Australia: Foreign student enrolments 210,000 lower than expected

Steeper drop than in Canada (92,000 fewer international students, or 28 per cent):

Australia’s universities have enrolled 210,000 fewer international students this year than expected, with the loss of AU$1.8 billion (US$1.4 billion) in income. More than 17,000 jobs have already disappeared from campuses across the higher education sector.

To put the figure in context, according to government data, there were 442,000 international student enrolments in higher education in Australia in 2019, the latest figure available.

But Federal Education Minister Alan Tudge believes Australia’s COVID-19 vaccine rollout could pave the way to boost its intake of international students as early as the start of next year.

Tudge told a conference that Australia’s lucrative international student market could be given a much-needed boost by February 2022.

“With the vaccine rollout under way, I am increasingly hopeful that student arrivals in larger numbers will occur by semester one of next year,” Tudge said.

“We are looking forward to welcoming back international students who remain overseas, and we thank them for their patience to date.

“I hope they appreciate that we have closed the borders for a very good reason.” 

Tudge also raised the possibility of individual universities bringing international students to Australia this year if the nation’s chief health officers agreed and safe quarantine quarters were provided.

Billion-dollar market collapses

Australia’s AU$10 billion (US$7.6 billion) international student market collapsed after the federal government closed the nation’s international borders at the beginning of the pandemic.

Tudge claimed enrolments of foreign students at the end of 2020 were only down 7% on 2019, although universities estimate 140,000 students have since been stranded overseas.

Whoever is correct, the fact is that Australia has 210,000 fewer international student enrolments this year than would otherwise have been expected.

Universities Australia, the nation’s representative body, has released data showing the university sector had lost AU$1.8 billion in income from foreign students last year, with at least 17,000 jobs on campuses across the nation having disappeared.

Bringing students back

“Of course, there is still the opportunity to bring students back in small, phased pilots,” Tudge said.

“This could occur if an institution works with the state or territory government and presents a plan to us for quarantining international students.”

But he warned that university plans to bring more foreign students into the country would have to be approved by the chief health officer of each state or territory.

“There must also be quarantine space available above and beyond that presently used for returning Australians.”

Tudge has discussed various plans with state government and university leaders but to date has not received any concrete proposals.

He said he hoped the federal government would have a clearer idea later this year as to when international borders would re-open.

“We are expecting more clarity on these issues by mid-year, at which time we should be more certain on border openings,” he said.

No large numbers returning

Tudge believes it is unlikely that foreign students will be allowed to return in large numbers until 2022, although universities may be able to enrol limited numbers of students from overseas.

He admits the strong growth in onshore international student numbers in recent years was unsustainable, and universities need to rethink this business model. 

Specifically: Australia must “rethink the on-campus business model of international education, and more broadly the international education strategy for the nation as a whole”.

“By using international student fees to fund research, universities have undermined the learning experience of domestic students and failed to address skills shortages,” Tudge said.

Narrow focus on management

He noted that half of all international students were enrolled in management and commerce, which were not experiencing skills shortages in Australia.

Instead, the nation’s universities should look towards online rather than onshore education, Tudge said.

“This incredible growth has been good for our economy, but even before COVID hit, strains were appearing and the continued rate of growth of on-campus enrolments was not sustainable in my view.” 

Tudge said this was particularly true for the public universities, institutions which had “a broader mandate”. 

“Having up to 60% of a classroom with international students from just one or two other countries is not optimising the Australian student experience – or the international student experience,” he said.

“Can we use levers, including migration levers, to encourage more students to study in the areas where we know we have shortages?” he asked.

Source: https://www.universityworldnews.com/post-nl.php?story=20210409131414835

A new Windrush is in the making. Its victims are the most vulnerable of young people

Of note:

Three years on, the individual tales of Windrush injustice still have the power to catch my breath. Men and women who moved to Britain as children decades ago, who found themselves banished from the UK for the remainder of their life after a holiday abroad, wrongfully arrested, detained and threatened with deportation, and denied life-saving care on the NHS. So many stories of the British state ruining black lives, but one stands out for its exquisite cruelty: that of Jay, the son of a Windrush immigrant.

Jay was born in the UK and taken into care as a baby. When he applied for a passport as a teenager he was told he did not have enough information about the status of his estranged mother. After his third unsuccessful application, the Home Office threatened to deport him to Jamaica and forced him to declare himself stateless. He was only able to secure a passport years later, after the Windrush scandal broke and his case received significant media attention.

Source: A new Windrush is in the making. Its victims are the most vulnerable of young people

COVID-19 and essential workers at risk, some examples

Two classic cases, where private companies and weak government regulators have failed to protect workers from COVID-19 (largely immigrants, visible minorities or temporary workers), and the Ontario and Alberta governments only belatedly addressing risk in workplaces through vaccination of workers. Older stories, haven’t seen many updates:

Amazon Brampton Warehouse

An Amazon warehouse that was ordered to shut down last week due to a major COVID-19 outbreak is also being investigated for potential labour violations, the Ontario government said Monday.

A spokesman for the Ministry of Labour said the investigation was already underway when the local public health unit ordered thousands of workers at the Brampton, Ont., facility on Friday to isolate for two weeks,

“We continue to work closely with Peel Public Health and others to provide support, advice and enforcement as needed to ensure the health and safety of Ontario’s workers,” Harry Godfrey said in a statement.

Godfrey noted that penalties for labour violations could be as high as $1.5 million or imprisonment. He said the government would not hesitate to hold employers accountable if they fail to keep their employees safe.

Peel Region’s top doctor said the outbreak at the Amazon facility, which employs approximately 5,000 workers, began in October and has since been linked to more than 600 cases.

Dr. Lawrence Loh said nearly half of the cases were detected in the last few weeks, prompting the public health unit to issue a special order requiring the workers to self-isolate for two weeks starting March 13.

Workers were ordered to isolate until March 27 unless they’ve tested positive for COVID-19 in the last 90 days and have already completed their isolation period for that infection.

Amazon Canada said workers would be paid during the 14-day quarantine, but it disputed the data being used to support the plant closure, pointing to a round of tests that recently came back with a positivity rate of less than one per cent. It has said it plans to appeal the decision.

Peel Public Health said the closure will give the company further time to consider additional operational changes that may help prevent outbreaks in future.

The Ministry of Labour said its inspectors had visited the site 12 times and issued eight orders since March 2020.

Gagandeep Kaur, an organizer with Brampton-based Warehouse Workers Centre that advocates for workers’ rights in the sector, said conditions had been getting worse in the facility for months. She said workers “were kind of surprised” that it took so long for public health to get involved and force the shutdown.

Kaur said people reported that safety precautions like physical distancing have been impossible to maintain inside, especially as workers rushed to meet strict productivity targets.

She said workers are now concerned that they will be asked to push themselves harder once they return from quarantine.

“They are not at home right now enjoying this two week vacation,” Kaur said by phone. “They are more worried that once they are back … management might put higher targets for them to reach.”

Kaur said the pressures of the warehouse workplace, where employees’ time on floor is constantly measured and tracked, created safety issues before the pandemic. Those challenges only increased with the viral threat that also coincided with more hiring, and greater demands as more people relied on the delivery service.

She said the company should use the two-week shutdown to implement changes at the plant such as further separating work stations and reducing performance targets as workers are dealing with the added stress of the pandemic.

“Amazon must use it wisely,” she said of the shutdown. “Maybe implementing those changes inside the facility that will make the work safer so that we don’t end up with this crisis again.”

Last month, labour inspectors carried out a “blitz” operation on the warehouses and distribution centres in Peel Region – a COVID-19 hot spot with a high number of outbreaks in workplaces.

About 200 inspections took place and 26 tickets were issued, according the Ministry of Labour.

Source: https://www.cp24.com/mobile/news/ontario-labour-ministry-investigating-brampton-amazon-site-ordered-to-shut-down-over-outbreak-1.5348106?cache=

Alberta Olymel meat packing

Slaughterhouses. Meat packing. Sick and dead employees. The pandemic has sharpened our vision about a lot of things.

Such as: the workers who are key to making sure Canadians have plenty of steaks, hamburger, and bacon on the menu have become about as disposable as paper plates. This became more than evident over the past month as hundreds of workers in yet another meat packing plant in Alberta became infected with COVID-19.

Three employees have died. The first to die was 35-year-old Darwin Doloque, a recent immigrant from the Philippines who was found dead in his home at the end of January. 

At that point it was clear that infection was spreading among the 1,850 women and men at the Olymel slaughterhouse and pork processing plant in Red Deer. And yet neither government nor public health officials moved to it shut down.

It was only in mid-February after public pressure from the Union of Food and Commercial Workers, which represents the employees, that Olymel management decided to shut down for two weeks. Workers were laid off without pay and advised to apply for Employment Insurance so the government could pick up the bill.

And lest you think Olymel is owned by a U.S. or Brazilian mega-meat packer, it is not. It is a division of Quebec-based Sollio Cooperative Group, Canada’s largest agriculture co-op, which last year reaped $8.1 billion in revenue. Besides being the biggest pork and poultry producer in Canada, Olymel exports to China, Japan, South Korea and Australia.

Most of the workers at the Red Deer plant — midway between Calgary and Edmonton — are recent immigrants, refugees, or temporary foreign workers. They come from Sudan, Guatemala, the Philippines, Mexico, and Dominican Republic and usually don’t speak English. 

It’s the same story at most large slaughterhouses/meat packing plants because it is bloody, back breaking, and dangerous work that only people with limited employment options are willing to take. 

For most of us working at a job site where 45,000 hogs a week are killed is beyond imagination. But that is par for the course at the Olymel plant. Every week, the pigs just keep coming from hog farming operations in Alberta and Saskatchewan, which need to keep those pigs moving if they are to be profitable. They do not want processing plants to close down because it hits them right on the bottom line. 

So workers are pushed to keep working even after a quarter of them have been infected with the coronavirus; even though the majority of those workers have jobs outside the plant and could spread the virus in the larger community.

The COVID-19 outbreak at Olymel and the subsequent inaction on the part of government, public health officials, and plant management could be better understood if we were in the beginning stages of the pandemic and those in charge were still trying to figure out what to do about workplace outbreaks.

But this is hardly the case. In Alberta alone during the past year we have seen serious outbreaks in eight meat packing facilities.

In April, the Cargill plant in High River (owned by a U.S. mega-meat packer) had a total of 950 cases among 2,000 employees, the worst COVID-19 outbreak in Canada. Three people died, dozens were hospitalized. 

In the U.S, 50,000 meat packing workers were infected, and about 250 died. Communities around those facilities had some of the highest infection rates in the country. 

This was all known long before the outbreak at Olymel. The U.S Congress has launched an investigation into how the meat packing industry responded to the pandemic.

In Alberta, both Rachel Notley, leader of the official opposition, and the Alberta Federation of Labour have called for a public inquiry into the Alberta government’s handling of the outbreak at the Olymel plant. 

A public inquiry takes time but given the repeated performance of government agencies and meat packing companies during the pandemic we need to know more about why so many people became infected and died so it won’t happen again. 

In the meantime Olymel is re-opening the Red Deer plant and calling back workers. Bacon anyone?

Source: https://www.thestar.com/opinion/contributors/2021/03/08/alberta-is-still-not-protecting-its-meat-packing-workers.html 

Lisée: Éloge de la pénurie de main-d’oeuvre

A contrarian view to what appears to be the general consensus in English Canada in favour of increased immigration:

On l’entend déjà, la musique de la pénurie de main-d’œuvre, avant même que la pandémie nous tourne le dos. On l’entend dans les questions posées par la cheffe libérale. Dans les déclarations patronales, chez quelques économistes et chroniqueurs. Il manque tellement de main-d’œuvre dans tellement de secteurs, va le refrain, qu’il faut de suite doubler, tripler, quadrupler l’immigration.

Si seulement on faisait venir 30 000 infirmières, on réglerait notre problème ! Mais 30 000, réparties sur le territoire, c’est l’équivalent de la population de Chambly. Les enfants de ces infirmières vont exacerber la pénurie d’enseignants, non ? Qu’à cela ne tienne. Faisons venir 30 000 enseignants. Mais ne devra-t-on pas bâtir des maisons pour loger ces 60 000 nouveaux Québécois ? Ce qui va accroître la pénurie dans la construction. D’accord pour ajouter 30 000 ouvriers (ne pas oublier les soudeurs). Mais on a maintenant dépassé la population totale de Repentigny. On vient d’aggraver la pénurie dans le secteur manufacturier, dans les technologies de l’information, dans les transports. Bon, je pense que vous saisissez. Une méta-étude (Longhi et coll.) montre qu’il faut 49 salariés pour répondre aux besoins générés par 50 nouveaux citoyens. Il en reste un, un seul, pour pourvoir un emploi jusque-là vacant. Ma calculatrice est formelle : en suivant cette équation, pour pourvoir par l’immigration les 150 000 postes vacants au Québec, il faudrait 7,5 millions d’immigrants.

Qu’on me permette de citer un de nos plus brillants économistes, Carlos Leitão : « Pour la pénurie de main-d’œuvre, la solution numéro un reste la formation de la main-d’œuvre. On peut toujours aller chercher des immigrants dans des domaines spécialisés, mais l’immigration ne réglera pas la pénurie de main-d’œuvre de façon générale. » Je note qu’il n’a pas répété cette vérité scientifique depuis qu’il a rejoint le Parti libéral du Québec.

L’immigration est un excellent moyen pour faire grossir l’économie en soi (mais pas pour enrichir les citoyens en moyenne), pour tirer légèrement les salaires vers le bas (un grand objectif patronal), pour montrer de la solidarité internationale. Dans une société dont la langue est en déclin rapide, une immigration de langue étrangère est un accélérateur, plutôt qu’un frein, de la chute.

Ce dont on parle trop peu, par contre, ce sont les avantages de la pénurie de main-d’œuvre.

Les salaires montent. Lorsque le chômage était à 8 %, en 2010, l’augmentation réelle des salaires ne fut que d’un demi pour cent. Dix ans plus tard, avec un chômage à 5 %, les salaires réels ont crû de 5 %, un record. La pénurie de main-d’œuvre renverse le rapport de force patrons-salariés en faveur des salariés. Une bonne chose.

N’avez-vous pas été frappés par le fait que plus de 10 000 Québécois ont répondu présents à une offre d’aller changer des couches d’aînés lorsqu’on leur a promis 26 $ l’heure ?

La pauvreté recule. En 2010 il y avait 365 000 adultes prestataires de l’aide sociale. Dix ans plus tard, ils ne sont plus que 130 000, une réduction sensationnelle des deux tiers, et dont seulement 83 000 ne présentant aucune contrainte à l’emploi. Du jamais vu. Et une preuve que lorsque les emplois sont disponibles et que les salaires montent, les assistés sociaux ne demandent pas mieux que d’aller au boulot. Cela a des conséquences sur la sortie de la pauvreté. Le nombre de Québécois à faible revenu (mesure du panier de consommation) est passé de 975 000 en 2006 à 705 000 en 2016, une réduction de près de 30 %.

La pénurie contribue à un cercle vertueux : moins de pauvreté signifie moins de problèmes de santé générés par cette pauvreté, moins de coûts sociaux, plus d’activité économique, plus de rentrées fiscales pour l’État, donc pour les dépenses publiques.

La discrimination à l’embauche recule. Il y a une décennie, le taux de chômage des immigrants arrivés chez nous depuis 5 à 10 ans était près du double (15 %) de celui des natifs québécois (8 %). Désormais à 6,1 %, ce taux s’approche de celui des natifs, à 4,5 %. C’est facile à comprendre : lorsqu’il y a des Mohammed et des Jean-Jacques dans les CV examinés, c’est Jean-Jacques qui gagne. Mais s’il n’y a plus que des Mohammed, le plus obtus des employeurs devra finir par l’appeler. Merci qui ? Merci la pénurie !

Elle fait aussi en sorte que les employeurs se tournent plus volontiers vers des salariés en situation de handicap, vers les programmes d’insertion de décrocheurs. Aucune politique d’insertion sociale n’est plus efficace que la pénurie. Aucune.

La productivité augmente. La clé de notre richesse collective repose sur notre capacité à augmenter la productivité par heure travaillée. Depuis des décennies, Québec cherche avec un succès mitigé à pousser nos PME à innover, à améliorer l’outil de travail, à hausser le niveau de formation des salariés. Longtemps, l’existence d’une main-d’œuvre abondante et à bon marché a nourri chez ces employeurs une désolante paresse. Mais s’il manque désormais d’employés pour répondre aux commandes, que font-ils ? Ils doivent se résoudre à automatiser, à robotiser, à former les salariés pour opérer ces technologies. Et puisque ces nouveaux procédés sont plus verts, ils contribuent à notre combat contre le réchauffement climatique. Aucune politique publique d’innovation n’est aussi efficace que la pénurie de main-d’œuvre.

On rattrape l’Ontario. C’est l’obsession de François Legault. Faire en sorte que le salaire moyen québécois brut rejoigne l’ontarien. (Je dis « brut », car, ajusté au coût de la vie, notre salaire moyen net a rattrapé l’ontarien depuis un bon bout de temps.) Ses amis patrons l’implorent d’ouvrir les vannes de l’immigration. car il leur manque un ingénieur ici, un soudeur là, des informaticiens un peu partout. Il doit leur résister. C’est la pénurie qui pousse tous les salaires vers le haut. On ne s’attend pas à ce que le premier ministre l’admette. Seulement à ce qu’il le sache et qu’il agisse en conséquence. Pour l’enrichissement, contre la pauvreté et la discrimination, la pénurie est son meilleur allié.

Source: Éloge de la pénurie de main-d’oeuvre

CDC Director Designates Racism a ‘Serious Public Health Threat’

Of note:

Racism is a scourge in American society. It’s also a serious public health threat, according to the director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

In a statement released Thursday, Dr. Rochelle Walensky pointed to the disproportionate impact of COVID-19 on communities of color, as seen in case numbers, deaths and social consequence.

“Yet, the disparities seen over the past year were not a result of COVID-19,” Walensky said. “Instead, the pandemic illuminated inequities that have existed for generations and revealed for all of America a known, but often unaddressed, epidemic impacting public health: racism.”

“What we know is this: racism is a serious public health threat that directly affects the well-being of millions of Americans,” she added. “As a result, it affects the health of our entire nation. Racism is not just the discrimination against one group based on the color of their skin or their race or ethnicity, but the structural barriers that impact racial and ethnic groups differently to influence where a person lives, where they work, where their children play, and where they worship and gather in community. These social determinants of health have life-long negative effects on the mental and physical health of individuals in communities of color.”

The result, she says, are stark health disparities that have mounted over generations.

So what does it mean for the agency? Walensky has charged all of the offices and centers under the CDC to develop interventions and measurable health outcomes in the next year, addressing racism in their respective areas. And she’s made clear that is a priority for the entire CDC.

The CDC also launched a new web portal, Racism and Health, that’s designed to be a hub for public and scientific information and discourse on the subject.

The site notes that racism, in both its structural and interpersonal forms, has a negative effect on mental and physical health.

And Walensky isn’t trying to avoid hard conversations.

“The word racism is intentional in this [initiative] for the CDC,” she told Timemagazine. “This is not just about the color of your skin but also about where you live, where you work, where your children play, where you pray, how you get to work, the jobs you have. All of these things feed into people’s health and their opportunities for health.”

The CDC committed to continuing to study how racism affects health, and propose and implement solutions accordingly. It will expand its investments in minority and other disproportionately affected communities to create “durable infrastructure” to address disparities.

“It has to be baked into the cake,” Walensky told Time. “It’s got to be part of what everybody is doing.”

@ASemotiuk: How To Fund Biden’s Infrastructure Plan Using Immigration

Benefits of investor immigration and citizenship-by-investment schemes over stated along with risks of corruption. Great benefits for immigration lawyers and consultants, however:

Recently, President Biden unveiled a $ 2 trillion infrastructure plan to fix roads and bridges, while boosting research and tackling climate change. Calling it a “once-in-a-generation investment in America,” he introduced the plan to address the inequalities exposed by the pandemic and to heal America’s economy from the bottom up. More recently, Biden specified how he would raise the money through higher corporate taxation. But could there be a better more creative way?

How Much Is That?

If you are anything like me, you’re not entirely sure just how many zeros there are in a trillion. I had to look it up, and it’s 12 zeros. In other words, President Biden’s infrastructure proposal would cost exactly $ 2,300,000,000,000. It has been estimated that $1 trillion worth of one dollar bills stacked one on top of the other would measure 109,220 kilometres. Put another way, if you stacked up all the dollars in President Biden’s plan one on top of another, they would reach half way to the moon. That’s a lot of money. While Biden has set out his corporate tax proposal as a way to fund it, he has indicated he is open to suggestions on this theme.

Raising Taxes Has Been Proposed

It seems to me there are basically three ways America could pay for President Biden’s plan. The first way is to raise taxes. Biden argues that for those taxpayers making less than $ 400,000 per year there would be no tax increase. Instead he has proposed to raise taxes on large corporations and high net worth individuals. It is clear that Republicans want none of that and will fight tooth and nail to oppose the plan. Let’s face it, rich people and big corporations just don’t want to pay for this proposed program. With the Democratic majority in both Houses, Biden may be able to shove the plan down their throats. Or he may not. That drama will play out in the weeks ahead. But let’s keep an open mind about this.

A Second Alternative

A second alternative would be to go further in debt, increasing the federal debt from its current $ 21 trillion to $ 23 trillion. This would be like drawing down even more debt on a federal credit card that has long ago already exceeded its limit. So far, with interest rates at record lows, going into debt has been workable. The challenge there is the day when holders of American dollars lose confidence in them. That’s when interest rates will start rising and the federal debt will become unmanageable. Until then though, just printing more money could work. This would be the lazy way out of the challenge, seemingly the least painful way immediately, but likely to cause a terrible hangover down the road.

But there is a third way. And this fits with the already mentioned Biden’s willingness to consider alternatives.

Paying For Infrastructure Repairs Using Immigration

The third way would be to adapt an investor immigration program to pay for at least some of the infrastructure plan. The current U.S. EB-5 investor immigration regional center program includes a component in which foreign investors invest $ 900,000 for a period of five years on a project approved by the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS). Each application must create at least 10 new jobs and enables such an investor and his or her family to immigrate to the United States permanently. Out of about one million applicants who immigrate to the United States each year, current allowances allocate only 10,000 slots to such foreign investors and their family members. However, it would not be hard to imagine how this program could be altered to help pay for Biden’s plan over a period of time. That would mean we would get the same result Biden proposes, without it costing Americans as much since the cost would be paid by new foreign investment brought into the country.

Suppose, for example, we agreed to increase the number of investor-related visas coming into the United States per year from the current 10,000, to say 100,000. Assuming each family on average has four persons, that would mean there would be 25,000 investors coming into the country under such a scenario. If each investor invested $ 900,000 and created 10 new jobs as required under the EB-5 program, that would mean the EB-5 program could generate $ 22.5 billion in revenues and 250,000 new jobs per year.

To be more exact, Biden’s plan calls for over $ 2 trillion in investment to be spent and paid for over 15 years. Using that as a measuring stick and assuming the $ 900,000 per investor would remain the same under the USCIS program, it would mean we would aim to attract some 375,000 investors to the United States over 15 years and earn just under $ 340 billion. However, if you spread this effort out over say a 40-year time frame, such an effort would exceed $ 1 trillion in investments.

Long Term Thinking

There are about 15 million millionaires in the world today outside of North America. This plan would call on attracting less than 10% of them to America over the next 40 years. That may not be easy, but maybe it could be done. The key thing is that such a program would generate 10 million new jobs for Americans. Assuming such a program was ongoing, the amounts invested would be repaid with ongoing investment over time. Further, this doesn’t even consider what other investments each such family would make in America as they buy houses, send kids to schools and spend money on consumer goods.

Maybe these assumptions about the EB-5 program are too unrealistic or miss the mark in some way. Even so, they do illustrate how the EB-5 program could help defray at least some of the costs of Biden’s proposal if used in combination with other ways of funding it. By tinkering with the various options available, a package may be created that will impose less of a burden on U.S. taxpayers and spur the economic recovery at the same time. It is worthwhile to consider these alternatives in this context.

Source: How To Fund Biden’s Infrastructure Plan Using Immigration

Antigua PM accuses US of trying to kill Caribbean citizenship by investment programs

Of note:

Antigua and Barbuda’s Prime Minister, Gaston Browne, is accusing the United States of America of trying to “kill” the Citizenship by Investment Programs (CIP) in the Caribbean.

Browne said to listeners on his weekly radio program Saturday gone, that “It seems as though they don’t want us to operate the CIP so they want to kill it”

“They attacked St Kitts and Dominica too. And they do that so often I don’t even know what to say. But anytime they kill it, countries like Dominica and St Kitts, their economies will be decimated and they will plunge tens of thousands of people e in poverty and then you end up with so many social ills,” said

His comment comes on the heels of a report last week, where the US government cited the CIP in three Caribbean countries for “lack of transparency”.

In the ‘Corruption and Lack of Transparency in Government,’ section, the 2020 report identifies the CIP programs in Antigua & Barbuda, Dominica and St. Kitts & Nevis as citizen concerns on oversight and corruption due to a lack of openness.

In Dominica, the US report pointed to local media and opposition leadership, who continue to raise allegations of corruption within the government, including in the Citizenship by Investment program and pointed to the fact that while the law provides criminal penalties for corruption by officials … the government implemented the law inconsistently.”

And in St. Kitts & Nevis, the US report pointed to media and private citizens reporting on government corruption “occasionally” even as citizens “expressed concern about the lack of financial oversight of revenues generated by the Citizenship by Investment (CBI) program.”

Browne said instead of using information to disparage these countries, the United States should instead work with these small island developing states.

“Let us work together and strengthen the relations with the United States, Dominica, St Kitts…. I mean trying to use this information to disparage us is unhelpful. If it was truthful, I would understand,” he said.

The CIP Programs in the Eastern Caribbean countries have been a source of continued criticism by the US and many nationals locally who question the use of “donation” funds that are part of the attractive offer for a second passport in these jurisdictions and visa free travel to between 152 and 162 countries.

Five Caribbean countries offer the CIP programs but neither Grenada nor St. Lucia were cited for lack of transparency in the report.

@Justin_Ling: Canada’s public health data meltdown

Good long read, highlighting ongoing policy failure at both federal and provincial levels:


For weeks, Canadians have been casting their envious eyes to Israel, where more than half the country has been inoculated against COVID-19. Israel, less than a quarter the size of Canada, has administered nearly twice as many doses of the COVID-19 vaccine.

The Middle Eastern country has some innate advantages: It is small and centralized, and offered top dollar to ensure vaccines from Pfizer and Moderna would come fast, and in large volumes. But geography and money aren’t the reason why Israel is outpacing Canada by 10-to-one.

Israel has the vaccines because it has the data.

In its shrewd deal with Pfizer, Israel offered to turn the country into one giant clinical trial: Providing the vaccine manufacturer unprecedented large-scale visibility as to the vaccine’s efficacy. It’s all made possible because of the country’s state-of-the-art information technology and robust national vaccination database.

The rest of the world is currently benefiting from that incredibly granular information.

Canada could never have struck such a deal. Its health technology is, charitably, a decade out of date. It lacks the ability to adequately track infectious disease outbreaks, efficiently manage vaccine supply chains and storage, quickly administer doses, and monitor immunity and adverse reactions on a national basis.

Even though all the shipments of vaccines arriving in Canada come with scannable barcodes, to make tracking and logistics easier—with some manufacturers even barcoding the vials themselves—no Canadian province can scan them. In many provinces, pharmacies can’t access the provincial vaccine registry. Provinces do not automatically submit reports on COVID-19 cases or vaccines into the federal system, and must submit reports manually. Many crucial reports are still submitted by fax: Where fax has recently been phased out, they have been replaced by emailed PDFs.

Ours is a dumb system of pen-and-paper and Excel spreadsheets, in a world quickly heading towards smart systems of big data analytics, machine learning and blockchain. It’s unclear how Ottawa will be able to issue vaccine passports, even if it wants to.

At the core of the omnishambles is a simple fact that Canada has no national public health information system, but 13 different regional ones. Many of those regional systems have smaller, disconnected, systems within: Like a Russian nesting doll of antiquated technology.

But there’s good news: It doesn’t have to be this way. In some parts of the country, real progress is being made. Small technology start-ups are figuring out cheap, scalable and innovative solutions. In some provinces, progress can be as simple as updating operating systems.

If we are ever going to build efficient, cost-effective, and effective health infrastructure, Ottawa needs to take the lead. We need to abandon the idea that federalism requires us to have each sub-national government run entirely independent, walled-off, health databases.

We need data sharing. We need shared infrastructure. We need a national public health system.

***

For decades, Canada has been building out computer systems designed to track infectious disease outbreaks and vaccination campaigns. In non-pandemic times, that means monitoring the spread of sexually transmitted infections, keeping track of supplies of vaccines for things like influenza and mumps, and keeping an eye out for novel outbreaks of infectious diseases.

Most of the country relies on a public health system called Panorama, but not everywhere: Alberta, P.E.I., Newfoundland and Labrador, Vancouver Coastal Health, and the Public Health Agency of Canada itself all use other systems.

The provinces and territories that do have Panorama use it to varying degrees. From one province to the next, the heath infrastructure has different names, different features, unique customizations and varying capabilities.

This was never the plan. Canada, in fact, was once a world leader in digitizing its public health infrastructure.

In 1996, at a national conference of health officials, it was decided that “an immunization tracking system is urgently needed in Canada.” It included a list of goals: To identify children in need of vaccination, to book appointments, to do population-level analysis of immunity to diseases, and so on.

In 2002, basic national standards were drafted: “The time has arrived for a national program to be administered provincially, thus ensuring compatibility between provinces so that this health care information can be accessed when needed.”

When SARS hit Canada in 2003, before any of this technology could actually be implemented, health authorities found themselves woefully unprepared. The federal government and province of Ontario tried to manage the epidemic relying on “an archaic DOS platform used in the late 80s that could not be adapted for SARS,” per an Ottawa-commissioned report.

The country had only gotten a taste of what a deadly and hard-to-control infectious disease outbreak looked like. And it wasn’t ready. It only underscored just how crucial this national database was. The solution to that was Panorama.

It wasn’t cheap. Paul Martin’s government committed $100 million in its 2004 budget to seed the creation of Panorama, through the not-for-profit, government-funded Canada Health Infoway. His government also created the Public Health Agency of Canada to ensure there was central preparedness for the next SARS.

“With this budget, we begin to provide the resources for a new Canada Public Health Agency, to be able to spot outbreaks earlier and mobilize emergency resources to control them sooner,” then-finance minister Ralph Goodale said in his budget speech. He promised “a national real-time public surveillance system.”

The subsequent Harper government, seemingly recognizing the wisdom of what his predecessor had started, provided another $35 million more to fund the work. The contract to build this national surveillance system would ultimately go to IBM Canada.

In 2007, Canadian health officials flew to a conference in Florida to tell their American colleagues how far ahead we were on this health technology.

“By 2009 there will be a national surveillance system that will include a network of immunization registries,” their powerpoint presentation said. They broke down how it would work: A vaccinator would enter a patient’s information, scan the barcode on the side of the vaccine vial, and it would all go straight into the provincial database and, later, the federal system. A computer system could manage an outbreak from infection to immunity.

Dr. Robert Van Exan, who ran health and science policy at Canadian vaccine giant Sanofi-Pasteur, was tapped by Ottawa to figure out how to effectively barcode vaccines in the early 2000s.

“Technically, it’s a huge challenge,” Van Exan told me when I interviewed him in March for the Globe and Mail. “At least, it was.”

At the manufacturer, vaccines moved along a conveyor belt at a rate of about 300 to 1,000 vials per minute, he explained—adding new labelling was a logistical nightmare. But, within a few years, he had corralled the technological know-how to get it working. He went back to the federal government, excited that he and his company were part of this digital revolution.

“Canada was ahead on this by a decade,” Van Exan told me.

But through the late 2000s and early 2010s, that plan seemed to fall further away. There were delays and cost overruns, which largely fell to the provinces and territories. In 2015, British Columbia’s auditor general reported that the province had budgeted less than $40 million to build and maintain Panorama. The cost wouldn’t just double: It nearly tripled. The B.C. government alone would pay more than $110 million, not including ongoing annual costs.

As the program struggled, the Public Health Agency of Canada—the body specifically created following SARS to help build a national public health strategy—pulled out of Panorama. It let the provinces and territories fend for themselves. Nobody was left to actually enforce those brilliant minimum standards from years earlier. It stopped being a cross-compatible national system, administered provincially, and became a smattering of incompatible systems with no real national buy-in at all.

Provinces like Alberta bailed on Panorama in frustration.

The provinces and territories that stuck with it wound up with an inferior product. Beyond just the increased costs, the devastating report from the B.C. auditor general found that core components were just missing. Online vaccine appointments? Vaccine barcoding? Offline usage? Federal integration? All those features were promised, but “not delivered.”

“The system cannot be used to manage inter-provincial outbreaks, the main reason for which the system was built,” reads one particularly galling passage.

Other features didn’t work, or had severe limitations.

Van Exan recalls how “fed up” the vaccine industry was with Ottawa. “They went through this trouble to put the label on the vials,” he said. And for what?

“Despite a substantial federal investment,” one peer-reviewed study pointed out in 2013, “Canada continues to lag behind other countries in the adoption of public health electronic health information systems.” A 2015 study found that multiple provinces failed to even meet the minimum standards set out in 2002—standards that were already becoming stale and anachronistic.

Those 2002 national standards haven’t been updated since. (Health Canada told Maclean’s that the most recent standards were issued in 2020, although the document it pointed to clearly labels them as recommendations for new standards.)

Whether the standards are from 2002 or 2020 is somewhat immaterial. Ottawa doesn’t even know to what degree the provinces follow the standards.

The standards clearly call for Canada to have “reliable digital access and exchange of electronic immunization information across all health providers with other jurisdictions (including federal).”

In response to a question submitted in the House of Commons, Health Canada wrote last summer that “it is not possible for the federal government to know the details of any of the configurations of the provincial/territorial instances of Panorama in order to judge whether it meets a particular standard.” The Public Health Agency has not performed an audit of Panorama, the government added.

There are lots of reasons for the boondoggle. Many provinces and territories had competing priorities for what their health infrastructure ought to look like, and many balked at the idea of sharing data with Ottawa or even their neighbouring governments. “The provinces chose to do things independently,” said one source with knowledge of the system, who spoke on the condition of anonymity. Some provinces tried to make Panorama “too many things to too many people,” they said, and ended up with a system that disappointed everyone. That’s a common problem in Canadian technology procurement.

Part of the issue was the technology itself. Canada tried to stand up an ambitious IT infrastructure at a time when things like cloud hosting and barcoding capabilities were still expensive, clunky and hard to do on a large scale. But the core problem was a total lack of leadership. Ottawa pioneered the idea for a national registry, then walked away when things got hard.

Ontario family doctor Iris Gorfinkle has been calling for this national strategy for years. Last year, before we even saw our first vaccine, she warned in the Canadian Medical Association Journal that “it is imperative that we have the ability to provide potentially limited vaccines to those jurisdictions with higher disease rates to optimize vaccine distribution and coverage.”

I asked her why we haven’t been able to do this. She answered in a word:

“Inertia.”

***

In the last decade, provinces have had to make do. Alberta has modernized the legacy system it reverted to when Panorama went sideways. Ontario has tried valiantly to customize and upgrade Panorama until it resembled the system the province ordered.

Over time, however, Panorama did improve. By about 2017, IBM was finally adding those features that had been left off. It built out new data dashboards, integrated barcode scanning, and added APIs to make Panorama compatible with other systems. Most critically, Panorama went from a clunky program that could only run on designated computers to a cloud-based program that could be accessed by any laptop, tablet or phone.

Indigenous Services Canada, which administers some health services to First Nation communities, actually won an eHealth award in 2014 for its implementation of Panorama. One B.C. public health official lauded the agency’s work, saying it would allow health professionals “to better detect early signs of outbreaks by enabling sharing vital information between different public health related services providers.”

Some provinces, like Nova Scotia, upgraded Panorama into the new, more functional version. “One of the great things about Panorama in terms of helping in an outbreak is just having more timely access to information,” a prescient Nova Scotia provincial health official told CBC in 2019.

But it hasn’t been uniform: Ontario’s heavily customized system is running an old version of Panorama. Saskatchewan still hasn’t implemented core Panorama modules, like the one that tracks adverse reaction reports.

One source said provinces could enable its system to scan barcodes and health cards with a flip of a switch—several provinces, the source said, actually refused, insisting manual entry was more efficient.

Meanwhile, provinces and territories are still relying on manual data entry and spreadsheets to track inventory and shipments. Some jurisdictions are logging immunizations with pen and paper. A citizen can’t readily carry their immunization record from the Northwest Territories to Yukon.

Pharmacists in Ontario need to enter every immunization into two systems: once, into their own record management program; and again, into Ontario’s newly fashioned COVaxON, a front-end interface that is supposed to feed into Ontario’s outdated version of Panorama.

The inefficiencies are glaring. But it gets worse.

Notwithstanding inefficiencies and outmoded technology on the local level, the whole point of the Public Health Agency of Canada is to be able to track infectious disease outbreaks across the country. Right now, this is top of mind, as we wait to see the countervailing impacts of the COVID-19 variants and vaccines. A good system should be able to show us how different variants are spreading, and whether any or all of the vaccines are effective against which strains. But that only works if PHAC has the data.

Ottawa technically has information-sharing agreements with the provinces, but a government response to a question filed by Tory MP Scott Reid exposes how archaic the infrastructure truly is. Ottawa “does not have automatic access to data held in [provincial and territorial] systems, including Panorama,” the government wrote. “In the early weeks of the outbreak, some provinces were sending case information to PHAC via paper.” For the first four months of the pandemic, Ottawa wasn’t even collecting basic data on COVID-19 cases, like ethnicity, dwelling type, or occupation. Things have improved somewhat: Provinces now submit their reports manually, via a web portal.

The Public Health Agency of Canada reported that its “emergency surveillance team receives electronic files in .csv format from provinces and territories.”

A March report of the federal auditor general found that “although received electronically from provincial and territorial partners in the majority of cases, health data files were manually copied and pasted from the data intake system into the agency’s processing environment.” The audit also reports that many aspects of Ottawa’s data sharing agreements with the provinces and territories are not yet finalized. The audit further found that crucial information about COVID-19 cases—such as hospitalizations and onset of symptoms—was often not being reported to Ottawa.

The auditors came to a similar conclusion to many experts, like Gorfinkle and Van Exan: “We found that for more than 10 years prior to the COVID‑19 pandemic, the agency had identified gaps in its existing infrastructure but had not implemented solutions to improve it.”

When it comes to any vaccine, there are reports of adverse reactions—while they are rare, the recent panic over the AstraZeneca vaccine and blood clots shows this tracking is absolutely crucial. When a Canadian reports an adverse reaction to any vaccine, the province must pass it onto PHAC—which must, in turn, send it to the World Health Organization. Until very recently, Ottawa required that provinces and territories submit those reports via fax. More recently, it has modernized: “provinces and territories submit data [on adverse reactions] in a variety of formats, including line list submissions and PDF submissions,” the government said. That still means the reports must be entered manually. Some provinces only submit their reports weekly.

Panorama, meanwhile, has an adverse reaction tracking and reporting feature. PHAC just hasn’t been using it.

PHAC insists it has “well-developed surveillance and coverage information technology” and it responded to the auditor general with further more promises to address the gaps it has been vowing to fix for a decade. It’s hard to know if that progress is real or not.

In November—already some eight months into the pandemic—the federal government sent a secret request for proposals to a shortlist of pre-qualified suppliers looking for a “mission-critical system” to manage vaccine supply chains, inventory, and to ”track national immunization coverage.” The $17-million contract went to Deloitte, and it is supposed to plug into the disparate provincial systems to provide some semblance of a national picture. But Ottawa is refusing to disclose any timelines, details of the project or really anything beyond some boilerplate talking points. We only know about the project because the request for proposals was leaked to me in December. (“It’s awe-inspiring that they would withhold that information,” Gorfinkle says. I agree.)

So long as we commit to this madly off in all directions strategy, Ottawa can’t build a functional national system. Federal agencies can’t coordinate, much less individual provinces and territories. The patchwork makes national visibility impossible. Worse than a garbage-in, garbage-out problem—provinces can’t even agree on how to format the garbage. The result has been error and inefficiency.

One Ontario woman was hospitalized after receiving three doses of a COVID-19 vaccine, two of them just days apart—something that would never happen if she had an accessible, up-to-date vaccination record.

Meanwhile, seniors have been forced to stand in line for hours in Toronto, as health staff waste time doing work that could be easily automated. Epidemiologist Tara Gomes tweeted that her mother “had to repeat her address so many times to the person at check-in that she finally asked for a pen and paper and wrote it down.” It gets more frustrating when you realize, as Gomes noted, that her mother had to provide her personal information to get the appointment—the province’s COVaxON booking portal doesn’t connect to the COVaxON vaccine registry.

“You can’t blame one government,” Van Exan says. Every level of government of every political stripe has let this Frankenstein’s monster of a digital health system continue to limp along.

”Including the current one.”

***

The barriers to improvement are lower than you might think.

There is no particular reason why Vancouver ought to be using different vaccine management software than Victoria, or why Toronto should be running a different version of Panorama than Halifax. The diseases these health authorities face are the same, as are the vaccines dispatched to combat them.

Ottawa seems, a year after the start of this wretched pandemic, to be coming around to that idea. The Public Health Agency of Canada told Maclean’s it will finally be adopting Panorama, which “will enable more automated and timely data sharing and reporting.” At the end of March, it wrote that the new system “is expected to be online in the coming weeks.” Deloitte, IBM and the Government of Canada have been working together to get Panorama working with the Public Health Agency’s existing systems.

But just adopting Panorama isn’t nearly enough.

Step one is deciding if we really want a national system. If the provinces and territories are truly, completely incapable of running a system to national standards—or Ottawa is incapable of managing those standards—then maybe we should actually commit to decentralization. Shut down PHAC and download money and responsibility for public health to the provinces.

The benefits of a national system, however, are real and obvious. If we can agree with that principle, then step two is picking a technology and sticking to it.

We shouldn’t be married to sunk costs: If there is a better system out there than Panorama, we should consider it. But actually committing to Panorama is the obvious choice. It is already the standard for most of the country, and there’s no guarantee that starting from scratch will rectify our jurisdictional issues. What’s more: A list of other countries are now relying on Panorama. The more customers, the better.

Sticking with Panorama doesn’t mean that Alberta and Vancouver need to abandon their proprietary systems—but it does mean they need to be speaking the same language.

To that end, step three is standardizing data collection and sharing.

This, of course, needs to be done wisely: Patient data should be anonymized, for security reasons. Any cloud systems must have their servers within Canada (Nova Scotia’s data is available on the cloud, but entirely located in Halifax and Quebec.) And we need to make sure that governments are entirely transparent about how, when and why they use this aggregated health data. But all those jurisdictions need to use the same file formats, collect the same variables, and report them in the same efficient, automatic, manner.

Step four is investing in the infrastructure we need to make all this work—and sharing resources where that makes sense. If health authorities need an app to scan barcodes to track shipments, it doesn’t make sense for every province and territory to be using a different app. If we need to buy barcode scanners, every province should be buying the same one. Where it makes sense to share servers, we should share servers.

Step five is the easiest: Keep things current. It’s hard to think of any other instance where relying on 20-year-old technology standards makes sense. We need to be constantly revising and updating how we handle infectious diseases—the benefits will be apparent, in how we tackle everything from mumps, to HIV, to the next highly infectious disease that reaches our shores.

Again, these things are very doable, and don’t require any government to sacrifice autonomy. And, best yet, it can save us money.

On barcoding alone, a government panel estimated in 2009 that Canada would see $1 billion in savings by saving time, preventing wastage and reducing errors. On virtually every other front: Struggling through antiquated IT, and relying on overworked health staff to make up the difference, is expensive.

Governments don’t have to do it alone, either. Private industry can help.

In Alberta, start-up Okaki devised a simple, scalable system that can manage vaccination campaigns and even scan vaccine barcodes. The company has been running immunization drives for years, mostly in First Nations, and feeds its data directly into the provincial system—it is also compatible with Panorama.

CANImmunize, which began as an app allowing individuals to track their own vaccination record, now does many of the things Canada’s national system was supposed to do—including tracking appointments, monitoring adverse reactions, scanning vaccine barcodes. The technology can be fully integrated with Panorama.

Since I began writing about this issue for the Globe and Mail, my inbox has been inundated with emails from companies insisting that they could fix these problems in no time at all. There is no shortage of qualified people looking to help, and to innovate.

A group of companies, led by IBM, recently won a contract to build Germany’s vaccine passport system. It will use blockchain technology to make citizens’ vaccination records accessible, secure and verifiable. If we don’t get our act together soon, Canadians will be lucky to even get laminated paper vaccination records.

The provinces and territories need to come to the table and do this together. Our self-injurious commitment to federalism at all costs is endangering our own citizens. Because every province plays in their own needlessly walled garden, they are less prepared to deal with epidemics, they are less efficient at administering vaccines, and their citizens are more at risk from getting sick and dying.

Our country is supposed to be one of cooperative federalism, where provinces and territories can pursue creative solutions to unique problems. But when it comes to the basic mechanics of infectious disease outbreaks, there is no central leadership.

COVID-19 does not change shape when it crosses from Manitoba to Nunavut. We need the same set of tools in every province, or else we’re never going to fully beat this virus—and we’re going to be dangerously ill-equipped for the next one.

Source: Canada’s public health data meltdown

Asian Canadians see flaws in federal anti-racism strategy

Not surprising. The challenge is that once you name one group, others understandably feel their circumstances should also be referenced, with recent increases in anti-Asian attitudes and actions prompting this latest call. Unfortunately, no magic bullets or solutions, just an all too long slog:

Advocates for Asian Canadians are calling for improvements to the federal government’s anti-racism strategy to confront a surge in anti-Asian racism.

Avvy Go, executive director of the Chinese and Southeast Asian Legal Clinic in Toronto, said the strategy failed to specifically mention anti-Asian racism in its foundational policy document. The document does cite anti-Black and anti-Indigenous racism, anti-Semitism and Islamophobia as key targets.

“It’s a serious flaw in the current strategy,” Go told CBC News.

“We hope that the government will amend the strategy and, more importantly, they will develop concrete actions to address racism of all forms.”

The call comes amid a reported surge in anti-Asian hate crimes across the country and abroad during the pandemic.

According to a report published in March by the Chinese Canadian National Council, more than 1,150 instances of anti-Asian racism were reported through two websites — COVIDRacism.ca and elimin8hate.org — between March 10, 2020, and Feb. 28, 2021. Misinformation and racist beliefs related to the fact that the novel coronavirus first emerged in China are behind the surge in attacks, the authors wrote.

In Vancouver, the police department reported that anti-Asian hate crimes climbed from just 12 cases in 2019 to 98 in 2020 — an increase of 717 per cent.

And data from Statistics Canada released in July 2020 suggest that Canadians with Asian backgrounds were more likely to report increased racial or ethnic harassment during the pandemic than the rest of the population. The largest increase was seen among people of Chinese, Korean and Southeast Asian descent.

Go, a Canadian citizen who was born in Hong Kong, said she’s had several frightening experiences herself.

Source: Asian Canadians see flaws in federal anti-racism strategy

US Immigration Policy Has Always Been About Exclusion

Good long read with similarities to Canada’s past with increased divergence since the 80s:

When david dorado romo was a boy growing up in El Paso, Texas, his great-aunt Adela told him about the day the U.S. Border Patrol melted her favorite shoes. Romo’s aunt was Mexican and had a visa that allowed her to commute into South Texas for her job as a maid. Every week she had to report to a Border Patrol station, in accordance with a program that ran from 1917 into the 1930s requiring most Mexican immigrants to bathe in government offices before entering the United States. She would dress up in her nicest clothing, because those who looked dirty or were thought to have lice were bathed in a mixture of kerosene and vinegar. Years later, when Romo visited the National Archives outside Washington, D.C., he found photos and records of gas chambers where the belongings of the Mexican workers had been disinfected with the chemical Zyklon B, as well as a large steam dryer of the sort that had melted his aunt’s shoes. He discovered that a German scientist had taken note of the procedures being carried out at the American border and advocated for them to be implemented in Nazi concentration camps. Eventually, the Nazis increased the potency of Zyklon B in their gas chambers, and began using it on human beings.

Romo also learned that just as the bathing and gas-dousing program was winding down, the American government began using a different dangerous chemical to delouse Mexican immigrants: From the 1930s through the 1960s, border agents sprayed DDT onto the faces of more than 3 million guest workers as they crossed the southern border.

Romo was shocked that he hadn’t learned this earlier. He became a historian dedicated to exposing truths that have been buried along the borders. “We have deep amnesia in this country,” he told me when I spoke with him recently. “There’s a psychological process involved in forgetting that is shame from both sides—from both the perpetrator and the victim.”

This forgetting has allowed the racism woven into America’s immigration policies to stay submerged beneath the more idealistic vision of the country as “a nation of immigrants.” That vision has a basis in truth: We are a multiethnic, multiracial nation where millions of people have found safety, economic opportunity, and freedoms they may not have otherwise had. Yet racial stereotypes, rooted in eugenics, that portray people with dark skin and foreign passports as being inclined toward crime, poverty, and disease have been part of our immigration policies for so long that we mostly fail to see them. “It’s in our DNA,” Romo says. “It’s ingrained in the culture and in the laws that are produced by that culture.”

The first American immigration laws were written in order to keep the country white, a goal that was explicit in their text for more than 150 years. (Over time, the understanding of “whiteness” changed and expanded. Well into the 20th century, only those of Northern and Western European descent were considered white; Italians and Jews, for instance, were not.) Even after the laws were finally changed, allowing large numbers of immigrants from Latin America, Asia, and Africa into the country starting in the 1960s, the eugenic ideas that supported earlier versions of them remained embedded in our society, and still provide the basis of many modern restrictions.

President Joe Biden’s immigration plan would make citizenship available to millions of unauthorized immigrants. Democratic members of Congress rallying behind it have said it would establish a more inherently American system, arguing implicitly that the Trump administration’s often overtly stated preference for white immigrants, or no immigrants at all, was an aberration from the past. “To fix our broken immigration system, we must pass reforms that reflect America’s values,” Senator Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota, a co-sponsor of the proposed legislation, said in a statement introducing the bill. “For too long, our immigration system has failed to live up to the ideals and principles our nation was founded on,” said Senator Alex Padilla of California, another co-sponsor. But Donald Trump’s immigration agenda was executed without a single change to laws already passed by Congress, and his rhetoric and policies were consistent with most of American history. “The Trump era magnified the problem, but the template was there,” Rose Cuison-Villazor, a scholar of immigration law at Rutgers University, told me.

As the country moves forward from the past four years of harsh immigration policies, it must reckon with a history that stretches back much further, and that conflicts with one of the most frequently repeated American myths.

“This idea that somehow immigration was based on the principles stated on the Statue of Liberty? That never happened,” Romo said. “There has never been a color-blind immigration system. It’s always been about exclusion.”

Most american children are taught in school that the United States’ immigration policies help make the country special and, yes, great. A haven for outcasts who faced persecution in their home countries, the nation was founded, the story goes, on the principle of welcoming others who were treated similarly in their own homelands, with the idea that granting them individual rights and freedoms would allow distinct cultures and traditions to thrive together. This tale resonated in my own Central California school district, where I sat alongside classmates whose parents had come from Mexico, India, Laos, Vietnam.

But the cracks in that story began to show as soon as we hit the schoolyard, where kids of different backgrounds played together, but also hurled insults that stung because they had the weight of centuries of American law and rhetoric behind them.

When the Pilgrims crossed the ocean to settle in the New World, they brought with them ideas that would evolve into “manifest destiny,” which held that the United States was a land that had been bestowed by God on Anglo-Saxon white people. In 1790, the first American Congress made citizenship available only to any “free white person” who had been in the country for at least two years. In 1882, the Chinese Exclusion Act blocked Chinese immigrants—and in 1917, it was expanded to block most Asians living between Afghanistan and the Pacific. These laws were upheld numerous times by federal courts, including in a seminal Supreme Court case from 1922, in which the government prevailed by arguing that citizenship should be granted as the Founders intended: “only to those whom they knew and regarded as worthy to share it with them, men of their own type, white men.”

In the early 20th century, the term progressive became synonymous with preserving or improving the racial “stock” of the country—and that meant keeping it white. Harry Laughlin, whose work would provide a model for Nazi Germany’s sterilization laws, served as the House Committee on Immigration and Naturalization’s “expert eugenics agent.” In 1922, he presented evidence of the “hereditary feeble-mindedness” of nonwhite immigrants. Laughlin categorized the subjects of his research into overlapping subgroups that included “the criminalistic,” “the diseased,” and “the dependent.” Two years later, Congress passed the “progressive” Johnson-Reed Act, which established immigration quotas based on national origin. Adolf Hitler hailed the law as a model to emulate. “Compared to old Europe, which had lost an infinite amount of its best blood through war and emigration, the American nation appears as a young, racially select people,” he wrote.

Beginning during World War II, geopolitical and economic interests became important factors in the development of new immigration laws, but protecting the nation’s whiteness remained a priority.

The historic Immigration and Nationality Act of 1965 did away with the quotas based on national origin and instead allowed citizens of the United States to petition for family members to join them. But the overtly race-blind language in the new system belied its intent. For his book Dividing Lines, Daniel Tichenor, a scholar at the University of Oregon, scrutinized the Congressional Record and found that legislators designed the system the way they did because they believed that people of European origin, who made up the majority of the population at the time, would also make up the majority of those petitioning to bring in new immigrants. In the 1980s, the so-called diversity-visa program was created to help the thousands of Irish immigrants who were coming into the country illegally each year enter instead as legal residents.

However, since 1965 the flow of immigrants from Latin America, Asia, and Africa has, as ever, outpaced expectations—to the point where America is on track to become a majority-minority nation sometime in the next few decades. Various attempts have been made to acknowledge the enduring presence of immigrants of color by granting them legal status: In 1986, President Ronald Reagan ushered in an amnesty policy that allowed nearly 3 million undocumented immigrants, most of them Mexican, to become citizens. And in 1990, President George H. W. Bush amplified the demographic effects of the 1965 law by increasing the visa caps it had established. But by the time these efforts were made, racial tropes that had once painted Irish, Italians, and Chinese as unassimilable and prone to crime, poverty, and disease were already embedded in the nation’s culture, as well as in its laws.

As a reporter covering these issues for the past several years, I have seen how discrimination against immigrants of color has been meted out not just in the ways the laws are written but in the ways they are enforced, sometimes as a consequence of policies not explicitly tied to race. For example, Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents, under pressure to carry out more deportations, have at times prioritized Mexicans over other groups of unauthorized immigrants, in part because Mexico doesn’t generally require American authorities to obtain travel documents for deportees before they can be returned. Mexicans are “easy to find, easy to remove,” Jim Rielly, a retired officer from the agency’s Chicago field office, told me. Rielly and several of his colleagues told me that the direction they would get from their superiors was “No OTMs”—the ICE acronym for “other than Mexicans.” They told me they knew of Chicago workplaces where ICE could have easily picked up large numbers of undocumented Irish or Polish immigrants, but none of them could recall that ever happening.

Previous iterations of racialized enforcement practices were more explicit, putting the power of government behind stereotypes. At various points, immigrant groups were associated with specific illnesses, resulting in enhanced screenings by American authorities that were degrading and unnecessary. “Even germs were ethnicized,” David Dorado Romo told me. “Middle Easterners were said to have this terribly frightening disease that was trachoma, which made you blind. The Jews were seen as people that carried tuberculosis; the Chinese had cholera.”

Well into the mid-20th century, while Mexicans were being bathed in kerosene, sprayed with DDT, and subjected to Jim Crow laws in the American South, Northern and Western European immigrants were being given periodic opportunities to legalize their immigration status. One such program, called pre-examination, allowed tens of thousands of Europeans to gain residency. Their descendants could then claim that their families had entered the United States the “right way,” as a means to argue for the exclusion of others who could not make the same case.

Mexicans were ultimately not eligible for these programs. Instead, their communities were policed with increasing ferocity. Mae Ngai, a historian at Columbia University, notes that in the 1920s, the earliest Border Patrol agents were instructed to act with civility toward white immigrants only. Within a decade or so of the agency’s establishment, its officers were apprehending nearly five times more people along the Mexican border than along the Canadian border. By the 1980s, when Mexicans made up just over half of the undocumented population, they accounted for nine out of 10 immigration arrests.

This overpolicing of Latinos and other nonwhite immigrants by federal authorities continues to the present day as a result of policies implemented by prior administrations—both Republican and Democratic. Collaboration between police and immigration authorities, which began under Bill Clinton and was expanded under Barack Obama, compounded the racial biases of each. Sheriffs began to campaign on platforms arguing that keeping communities safe meant ridding them of immigrants. The supposed relationship between immigrant and crime has become implanted in the national psyche, even though evidence consistently shows that U.S. residents born outside the country commit fewer crimes than the native-born.

Several of Jim Rielly’s colleagues told me that Latinos were more likely to be questioned and arrested for being in the wrong place at the wrong time, such as during a workplace raid or street enforcement operation, whereas European immigrants were typically picked up only if they came onto the agency’s radar because of a serious criminal conviction. One former officer, Lorenzo Rivera, who was born in Mexico and worked in immigration for 30 years starting in 1986, told me he would often be asked to join in ICE’s workplace raids to help identify who was undocumented and who was not; he could distinguish among different groups of Latinos in ways that his white colleagues could not. He chafed, sometimes publicly, at what he called the “unwritten rule” that Mexicans should be singled out while European immigrants were effectively ignored. “I used to tell my supervisor, ‘You know, you’re basically profiling here.’ And he goes, ‘These are orders from Washington.’ ” Rivera suspected that the disparities he witnessed at work were due to more than just a difference in policy: “Most of the special agents were of European descent, and of course to them, going after one of their own—it was unheard of.”

the use of the phrase a nation of immigrants to describe America first appeared in the late 1890s, in the Congressional Record, according to Donna Gabaccia, a scholar at the University of Toronto. It was used only sparingly until the 1950s, when it was popularized during the movement to broaden the label of white to include a more diverse group of Europeans. Mae Ngai notes that in 1958 John F. Kennedy, himself the descendant of Irish immigrants, published a book called A Nation of Immigrants that included only two paragraphs on Asian and Latino immigration.

To call America a nation of immigrants is not wrong, either as a factual statement or an evocation of American myth. But that fact coexists with this one: Over the past century, the United States has deported more immigrants than it has allowed in. Since 1882, it has deported more than 57 million people, most of them Latino, according to Adam Goodman, a historian at the University of Illinois at Chicago. No other country has carried out this many deportations. This “challenges that simplistic notion of a long tradition where the United States has welcomed immigrants,” Goodman told me.

Moreover, though the United States accepts more immigrants each year than any other country, the percentage of its population that is foreign-born is lower than in countries like Norway, Gabon, Sweden, Switzerland, and the United Arab Emirates—none of which considers itself “a nation of immigrants.”

There are legitimate debates to be had about how to balance economic, geopolitical, and humanitarian concerns in formulating immigration policy. But too often, such concerns have been invoked as euphemisms to disguise arguments that are really about race.

One of the most insidious consequences of stereotypes about immigrants is that they have been used to justify punishments that outweigh their transgressions. Undesirable immigrants were a “double debit” against society, Harry Laughlin, the eugenicist, told Congress in 1922. “Not only do the inadequates not pull their own weight in the boat but they require, for their care, the services of normal and socially valuable persons who could well be employed in more constructive work.” In the 1920s the label LPC—“liable to become a public charge”—was “shaken on deportation cases as though with a large pepper shaker,” a political scientist wrote at the time, in order to rationalize deporting people who had committed only minor criminal offenses or perceived moral transgressions, such as having a baby out of wedlock. For years before President Trump came along, tens of thousands of people without criminal records were being deported every year—many of them leaving behind children who were U.S. citizens—after they were caught living in the country without legal status, which is a civil infraction. During Trump’s term, more than 5,000 children were taken from their parents, many of whom had committed only the misdemeanor offense of crossing the border without documentation a single time.pastedGraphic.png

In describing its own immigration plan as a racial-equity initiative, the Biden administration is nodding at a more complex view of our history. But opposition to the proposal, predictably, has echoed the past. Senator Tom Cotton of Arkansas called it “a disaster” that “does nothing to secure our borders, yet grants mass amnesty, welfare benefits … to over 11 million people.” On Fox News, Laura Ingraham said that Democrats pushing for the plan were “enticing illegals to bust through our borders, exploit our resources, and commit crimes.”

Once you begin to notice examples of how the past is still present, they become difficult to ignore. Trump enacted the most stringent border closure of his administration by citing the threat of disease, even though COVID‑19 outbreaks were far worse inside the United States than just outside its borders (in fact, Americans were actively deporting the virus abroad). His persistent blaming of the Chinese for outbreaks in the U.S. helped incite violence against Asian Americans that continues today, mirroring similar attacks from centuries past.

In moving toward the more inclusive system that some elected officials now say they want, the country would be not returning to traditional American values, but establishing new ones.

Source: US Immigration Policy Has Always Been About Exclusion