Citizenship Program: Results Highlights

A quick look at the IRCC citizenship program results posted on the TBS site indicates the following:

  • 95 percent satisfied with the service received;
  • Only 65 percent of applications processed within the 12 month service standard (target is 80 percent). Don’t believe IRCC has ever met this standard, reflecting perennial structural and financial issues with the program.
    • Departmental explanation: “In 2019–20, a total of 65% of citizenship grant applications were processed within the 12-month service standard. The absolute volumes of citizenship applications continue to increase year after year. The number of citizenship applicants who became Canadian citizens has increased by 118%, from 112,969 in 2017–18 to 247,139 in 2019–20. Growing application volumes have strained the operational processing model causing increased processing times. The citizenship applications process is heavily paper-based and relies on manual data entry. The program is also facing a large increase in demand and the current funding levels are outpaced by application volumes. The program is exploring ways to transform the processing model to increase speed and efficiency and develop digital tools for improved client service.”
  • 86 percent of eligible permanent residents have become Canadian citizens. As I have mentioned repeatedly, the performance measure is based upon the total number of immigrants who became citizens, whether they arrive 5 or 50 years ago, and hence is meaningless as a performance indicator. A real performance indicator would use the percentage of recent immigrants who have become citizens, those who immigrated to Canada in the past Census period (5 to 9 years):
    • “Rationale: Canada’s immigration model encourages newcomers to naturalize (become citizens) so that they can benefit from all the rights of citizenship and fully assume their responsibilities, thereby advancing their integration. Take-up rates are considered a proxy that illustrates to what extent permanent residents value Canadian citizenship. Calculation / formula: Numerator: Permanent residents in Canada who are eligible to acquire Canadian citizenship and self-report on the Census that they have acquired Canadian citizenship. Denominator: Permanent residents in Canada who are eligible to acquire Canadian citizenship. Data Source: Statistics Canada’s Census Baseline: 2016: 85.8% Definitions: Naturalization: The Census instructs individuals who have applied for, and have been granted, Canadian citizenship (i.e., persons who have been issued a Canadian citizenship certificate) to self-report their citizenship as “Canada, by naturalization”. Notes: In the performance narrative, IRCC administrative data could be used to tell the story of citizenship from an operational and policy perspective. Information on age, gender, immigration stream, and country of origin of new citizens would be considered in order to explain changing trends. It is also important to note that calculations using IRCC’s administrative data will be based on the number of people admitted as permanent residents who took up citizenship. Figures from Statistics Canada indicate that in 2011, about 6,042,200 foreign-born people in Canada were eligible to acquire citizenship. Of these, just over 5,175,100, or 85.6%, reported that they had acquired Canadian citizenship. This naturalization rate in Canada was higher than in other major immigrant-receiving countries. In telling the story of the naturalization rate, it will be important to explain the reasons why some people choose not to naturalize.”

Source: https://www.tbs-sct.gc.ca/ems-sgd/edb-bdd/index-eng.html#orgs/dept/123/infograph/results

U.S. Census Bureau director to resign amid criticism over citizenship data

Of note (former StatsCan head Munir Sheikh resigned over Conservative government’s replacement of the mandatory census with the less accurate voluntary National Household Survey):

Facing criticism over efforts to produce citizenship data to comply with an order from President Donald Trump, U.S. Census Bureau director Steven Dillingham said Monday that he planned to resign with the change in presidential administrations.

Dillingham said in a statement that he would resign on Wednesday, the day Trump leaves the White House and President-elect Joseph Biden takes office. Dillingham’s term was supposed to be finished at the end of the year.

The Census Bureau director’s departure comes as the statistical agency is crunching the numbers for the 2020 census, which will be used to determine how many congressional seats and Electoral College votes each state gets, as well as the distribution of $1.5 trillion in federal spending each year.

In his statement, Dillingham said he had been considering retiring earlier, but he had been persuaded at the time to stick around.
“But I must do now what I think is best,” said Dillingham, 68. “Let me make it clear that under other circumstances I would be honored to serve President-Elect Biden just as I served the past five presidents.”

A Census Bureau spokesman said the agency’s chief operating officer, Ron Jarmin, will assume the director’s duties. Jarmin served in the same role before Dillingham became director two years ago.

Last week, Democratic lawmakers called on Dillingham to resign after a watchdog agency said he had set a deadline that pressured statisticians to produce a report on the number of people in the U.S. illegally.

A report by the Office of Inspector General last week said bureau workers were under significant pressure from two Trump political appointees to figure out who is in the U.S. illegally using federal and state administrative records, and Dillingham had set a Friday deadline for bureau statisticians to provide him a technical report on the effort.

One whistleblower told the Office of Inspector General that the work was “statistically indefensible.”

After the release of the inspector general’s report, leaders of the National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials, Asian Americans Advancing Justice and The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights called for Dillingham’s resignation, and several Democratic lawmakers followed suit.

Dillingham then ordered an indefinite halt to the efforts to produce data showing the citizenship status of every U.S. resident through administrative records.

During Dillingham’s tenure, the Trump administration unsuccessfully tried to put a citizenship question on the 2020 census questionnaire, and the president issued two directives that advocacy groups said were part of efforts to suppress the participation of minorities and immigrants in the head count of every U.S. resident.

Trump’s first directive, issued in 2019, instructed the Census Bureau to use administrative records to figure out who is in the country illegally after the Supreme Court blocked the citizenship question. In the second directive last year, Trump instructed the Census Bureau to provide data that would allow his administration to exclude people in the U.S. illegally from the numbers used for divvying up congressional seats among the states.

An influential GOP adviser had advocated excluding them from the apportionment process in order to favor Republicans and non-Hispanic whites, even though the Constitution spells out that every person in each state should be counted. Trump’s unprecedented order on apportionment was challenged in more than a half-dozen lawsuits around the U.S., but the Supreme Court ruled last month that any challenge was premature.

Dillingham oftentimes appeared cut out of the loop on these census-related decisions made by the White House and Commerce Department, which oversees the Census Bureau. At a congressional hearing in July, Dillingham said he wasn’t informed ahead of time before Trump issued his directive on the apportionment numbers.

The pandemic and errors found in the data have forced the Census Bureau to delay releasing the numbers used to apportion congressional seats until early March.

Last week, the Department of Justice and municipalities and advocacy groups that had sued the Trump administration over the 2020 census agreed to put the lawsuit on hold for 21 days so the Biden administration can take power and decide how to proceed with the census and the litigation.

“Director Dillingham’s departure will coincide with the inauguration of President-elect Joe Biden and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris, providing the new administration the opportunity to appoint competent, ethical leadership committed to the scientific integrity of the Census Bureau,” Arturo Vargas, CEO of the National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials (NALEO) Educational Fund, said Monday.

Source: Census Bureau director to resign amid criticism over citizenship data

Blanchet’s choice to block critics on Twitter limits free speech: experts

Snowflake?

Dozens of people — including some MPs — say Bloc Québécois Leader Yves-François Blanchet has blocked them on Twitter after they criticized his statements about Transport Minister Omar Alghabra, with some arguing they have a right to be heard.

Nour El Kadri, the president of the Canadian Arab Federation who was among those blocked by Blanchet on the social media platform, said people should be able to respond to accusations made by politicians.

Last week, after Alghabra, born to a Syrian family in Saudi Arabia, was sworn in as federal transport minister, the Bloc issued a release that sought to sow doubt about his association with what it called the “political Islam movement” due to the minister’s former role as head of the Canadian Arab Federation.

El Kadri tweeted at Blanchet to say the Canadian Arab Federation has been a secular organization under its constitution since it was founded in 1967.

“(I told him) it’s secular like Quebec that you’re asking for, then he blocked me,” he said.

“He started to block other people who were voicing opposing opinions.”

On Twitter, Blanchet argued against the idea that he was robbing anyone of their right to free expression.

“When I ‘block’ people, it’s because their posts don’t interest me (fake accounts, political staff, insults …),” he wrote in French last Thursday.

“That does not prevent them from publishing them. I just won’t see them, nor they mine,” he said, adding things are calmer this way.

Richard Moon, a law professor at the University of Windsor, said it is credible to claim that Blanchet infringed the charter-guaranteed right to freedom of expression of those who can no longer see or comment on his tweets.

While Twitter is not itself subject to the charter as a private entity, Moon said, when a politician uses it as a platform to make announcements and discuss political views, the politician’s account becomes a public platform.

“To exclude someone from responding or addressing because of their political views could then be understood as a restriction on their freedom of expression,” he said.

Duff Conacher, co-founder of the pro-transparency group Democracy Watch, said Blanchet’s Twitter account is a public communication channel and he cannot decide arbitrarily to not allow voters to communicate with him there.

“Politicians are public employees, so they can’t just cut people off from seeing what they’re saying through one of their communication channels,” he said.

“The public has a right to see all their communications.”

Ottawa Mayor Jim Watson faced a lawsuit in 2018 from local activists he had blocked on Twitter. The court action was dropped after Watson conceded his account is public and unblocked everyone he had blocked, so no legal precedent was set.

Blanchet has also blocked some fellow members of Parliament, including Quebec Liberal Greg Fergus, Ontario New Democrat Matthew Green and Manitoba New Democrat Leah Gazan.

Green said he found himself blocked when he criticized Blanchet’s statements that defended the right of universities’ professors to use the N-word.

Gazan accused Blanchet last week of racism and Islamophobia over his statement about Alghabra.

“When criticized, he refuses to engage in a conversation, and a conversation he clearly needs to have around his Islamophobia,” she said.

Source: Blanchet’s choice to block critics on Twitter limits free speech: experts

What an Inclusive Recovery from the COVID-19 “Economic Firestorm” Could Look Like: Ethnic and Mainstream Media comparison

Latest overview of ethnic media coverage and mainstream comparison, showing relatively small differences:

Paid sick leave, affordable childcare, reform of the Employment Insurance system, better-quality jobs and higher minimum wage are some of the elements needed to ensure an inclusive recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic, which has hit visible minorities and immigrants the hardest, according to ethnic media coverage of the economic impacts of COVID-19.

Especially early into the pandemic, visible minorities and recent immigrants were more impacted by job losses, inability to meet financial obligations and essential needs than white Canadians and long-term immigrants or Canadian-born population, showed several studies cited in the media, as analyzed from May to December 2020.

The July Labour Force Survey (for the first time based on data disaggregated by race and visible minority status) showed that the unemployment rate was higher for South Asian, Arab, and Black Canadians, which Statistics Canada linked to higher representation of these minorities in hard-hit industries such as food services and retail. Immigrant women were also shown to be disproportionately affected by the pandemic.

Questions around lockdowns

As the second wave of the pandemic brought with it new lockdowns (Toronto and Peel region moved into lockdown on November 23, and a province-wide shutdown in Ontario has been in effect since December 26), the media gave voice to those questioning the effectiveness of such measures in places where most infections happen in industrial and essential workplace settings, like the city of Brampton.

Mayor of Brampton Patrick Brown was one of the most often cited critical voices, who called the forced closure of small businesses “tinkering around the edges.” Multiple outlets cited Brown as saying that the lockdown in Peel Region was not likely to dramatically reduce the number of new COVID-19 infections in Brampton without other supports in place: better sick benefits, an isolation centre, and better access to testing.

He stressed that staff in factories and front-line workers lose their paycheque if they do not come to work, so many are forced to choose between going to work with symptoms and making the rent payment or putting food on the table.

In late November, Brown made headlines with an appeal by a group of Greater Toronto and Hamilton Area (GTHA) mayors to the province of Ontario for sick leave benefits for front-line workers. Brampton mayor called the benefits “a missing link” in the pandemic response. As reported, the mayors also asked the provincial government to sign an agreement with employers, reassuring employees that they would not lose their jobs or their salary if they tested positive for COVID-19.

Pressure for sick days came from many sides. A widely cited September report by the researcher ICES found not only that immigrants, refugees and other newcomers accounted for a whopping 44 per cent of all COVID-19 cases in Ontario in the first half of 2020 but also that many immigrants and refugees faced systemic inequities including lower pay and precarious employment without the right to sick leave.

The systemic inequities like the fact that many essential workers cannot afford to self-isolate away from their families need to be addressed, Regional Councillor in Brampton Rowena Santos said in an interview with one of the outlets in November, calling for better access to healthcare, higher quality jobs, sick days and higher minimum wage.

In late November, the media carried a message from Health Minister Patty Hajdu, who said the federal government was working with provinces and territories on sick leave. She admitted it was necessary to have low-barrier access to Employment Insurance (EI) for those working on the front lines, and that workers can be eligible for EI with 170 hours of work.

Calls for EI reform

Problems with accessing EI, especially by underemployed workers and expectant mothers for whom the pandemic-induced job cuts meant not enough working hours to qualify for benefits, prompted calls for the reform of the outdated EI system early on.

A Workers’ Action Centre activist cited in ethnic media in August pointed to the situation of the underemployed, especially restaurant staff and people in the tourism industry, who did not have working hour guarantees in their contracts and who may not be able to obtain a record of employment to access EI when the Canada Emergency Response Benefits (CERB) end. He also pointed to self-employed workers such as Uber drivers or people working in food delivery services

“She-covery” and the importance of childcare

Women, especially racialized women, are over-represented in precarious, low-paying jobs, so the COVID-19 pandemic has had a disproportionate economic impact on them, as demonstrated by various reports cited in multiple ethnic media outlets. A September report by the Ontario Chamber of Commerce entitled “The She-Covery Project” pointed out that women’s labour participation rate had fallen to its lowest in 30 years.

Reports that female immigrants, especially working in health care, were hit especially hard by the pandemic have prompted calls for policies instituting higher pay, paid sick leave, universal childcare and eldercare, and affordable housing.

Since mothers were usually the ones losing their jobs or staying home to take care of the children during the pandemic, the central role of affordable daycare in the economic recovery plans was stressed by the media and the policymakers alike, including in a slew of December media appearances by the Minister of Families, Children and Social Development, Ahmed Hussen. Hussen promised the federal government would create a nationwide childcare program, with details to come in the spring of 2021.

“Shop local” campaign to support small businesses

The struggles of small businesses, often owned by immigrants or visible minorities, also featured strongly in ethnic media coverage, with the newest lockdowns bringing renewed fears of severe economic impacts, but few solutions in sight.

The media stressed that while small businesses like hair salons were forced to close their doors, big retailers like Amazon were allowed to operate. One of the victims of the pandemic featured in October was a Black owner of a beauty parlour who was ineligible for government support, as she had opened her salon only in 2020.

The prospects for small businesses appeared bleak yet in August. Jon Shell, managing director at Social Capital Partners and a co-founder of the Save Small Business campaign, was cited as saying that “the recovery looks like it will be very weak for local community businesses, making additional cash flow hard to come by over the rest of the year. Many will not survive.”

Patrick Brown admitted back in May that the pandemic was an “economic firestorm,” and the small stores and businesses were especially badly affected. He called on Brampton residents to support them by shopping locally and ordering take-out food from restaurants in their neighbourhoods. A similar appeal by Ontario Premier Doug Ford was aired in October. The media also reported on Ontario’s NDP Leader Andrea Horwath’s Save Main Street plan, supported by the Canadian Black Chamber of Commerce (CBCC).

The government’s commercial rent assistance program was criticized as ineffective: few landlords decided to participate, as that would have forced them to cover 25 per cent of the rent.

Coverage of other government programs addressed to small businesses was rather limited. Apart from announcements of subsequent extensions of the wage subsidy program, the Canada Emergency Business Account was mentioned only once in a collection of around 200 media clippings—in the context of the government’s recovery plan presented in early December by Minister Hussen.

Comparative analysis with mainstream media

The analysis of Toronto Star coverage was focused on the pandemic’s impact on small businesses. More than half of the articles discussing challenges faced by different types of businesses showcased those owned by immigrants and many told their stories of going through the painful process of closing down permanently.

A lot of coverage was also devoted to government measures and how businesses can access them, for example the Canada Emergency Business Account. Different polls and appeals from business advocacy groups and other stakeholders for the government to do more to help small business owners were also featured.

Like ethnic media, the paper discussed the unfair advantage during lockdown of big-box stores over small businesses. Unlike ethnic media, it also covered the spike in insurance premiums as one of the key factors that forced many businesses to shut down.

In terms of navigating the difficulties of the pandemic, the Star also presented various innovations such as ghost kitchens, a business incubator called District Ventures Kitchen, and other new approaches to doing business in food service. 

Insight from MIREMS media monitoring

Ethnic media “can be expected to become an important voice for ethnically inclusive recovery initiatives,” commented Silke Reichrath, Editor-in-Chief at MIREMS.

“The coverage showed time and again how newcomers often work in essential jobs, which makes them more susceptible to virus exposure,” she stressed. Sectors in focus that rely heavily on newcomers included the taxi industry, the hotel and tourism sector, meat processing plants, long-term care and health care.

Overall, ethnic media have kept their audiences informed about the latest public health guidelines about business openings and closures and about benefits and aid programs available from the three levels of government, Reichrath said.

“They have also raised awareness in general about how the pandemic is affecting the national and local economy, have featured charitable initiatives by the community, and have encouraged community members to support local businesses by buying local, particularly from smaller businesses,” she added.

Methodology: This ethnic media analysis is based on a selection of 200 summaries of articles and broadcast segments in radio, TV, print and web sources between May and December, 2020, with special focus on the last six months of last year. These summaries were found in 450 active ethnic media sources monitored by MIREMS. 

For mainstream media analysis, the ProQuest Databases Platform was searched using the keywords “business owners” and “COVID-19.” A total of 181 articles published in Toronto Star from July 1 to Dec. 31, 2020 were included for review.

Source: https://newcanadianmedia.ca/what-an-inclusive-recovery-from-economic-business-firestorm-of-covid-19-could-look-like/#ethnic-m

The Good and Bad of Biden’s Plan to Legalize Illegal Immigrants

Of note:

Recent news reports suggest that Joe Biden will propose a series of immigration bills for Congress to consider early in his administration. The bill with the most details reported so far would legalize the roughly 11 million illegal immigrants currently living in the United States. According to the quick news summaries of the possible bill, it is a simple legalization that would grant lawful status, the ability to earn a green card in five years, and citizenship in an additional three to virtually all illegal immigrants currently living in the United States. That is a vastly simpler and cheaper way for illegal immigrants to legalize compared to the expensive and complex schemes of earlier failed reform efforts.

The Good

The good part about this bill is that mass legalization would be very positive for the United States. The United States would benefit from quickly legalizing illegal immigrants who aren’t real criminals and putting them on a path toward permanent residency and citizenship. In the short run, many opponents of immigration will be upset, but the vast reduction in the population of illegal immigrants and their successful assimilation will reduce social perceptions of chaos and increase the perception that the government has immigration firmly under control, all long term benefits for the immigration debate and the country as a whole.

Further, the usual complaints about immigration liberalization would not apply to legalizing illegal immigrants because they are already here. The lower crime rates of illegal immigrants relative to native‐​born Americans and possibly compared to legal immigrants means that we’re not going to see a surge in crime from legalization and may even see a drop in crime as a result. Also, illegal immigrants are already working in the United States with generally higher labor force participation rates than other groups, so legalizing them won’t increase wage competition with American workers because they are already here working.

Furthermore, wages would increase for illegal immigrants after they’re legalized. Work by my former colleague Andrew Forrester and I found that illegal immigrants initially faced a hefty wage penalty of about 11.3 percent relative to legal immigrants during the 1995–2017 period. Although illegal immigrant wages did converge with legal immigrants during that time, and more recent illegal immigrants entered with lower wages penalty than those that came in the past, legalization would hasten illegal immigrant and overall immigrant wage convergence with native‐​born Americans.

The bigger potential effects could be on the government’s finances. Illegal immigrants have limited access to few means‐​tested welfare programs but they already have access to public education. Legalization will increase their access to these programs once they naturalize, but it won’t increase their access to the most expensive outlays like public education. At the same time, their wages will also increase due to legalization and their U.S.-born children will have much higher levels of education and, thus, will likely pay more in taxes than receive in benefits. Therefore, it’s unclear what the net‐​fiscal impact would be and it depends on the time‐​horizon for analyzing those effects.

The good political part of this bill is that Democrats are finally playing hardball on immigration as they will not be presenting legislation already laden with compromised positions. Instead, they will start with a cleaner and simpler bill and then ask what other senators and congressmen need to get on board, which will no doubt be a lot of expensive security signaling along the border. Also, Democrats have finally learned that any pro‐​immigration piece of legislation that they introduce will immediately be called “amnesty” by its opponents, so there isn’t a political downside to introducing a real amnesty. After all, what are proponents going to say? “This time it’s a REAL amnesty” doesn’t carry the same weight.

The Bad

The policy downside of this bill is huge because it has no chance of becoming law in its current reported form. Moderate Democrats like Senators Joe Manchin and Kyrsten Sinema aren’t likely to support it, to say nothing of the ten Republican senators necessary to pass it. A more moderate legalization is obviously better than no legalization at all. One lesson I’ve learned over the years is that we should be less strategic when thinking about immigration reform – if there is an opportunity to legalize some people or expand legal immigration then pro‐​immigration politicians must seize it at that moment rather than trying to think of how doing so makes passing other immigration reforms more difficult. Nobody knows the answer to the long term political consequences, they never have, and we should all stop pretending that we do and instead support policies that we know will be good when we can.

If the hypothesized Biden bill fails then it would also open up other possibilities. Politically, it would be a marker bill that shows where the Democratic Party stands and would be a starting point for future negotiations. That probably doesn’t have much value, but that’s the conventional strategic wisdom that I just told you to disregard in the previous paragraph.

More important is that a failure to legalize illegal immigrants in Congress will give more of a political justification for a Biden administration to take sweeping executive actions to legalize all illegal immigrants by granting them Temporary Protected Status (TPS). Under current statute, a president has the power to grant TPS to any immigrant in the United States if their home country faces a disaster.

Importantly, the statute explicitly mentions “epidemic” as such a disaster, and since all countries are suffering from COVID-19, then‐​President Biden could grant all illegal immigrants TPS. Immigration attorney and former deputy assistant attorney general for the Office of Immigration Litigation at the U.S. Department of Justice’s civil division Leon Fresco thinks this will be legally sound, and he’s probably correct. A universal grant of TPS could be undone by a future president but, at minimum, it would allow some current illegal immigrants to adjust their status to a green card and thus shrink the pool of illegal immigrants.

The major structural legal change to the immigration system under Trump is that the President now has the power to stop all legal immigration from abroad for any reason. The failure of the immigration legalization bill in Congress would allow Biden to test the power of the president to at least legalize illegal immigrants using broad existing statutory authority. Beyond that, there are many smaller actions that Biden could follow that will reduce the illegal immigrant population as detailed here by my colleague David Bier. No president should be making policy by executive decree but no president is likely to give up the power that Congress unwisely granted it, so you should expect many executive and agency actions from Biden here.

Other Legalization Ideas that Congress Should Consider

There are many ways to legalize illegal immigrants. One reform that should be included in the bill regardless of anything else is a rolling legalization that would allow long‐​term illegal immigrant residents and lawful residents without green cards to be granted green cards on an ongoing basis without an application cutoff date and based entirely on how long they’ve resided here without committing any crimes. We proposed just such a reform here based on a portion of British immigration law. This will reduce the potential for the illegal immigrant population to grow in the future.

Another way is to create a tiered legalization system that lets illegal immigrants choose whether they want to be a temporary resident, a quasi‐​permanent resident, or be on a pathway toward citizenship. The less‐​permanent means to reside here should be easier to acquire while the path toward citizenship should be harder. As evidenced by the Reagan amnesty, only 41 percent of the illegal immigrants who got a green card decided to naturalize. There’s no reason to make most current illegal immigrants who don’t want citizenship to be on that track. This proposal is less positive than legalizing all non‐​violent illegal immigrants but will likely be closer to what eventually becomes law.

Beyond legalizing illegal immigrants, the best way to guarantee that the reduction in illegal immigration that an amnesty would accomplish won’t be undone by future waves of illegal immigration is to increase lawful immigration. There’s little evidence that amnesties attract illegal immigrants. The overwhelming evidence is that expanding legal immigration reduces illegal immigration. From 2000–2018, a 1 percent increase in the number of H-2 visas for Mexicans is associated with a 1.04 percent decline in the number of Mexican illegal immigrants apprehended by Border Patrol – a finding that is statistically significant at the 1 percent level. Even nativists agree that legal immigration decreases illegal immigration. Channeling potential illegal immigrants into the legal immigration system will do the most to reduce illegal immigrant inflows in the future that will guarantee that the stock of illegal immigrants doesn’t grow.

The Biden administration has a lot of work ahead of it to undo the large number of immigration executive actions implemented by the Trump administration. Much of that work won’t earn headlines but it will be important for creating a better immigration system. On top of that, it’s heartening to see the Biden administration getting ready to hit the ground running even if their first bill has virtually no chance of becoming law as it is currently envisioned.

Source: The Good and Bad of Biden’s Plan to Legalize Illegal Immigrants

McCuaig-Johnston: We thought China could become more democratic. Instead, it is becoming totalitarian

Good commentary:

China’s regime is often called authoritarian.  It certainly has been that under Xi Jinping.  But its recent programs of surveillance and repression show the characteristics of a totalitarian state, with technologies of which Hitler and Mussolini could only dream.

This is shocking given the expectation that decades of economic reform would bring liberalization and some democratic attributes. But Xi has turned his ship of state around. In the Economist’s 2019 Democracy Index, China’s regression resulted in a fall of 23 places in the ranking in one year. It is now near the bottom, below Iran, at 153 out of 167 countries.

An attribute of totalitarian states is a single party, intolerant of differing opinions and controlling citizens’ lives. The Chinese Communist Party is exactly that, injecting itself into the justice system whenever it wishes. Its Social Credit System monitors all WeChat and Weibo exchanges through algorithms that identify those discussing June 4 or May 35, which mean the Tiananmen massacre, or referring to Winnie the Pooh, whose walk is similar to Xi’s. Not taking out the garbage, paying your loans late, getting traffic violations and not adhering to birth control regulations will also give you a bad social credit score. Chinese can lose their jobs or the right to send their child to a good school. Tens of millions have not been permitted to fly or take trains due to their low scores. Citizens understandably fear the blacklists and are self-censoring, which is what the regime wants.

Corporate Social Credit System now applies to domestic and foreign companies and organizations operating in China. If they do not comply fully with every regulation or if they speak out against government policies, the company will not have access to grants, procurement contracts, land or lower taxes. If their employees or suppliers have poor scores, the company is punished. Both credit systems will be tightened over time, and party committees in each company ensure that corporate decisions advance the party’s interests.

Another attribute of totalitarianism is a guiding ideology. In China, that is Xi Jinping Thought, a three-volume book that each citizen must study on an app that knows when they are scrolling through quickly without looking.

Totalitarian regimes have low tolerance of religions, and we have seen this in Tibet and Xinjiang incarcerations, mass sterilization, voice pattern telephone surveillance and forced labour that implicates the foreign firms for whom the products are made. Uyghurs able to return home are assigned a young Han man or woman to live in their house to ensure that they and their children are speaking Mandarin and not practising their religion. In a nod to 1984, they are called Big Brother and Big Sister, and the Han in this “family program” are encouraged to marry Uyghurs to thin the genetic stream.

Christian churches have had their crosses torn down, Xi’s photo and Xi Jinping Thought placed prominently in sanctuaries, and senior appointments approved by the party. House churches are regularly closed and clergy incarcerated.

Citizens speaking out on issues such as free speech, environmental degradation, and expropriation without compensation have been subjected to daily interrogations in a metal tiger chair with wrists and ankles in vises, often in freezing conditions.

Hundreds of thousands of websites have been shut down for inappropriate content, particularly regarding Xi and the party. The Great Firewall is thickening, VPNs have been banned, and party control of all media ensures that citizens see themselves as ruled by a benevolent leader. Those who could pose competition to Xi’s leadership have been imprisoned under cover of his anti-corruption campaign.

Hong Kong’s democratic leadership has been arrested en masse, and recently citizens found they were no longer able to access certain websites. Under the National Security Law, the government can force websites to remove any information that could “endanger national security.” Schoolbooks are being edited and teachers’ roles circumscribed. It is possible that Kong Kong could see even more repression as the regime uses its tools of surveillance to quash any thought of independence.

In the ultimate measure of extraterritorial control, the National Security Law provides that any person who speaks out against the Chinese regime anywhere in the world can be extradited and prosecuted in China. Two Danish politicians were recently named for extradition for helping a former Hong Kong legislator seek asylum in Denmark. Fortunately, Denmark does not have an extradition agreement with China, nor does Canada – but many do. Members of the Chinese diaspora are threatened with harm to their relatives in China to prevent them from criticizing the regime.

We must call China as it is: an emerging totalitarian regime with no regard for rights. Western democracies have been meeting to decide how to push back collectively against China’s actions. Our governments must now deal with China as it really is, not as they wish it were.

Margaret McCuaig-Johnston is Senior Fellow, Institute of Science, Society and Policy at the University of Ottawa.

Source: https://ottawacitizen.com/opinion/mccuaig-johnston-we-thought-china-could-become-more-democratic-instead-it-is-becoming-totalitarian

ICYMI: International students frustrated by federal work limits during pandemic

Understandable frustration but students are here foremost to study:

Pooria Behrouzy was honoured to be offered a full-time job as a COVID-19 vaccine support worker at Trillium Health Partners last month.

The international student in health informatics at George Brown College was already on staff at the Mississauga, Ont., hospital network after working on an IT project, and he was eager to contribute to the rollout of the vaccine that’s brought hope during the pandemic’s increasingly grim second wave.

But a roadblock stopped Behrouzy from accepting the full-time shifts offered: as an international student, he can only work a maximum of 20 hours per week while classes are in session or he risks losing his study permit and legal status in Canada.

Behrouzy, who is now working part time at the hospital, said it’s disappointing that he can’t contribute fully.

“I can work and I can help against this COVID … why (am I) not able to do that?” said the 42-year-old, who is from Iran. “It’s very sad that I’m not fully available.”

His colleague Passang Yugyel Tenzin had a similar experience.

Tenzin, a 26-year-old graduate of health informatics currently studying in another IT program, was working on the same project at the hospital as Behrouzy before he received an offer to work on the vaccine support team as well.

The non-medical role involves providing scheduling support to ensure all available doses are administered and other administrative tasks that keep the process running smoothly.

Tenzin, who is from Bhutan, signed on for the job in a part-time capacity but noted that the 20-hour limit would make scheduling 12-hour shifts a challenge.

Working full time would be beneficial for his own education and for the health-care system that’s struggling to keep up with skyrocketing COVID-19 infections, vaccinations and other important services, he said.

“We can learn more and on top of that, we can contribute more to this situation currently, because they actually need a lot of people,” Tenzin said in a phone interview.

“We can contribute a lot if we were given the opportunity to work full time.”

Ottawa temporarily lifted the restriction on international students’ work hours last April, saying the change was aimed at easing the staffing crunch in health care and other essential workplaces.

The measure expired on Aug. 31, 2020, and has not been reinstated.

The press secretary for the office of the federal immigration minister said the government is grateful for the role newcomers have played in Canada’s pandemic response.

“As more students returned to regular studies in the fall of 2020, the work hour restriction was reinstated at the request of provinces, territories and educational institutions, due to concerns about students working full time while also completing a full course load,” Alexander Cohen said in a statement.

Behrouzy said he doesn’t understand why the limit on work hours was reinstated while the pandemic is still ongoing and hospitals need more support than ever.

“I’m available to work and all the schools, the universities and colleges are remote now, so why not extend this exception again?” he said. “It’s really disappointing.”

Trillium Health Partners said in a statement that it’s continually assessing staffing needs at its COVID-19 vaccine clinics, and international students currently work on its vaccine team in administrative functions.

“THP supports and accommodates international students within the federal government requirements,” it said.

Sarom Rho, who leads the Migrant Students United campaign with the Migrant Workers Alliance for Change, said the pandemic is an opportunity to ditch the restriction on work hours that advocates have long fought to remove.

Rho said she’s spoken with students in other health-care fields like nursing who are also eager to work more but are hindered by the limit on their hours.

“This kind of unfairness is totally based on status,” Rho said.

“The fact that they are migrants is what is causing the limitation and the restrictions of how they can work, where they can work and when they can work, and how that work will be valued.”

Migrant Students United also wants Ottawa to make work hours done in essential jobs count towards permanent residency applications. Rho said it’s time to consider how work done by people on study permits is valued in Canada.

“Respecting the labour is fundamental,” she said.

Source: International students frustrated by federal work limits during pandemic

Impact of Covid-19 on Immigration to Canada – Working Deck – Full November 2020 data

Shout out to IRCC for releasing all the November data to allow for this comprehensive November portrait.

Highlights:

  • Overall, numbers of permanent residents, temporary residents and students remained flat compared to October;
  • Permanent resident admissions three times more than temporary residents and twice more than students April to November 2020/19;
  • Applications for permanent residency and study permits declined by over 60 percent April to November 2020/19;
  • Permanent Residents: A large proportion of admissions are from previous temporary residents, particularly those in the Post-graduate work program;
  • Temporary Residents IMP mainly Canadian interests, mainly the post-graduate work program;
  • Temporary Residents TFWP, small increase driven by agriculture works;
  • Citizenship decline of over 70 percent April to November 2020/19;
  • Visitor visa virtual shutdown, 96 percent decline April to November 2020/19

This data, and the ongoing nature of COVID waves, travel restrictions and expect vaccination roll-out make the government’s planned immigration levels of 401,000 in 2021 and possibly 411,000 in 2022 increasingly unlikely.

The fourth wave of international student mobility

Of note, the possible implications on the relative attractiveness of Canada as a destination given reforms in the UK and expect reforms in the USA by the Biden administration:

International student mobility is shaped by a complex interplay of national contexts, external factors, institutional characteristics and individual preferences. The enormous impact of external factors has shaped the recent patterns of global talent mobility. 

The framework of ‘three waves of international student mobility’ analyses how external events have influenced the choices and preferences of globally mobile students. 

Wave I was shaped by the terrorist attacks of 2001, resulting in the United States losing its attractiveness as a country for international students to alternative destinations such as Australia, Canada and the United Kingdom.

Wave II was triggered by the global financial recession in 2008 and prompted many US universities to become proactive in recruiting international students. 

A new political order defined wave III in 2016 in the wake of Brexit and the American presidential election. In particular, anti-immigrant rhetoric and policies in the US created many perceptual and real barriers for higher education institutions in attracting global talent.

Now, COVID-19 is impacting global higher education systems around the world and erecting new barriers for student mobility. At the same time, the future of the US and the UK visa and immigration policies may become more welcoming compared to the previous four years. This confluence of COVID-19 uncertainty and political reset suggests we are at the beginning of the fourth wave of international mobility. 

The confluence of factors shaping the fourth wave

The pandemic-induced economic uncertainty is reshaping prospective students’ journeys and prompting the consideration of alternatives. 

According to the Graduate Management Admission Council survey of prospective international students considering enrolling in a graduate management programme in 2021, two out of three (71%) were not changing their original plans. 

However, 17% were willing to consider a business school closer to home and 14% were willing to adopt online learning. This data suggests a potential rise in regional mobility and the adoption of online or even blended learning models for a segment of prospective international students. 

In addition, the political landscape in the US is likely to shift perceptions and hence the considerations of prospective international students. A pre-election poll of prospective international students (non-US citizens) suggests that Joe Biden’s election as US president could create a segment of prospective candidates to consider the US more favourably. 

A quarter of respondents (24%) in the poll indicated that they are more likely to pursue graduate management education in the US if Biden is elected president.

In the UK, European Union students who start a new course after August 2021 will no longer be eligible for home fee status. In its efforts to continue to attract global talent, the UK government is creating pathways for education and work with a points-based immigration system. The new system will treat EU and non-EU citizens equally. 

Specifically, the Graduate Route will allow international students to remain in the UK and work at any skill level for two years after completing their studies. By contrast, in 2012, the UK had eliminated post-study work rights, which hurt its competitiveness as a destination for a segment of international students seeking career opportunities as a part of their motivation to study abroad.

New directions for international student mobility

The visa and immigration policy changes in the US and the UK are likely to become more welcoming over time. This shift is a reversal from what triggered the third wave in 2016. 

Prospective international students may consider these destinations more favourably and, as a result, this may have a ripple effect, intensifying the competition for international student recruitment. 

In sum, COVID-19 uncertainty, coupled with political changes in the US and the UK, suggest the beginning of the fourth wave of international mobility. While COVID-19 is decelerating student mobility, new visa and immigration policies in the top two international student destinations may accelerate mobility towards the US and the UK. 

From prospective students’ perspective, this changing context could influence their preferences and journeys. In this context, it is even more critical for higher education institutions to monitor and track the shifting landscape and double-down on attracting and retaining global talent. 

Dr Rahul Choudaha is a higher education analyst based in the Washington DC area in the United States. He is a director at the Graduate Management Admission Council, an association of leading business schools. As a subject matter expert on mobility trends, student choices and enrolment strategies, Choudaha has delivered over 150 conference presentations and has been quoted over 300 times in global media.

Source: https://www.universityworldnews.com/post-nl.php?story=20210111083621946

Rejection letter ESDC sent to Black organizations ‘completely unacceptable’: Hussen

Oops!

Several Black organizations were denied federal funding through a program designed to help such groups build capacity — after Employment and Social Development Canada told them their leadership was not sufficiently Black.

Velma Morgan, the chair of Operation Black Vote, said her group received an email from the department on Tuesday saying their application did not show “the organization is led and governed by people who self-identify as Black.”

The department sent a second email the next day, saying their applications were not approved because it did not receive “the information required to move forward,” she said.

“As if we’re incompetent or foolish and we’re going to believe the second email over the original email,” Morgan said in an interview with The Canadian Press.

She said Operation Black Vote, a not-for-profit, multi-partisan organization that aims to get more Black people elected at all levels of government, is one of at least five Black organizations that were not approved for funding.

The program, called the Supporting Black Canadian Communities Initiative, provides funding to Canadian Black-led non-profit and charitable organizations to help them build capacity. The applications guidelines say at least two-thirds of the leadership and the governance structure must be people who self-identify as Black. The mandate of the organization must also be focused on serving Black communities.

Morgan said everyone on her team is Black. She also said the other organizations she knows about should also not have been rejected for the reason outlined in the first letter.

“If you’re from the Black community, you know that they’re Black-run and Black-focused,” she said.

Social Development Minister Ahmed Hussen said the initial letter his department sent to unsuccessful applicants was “completely unacceptable” and that he demanded a retraction as soon as he saw it.

In a thread on Twitter Thursday night, Hussen said he discussed with his department’s officials how such a mistake could have happened and implemented measures to make sure it does not happen again.

“I will continue to work with Black Canadian organizations to improve our systems,” said Hussen, who also mentioned the systemic barriers he has faced as Black person.

The department has not yet responded to a request for comment.

Morgan said the Liberal government should hire more Black people to sit at every decision-making table.

“This is an example of what happens when we don’t have representation,” Morgan said.

The Ontario Black History Society, a registered charity dedicated to study, preservation and promotion of Black history and heritage, is one of the groups that received both letters and had its application rejected. In an emailed statement, the organization said ESDC did not provide any reasons for why they were declined outside the two letters.

Former MP Celina Caesar-Chavannes, who left the Liberal caucus several months before the 2019 election to sit as an Independent, said many of the organizations she knows did not receive funding do not want to say anything publicly. She said they are worried speaking out will lead to the government denying them other funding chances.

“Why should these organizations be afraid of trying to speak up when something goes wrong?” said Caesar-Chavannes, who posted copies of the ESDC letters to Twitter after receiving them from the organizations that had received them.

“That’s the problem with how the government operates.”

Morgan said the letter also came after months of waiting, as her organization applied to get support to purchase equipment and retrofit its facilities in June. She said organizations were told they would get an answer in September but did not hear back until this week when they received the first letter.

“We hardly get any money from the government at all,” she said, while adding the rejection will not affect her group’s ability to operate.

“There are organizations that work with the most vulnerable in our community in terms of mental health or poverty, and those are the kinds of organizations that need the capacity funding.”

Caesar-Chavannes said that the number of organizations that contacted her has grown since she posted about the issue on Twitter.

“It’s dehumanizing that we have to keep proving (our Blackness.) How many different hurdles that we have to jump through?” she said.

Source: Rejection letter ESDC sent to Black organizations ‘completely unacceptable’: Hussen