important and continues to make a valuable contribution to our society.

Instead of continuing this tired debate, we should be turning our attention to what it means to be British today, in all its richness and difference, and celebrating what makes our culture so unique. That’s where representation in media and popular culture becomes so important, along with social mobility in education and employment. It’s time the multiculturalism debate is taken off the table, because it’s already here. Multiculturalism has happened – deal with it.

Source: British Culture Wouldn’t Exist Without Multiculturalism

Colin Kaepernick, Corporate America and the Multicultural Future

Interesting take:

One of the most eye-opening assignments of my undergraduate years was to watch three hours of prime-time network television, log every commercial and reflect on the general story that corporate America was telling the nation.

In the class discussion the day after, the professor emphasized that while politicians generally craft their messages to appeal to the immediate concerns of likely voters, corporate America is in the business of owning both the present and the future. Their goal is to develop brand loyalty in the key demographic of 18-49 year olds in the hopes that their products will be purchased both now and many years from now.

One of the things that we talked about in Professor Landay’s class was how white the commercials felt compared to the multiculturalism that was the University of Illinois in the mid-1990s. It felt like corporate America had not yet caught up to the shift in both demographics and tastes that was already a reality on American campuses.

That is no longer true.

Pay attention to the commercials during prime time these days and it seems obvious that corporate America has a really good idea about the future.

Consider this sample:

  • A relaxed Serena taking a jog through a funky outdoor market and using her Chase app to purchase a necklace she likes;
  • An intense Serena staring straight at the camera and channeling L.L Cool J saying ‘Momma’s Gonna Knock You Out’ (one of my favorite songs);
  • A mellow Colin Kaepernick in an impressive afro set against a city scene encouraging people to dream crazy dreams as a reel of largely female and minority athletes (Lebron, Serena, a black wrestler with no legs, a black football player with one hand, a girl who is both homecoming queen and a linebacker) achieve great things;
  • A hipster-nerdy white guy coming across a minority family who can’t agree on the music to play at their barbecue. He helps them with their tech issues and then puts in a vote for old reggaeton.

I resonate with these scenes, this music, these characters. They speak in the rhythms that I’m familiar with, reference songs I like, walk on streets that I recognize, nod at political views that I generally hold.

I’m a highly educated brown guy who lives in a city. Is it not abundantly clear that corporate America is signaling to the nation that the future belongs to people like me?

Look closely at this commercial by Apple for the Mac.

I see these characters every day. The chic women of color who are launching companies, the black writer trying to get a line in a poem just right, the ponytailed chef-owner figuring out what micro-roastery has the choicest espresso beans this season. These are the people who populate my world on the north side of Chicago.

Anybody in that Mac commercial look like they live in Cracker Barrel America and work at a steel mill or in a coal mine? Anybody look like a small town cop?

What’s the message that these commercials are sending to those folks?

There is simply no question that corporate America has a clear sense of where the puck is going – an urban, hipster, multicultural future – and is aggressively skating to it.

A part of me is celebrating. After all, I grew up not seeing myself on television, so to see my world on commercial after commercial, well, what’s not to like?

A part of me wonders how it feels to be someone else, those people who are in uncool America, working the jobs and living the lives that Apple commercials don’t feature. That’s who Paul Simon had in mind when he wrote the song Wristband:

The riots started slowly
With the homeless and the lowly
Then they spread into the heartland
Towns that never get a wristband
Kids that can’t afford the cool brand
Whose anger is a shorthand
For you’ll never get a wristband

And through it all I’ve got questions about culture and power.

Culture and power are central concepts for diversity progressives. Think Foucault, Bourdieu, Said, bell hooks, the Frankfurt school. The big idea here is that cultural portrayals and patterns have immense socio-political power. The way the “Orient” is imagined facilitates colonialism.

Perhaps because of this analysis, the kind of power that diversity progressives have sought (over the past couple of generations at least) is cultural power – the pages of the The New Yorker, professorships at Harvard, slots in cool film festivals. Consider that battle won.

As the Swet Shop Boys rap:

Trump want my exit, but if he presses a red button

To watch Netflix, bruv, I’m on

One of the upsides of this approach is that your worldview can dominate The New Yorker and you can still claim to be part of the cultural resistance. The New Yorker is elite but, relatively speaking, small.

But Nike, Apple and Chase Bank are not small. They shape attitudes and worldviews at a mass level. Commercial radio and Hollywood blockbusters do too. All of these massive engines of cultural power are pumping out the same messages. Those brown kids you dismissed as having funny names, weird religions and smelly food, we might have been on the margins thirty years ago, but we are very much at the center now. This is the age of Beyonce and Black Panther. There might be a cretin in the White House, but the culture is ours.

The trouble with this is not just who is left out, but how the people who are now on the inside understand themselves.

Because culture/power is not just a dispassionate analytical paradigm, it is a moral stance, an advocacy movement, an intervention intended to authorize a particular group of people to overthrow their colonizers and claim their agency. I remember reading the aforementioned writers as an undergraduate and feeling both righteous and empowered in the process. To be marginalized and oppressed was to be honorable and virtuous.

But the empire has not only struck back, it is strutting it on prime time. This has to affect how you teach Orientalism, right?

Source: Colin Kaepernick, Corporate America and the Multicultural Future