Hainsworth: My Syrian refugee friend became a citizen. So why was I barred from the ceremony?

Something for IRCC to think about as it maintains the shift to virtual citizenship ceremonies:

I cried tears of joy.

A friend of mine who left the destruction and despair of Aleppo, Syria, became a Canadian citizen on Jan. 24.

And, for me, that is a cause for great joy and celebration.

I too am an immigrant, a naturalized Canadian citizen.

I arrived in Canada Dec. 27, 1971.

My friend left Aleppo in 2016, arriving in Canada in late 2017.

And, I too have been through the ceremony.

Compared to my friend’s journey to citizenship, my family’s immigration to Canada was a cakewalk.

We came from England in late 1971 so my father could take a job in Trail, B.C.

The memory of our departure still causes pain. Indeed, this past October, I stood on a train platform in the city of Leeds, where 50 years ago, my grandparents stood outside the train waving as we pulled away bound for London. And, I cried at the memory. Half a century later, the pain remains. It is not an easy thing to leave one’s homeland and extended family. Even typing this, I get choked up.

Still, I count myself lucky.

I did not have to live through a brutal dictatorship like that of Syrian president Bashar Hafez al-Assad.

I did not have to endure my home being relentlessly bombed.

I did not have to witness the destruction of the city in which I lived.

I did not have to flee to the safety of Beirut, Lebanon, in order to get to Canada.

In all that, I have been blessed beyond measure.

Further, having covered refugee cases, I have been astounded at the thoughtlessness — if not inhumanity — of some Canadians who attempt to deny Canadian citizenship to others fleeing here for their lives.

One former senior journalist was critical of Sri Lankan refugees who spent their life savings to come to B.C. in leaking, rust-bucket boats to escape civil war. He said they should have stood in line at a Canadian consulate in their country to be processed like every other applicant.

I countered that filling out forms and waiting for the mail is hard when people nearby want to slice you apart with machetes. Yes, I listened to the stories of some of those Sri Lankans, some of who arrived one August on the cargo ship MV Sun Sea. I saw their injuries, their missing limbs, as they were led in shackles through a Vancouver office tower for refugee hearings. Some were little old ladies, their heads hung in despair. Yeah, terrorists.

This Canadian says, ‘welcome.’

More than 12 years later, I wanted to be part of my friend’s ceremony, to see them go through that profoundly touching rite. I cry every time I witness it.

Citizenship brings with it great privilege: the right to cast Canadian votes, the right to carry one of the world’s greatest documents – a Canadian passport.

I do not take these things lightly for granted. I am profoundly grateful for them. I did not get them through an accident of birth.

And, as my friend said to me, “The most beautiful thing about being a Canadian is the right of speech.”

That’s free speech, my friends.

However, when I joined the ceremony’s Zoom meeting, I was booted out. People taking the citizenship oath only, I was told.

And, while I accept pandemic restrictions, it is something I must protest.

Now, the citizenship oath includes reference to the monarchy, but it is not an oath to Elizabeth Windsor; it is an oath to the head of state. And, the head of state is an embodiment of the covenant that binds us as a group known as Canadians. This is why the monarch uses the pronoun ‘we.’

And, as part of that ‘we,’ I really, really wanted to be part of my friend becoming a part of this club we call Canadians. I’m somewhat biased but, it’s one of the best clubs in the world.

Further, there is another ‘we’ involved.

It’s a group of people who bonded six years ago to help a then-stranger. Some were friends, others strangers. We (that word again) came together for a common purpose, that most noble of callings, to help another.

To be fair, the oath invitation was really not to be shared. And, I can excuse my friend for sharing it. They were excited.

No Zoom at the inn

To be fair to the organizers, there are restrictions on Zoom, which make it difficult to have multiple people participate in an event with all microphones muted. The citizenship candidates must be allowed to speak and all else remain silent. And, we don’t need people being jerks and interrupting. I respect that.

Could organizers have done it differently?

Well, it is a citizenship court with the oath administered by a judge. I am frequently in the courts and they are not using Zoom. They use Microsoft Teams.

No media, I was told, despite my having explained I am both media and a sponsor group member.

“Due to privacy concerns, media is unable to attend our standard virtual ceremonies,” said a statement from Julie Lafortune, Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada spokeswoman. “The candidates do not sign media consent forms before these events and their names and images appear on screen throughout the event.”

All I could see before being booted off Zoom was faces with numbers.

In all the in-person ceremonies I’ve been to, I’ve never seen a media ban, nor have I seen people signing consent forms at such public events.

Further, Lafortune said, “at this time, only selected ceremonies that are broadcast live are shared with media. We continue to explore alternative videoconferencing platforms that have the functionality required to manage large volumes of participants while ensuring client privacy is maintained during the administrative steps of the ceremony.”

All, that said, my friend’s ceremony is complete.

They are a Canadian.

My heart was with them in spirit and my soul soared for it was a magnificent day in a beautiful person’s life.

I am not naming my friend. There are, sadly, people in this country who will attack refugees and immigrants. Despite the usual bigoted assumptions, my friend has been employed almost since arrival and helps others. Our group raised funds through friends and colleagues and helped them with housing and furniture. Taxpayers didn’t pay for this.

I will not expose my friend to that, and I won’t let such things spoil this magnificent day. Seventy-plus people from around the world became Canadians. And that is a beautiful thing.

I am profoundly grateful to be a Canadian.

What was my friend’s immigration experience like? 

“The journey of belonging was and is not easy. I remember the first day I arrived in Canada. I felt like ‘why am I here? How stupid I was when I left my country and come into the unknown.’

“It seems like I am in the middle of the black and dark ocean, knowing nothing, where to go, how to begin,” they said, tears streaming.

“Challenges are really very important in human being’s life because they make us stronger.

“Despite the days I spent crying or feeling down, this journey of fighting for survival adds more skills, experience and makes me more resilient.”

Welcome, my friend. Welcome.

Source: https://www.coastreporter.net/opinion/my-syrian-refugee-friend-became-a-citizen-so-why-was-i-barred-from-the-ceremony-4992718

Saunders: Canada is now dependent on the ‘illegal’ workers in our midst. They deserve better

Frustrating that we do not have better numbers than the numbers thrown around by advocates. That being said, paths to regularization are better than being underground:

You may not notice that the crew drywalling your house are visitors from Russia on tourist visas that expired a couple months ago. You don’t ask, and your contractor doesn’t, because their work is good, and drywallers are so hard to find these days.

You may not notice that the brilliant young Indian developer you hired to rework your company’s customer-service platform is a graduate student whose visa does not actually allow her to work. It’s impossible to find anyone else with that talent in this economy.

We may not often notice, but undocumented immigrants – also known by the inaccurate U.S. term “illegals” – have become increasingly integral to our economy, and to our working lives, over the past two years.

First, there were the pandemic border closings and restrictions; then, there were the supply chain crises caused by pandemic labour immobility. Together, these have created gaping labour shortages, causing industries and governments to search desperately for skilled workers wherever they can find them.

Ontario, for example, recently asked Ottawa to double the number of skilled immigrants it usually receives; the province currently has more than 300,000 unfilled positions, mainly in health care, food services, manufacturing and construction. A lot of those are essential to the survival of their enterprises, and a good number of them – although accurate counts are hard to get – are being filled by the undocumented.

In other countries, the pandemic has forced governments to be more honest about their dependency on workers without papers. Ireland, for example, recently launched a plan that, when it comes into effect next week, will grant legal residency to tens of thousands of undocumented workers and ex-students who have been living there for at least four years (or three, if they have children). Irish officials say most have been employed throughout that period. (Ireland is also asking the United States to do the same for undocumented Irish immigrants working there.)

That follows Portugal, which granted temporary regularization to 223,000 undocumented migrants in 2020 and 2021; Spain, which gave legal residency to undocumented agricultural workers and granted work permits to foreigners aged 18 to 21 who were unable legally to work; and Italy, the first country to recognize the legal-worker shortage when, in spring of 2020, it granted a right to legal residency to foreign workers in agriculture, domestic service and care work.

Other countries, forced to acknowledge their economic dependence on people who aren’t permitted to be in the country, have had political campaigns to make them legal residents. Australia, whose border-quarantine program reduced pandemic deaths but prevented seasonal workers from entering, acknowledged hundreds of thousands of crucial workers were undocumented (or had become undocumented because they couldn’t leave when visas expired). It dealt with the problem partly the way Canada did: It met annual immigration targets by drawing on hundreds of thousands of people who were already in the country, giving them permanent residency. That still left a lot of workers with ambiguous papers.

Relying on undocumented workers isn’t just inhumane (they’re more likely to be exploited) and fiscally unwise (they’re less likely to pay taxes). It can also be deadly. That’s what health officials have warned in Brazil, where there are possibly millions of undocumented workers, mainly from the countries of the Andes, whose clandestine existence means they’re unlikely to enter a health clinic to get vaccinated. There’s a big campaign to regularize them in order to prevent further disease spread in what is already the world’s most COVID-19 infected country.

Countries such as Canada and the U.S. have been slower to recognize the pandemic-era role of the undocumented, in good part because of news media and political myths that portray the typical “illegal” as someone who paid a smuggler to sneak them across the border at night. In reality, the overwhelming majority, around the world, are people who entered the country legally at an airport and have overstayed their visa or have one that doesn’t permit work.

In Canada, the issue is rarely mentioned in polite society. But it’s well known in government. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau recently used a mandate letter to instruct his new Immigration Minister, Sean Fraser, to “explore ways of regularizing status for undocumented workers who are contributing to Canadian communities.”

It’s a typically Canadian way of facing a problem – quietly, slowly and long after other countries have successfully dealt with it. We ought to find a better way – at the very least for the sake of our many neighbours who make our lives better while living in fear and insecurity.

Source: https://www.theglobeandmail.com/opinion/article-canada-is-now-dependent-on-the-illegal-workers-in-our-midst-they/

Netherlands: University funding row raises Chinese influence fears

Not unique to the Netherlands:

The Free University of Amsterdam (Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam or VU Amsterdam) in the Netherlands has said it will return Chinese funding for its Cross Cultural Human Rights Centre (CCHRC) after an embarrassing row over Chinese influence on academia when it emerged that several of the centre’s academics publicly denied China oppresses Uyghur peoples.

But the row in the Netherlands amid other recent controversies over Chinese funding of university centres and Confucius Institutes in Germany and the United Kingdom has also made university disclosure of foreign funding more urgent, academics said. 

In 2018, 2019 and 2020, the CCHRC at VU Amsterdam received a subsidy of between €250,000 (US$282,000) and €300,000 (US$339,000) from the Southwest University of Political Science and Law in Chongqing, China. 

According to documents obtained by Dutch broadcaster NOS, the Chinese university was the sole financial contributor to the CCHRC during those years, which has raised eyebrows. 

VU Amsterdam has said it would return the money it had already received from China for this year, NOS revealed last week. But the university only backed down after the damaging revelations prompted a public outcry and strong statements by the Dutch education minister and others condemning the activities of the centre. 

On Wednesday NOS said the activities of the Centre were being suspended, with all its lectures for students cancelled, ascribing the decision to the executive board and deans of the university. The Centre’s activities were already in doubt after the return of funds, making it dependent on the university or other donors for its continued survival. 

The row blew up just as the Dutch education ministry is due to present its National Guidelines on Knowledge Security on 31 January and to announce its ‘Government-wide knowledge security front-office’, which is expected to have an advisory role and support universities in identifying risks. 

It also followed the publication last week of the European Commission ‘toolkit’ for universities on how to deal with foreign interference. 

Dutch Education Minister Robbert Dijkgraaf responded swiftly and unequivocally to the report, saying he was “very shocked” that the funding arrangement signalled possible academic dependence. 

“It is urgent and sensible that the Free University now takes action quickly. Scientific core values such as academic freedom, integrity and independence must always be guaranteed,” he said in a statement. 

The minister added: “It is important that Dutch knowledge institutions are and remain alert to possible risks of undesired influence by other countries and that they take adequate measures to safeguard academic core values, especially when it comes to universal values like human rights.”

The centre runs an academic journal and organises conferences. Its mission, laid down in the financing agreement with the Chinese university, is to draw attention to a “global view of human rights”, and specifically to the way in which non-Western countries such as China view human rights.

University’s lukewarm initial response

After a lukewarm initial response when the university merely underlined that “as befits the Free University, the research of the CCHRC is independent, interdisciplinary, dialogical and socially relevant”, it added to its statement just hours later, saying “even the appearance of dependence is unacceptable” and announced that it was “taking appropriate measures”, including halting the funding from China. 

The university said it has not yet decided whether it will also refund subsidies from previous years, but it said it would first conduct an investigation to determine “whether the independence of the institute’s research has been safeguarded on all fronts”.

The CCHRC website noted in October 2020 that a delegation of people affiliated to the centre ‘recently’ visited the western Chinese region of Xinjiang. 

Western researchers estimate that over a million ethnic minority Uyghurs are being held in  ‘re-education camps’, widely regarded as a euphemism for concentration camps, in Xinjiang. Several countries, including the United States, have accused China of genocide against the Uyghurs. 

However, the CCHRC website noted: “The situation we encountered in the four cities in this trip did not reflect the grim situation as depicted in the Western reports. There is definitely no discrimination of Uyghurs or other minorities in the region.”

CCHRC Director Tom Zwart, who is also a frequent guest at Chinese state events and on Chinese state television, told NOS any similarities between the centre’s positions online and those of the Communist Party were “coincidental” and were not steered by any direct influence. 

Zwart described the CCHRC website as a place for “uncensored free thought”, ascribing the comments on its webpages to individuals “who do not represent the organisation as a whole”.

On 26 January CCHRC released a new statement on its website saying the website would be “temporarily taken offline” in order “to check whether a sufficiently clear distinction is made between statements made on behalf of the Centre and opinions and observations made in a personal capacity.”

It added: “[The] Centre explicitly endorses the conclusions of the United Nations regarding the systematic violation of the Uyghur human rights. In this vein, the Centre’s director, in the presence of members of the Chinese State Council and the Politburo, called on 8 April 2021 to respect and protect the rights of Uyghurs and stop repressive anti-terrorism policies.”

Is academic freedom compromised?

Ingrid d’Hooghe, an expert on China-Europe relations and senior research fellow at the Leiden Asia Centre, Leiden University in the Netherlands, said: “The director of the Centre said in an interview which was also on TV that they were fully independent, there was nothing that made them say what they were saying. But apparently it did not cross their mind that even if they are independent, it doesn’t look like it.”

Dutch academic Lokman Tsui, a researcher on digital freedoms and a former assistant professor at the Chinese University of Hong Kong, said via Twitter: “Important to note: until this year, they [the university in Chongqing] were the only funder. Problematic, because it’s hard to be independent if your research centre relies on one single funder. Problematic also, because public universities in China are closely affiliated with the Chinese Communist Party.”

Tsui added: “But whether the research centre is independent or not is also beside the question. The more important question is: Why is the university allowing its integrity and its reputation to be compromised by accepting money meant to validate China’s atrocious human rights record?”

Andreas Fulda, associate professor at the University of Nottingham, UK, and an expert on Europe-China relations and academic freedom, said: “If they had also received funding from the Dutch government or from the EU or whoever else, they could say they are not dependent on just one funder. But if you’re completely dependent on one funder and you lose autonomy, you are more likely to bend your research in one way or another.” 

“A member of the Dutch public will not know whether this [research] is the genuine article or whether this is something that is deeply problematic – this is the area where we enter the field of idea laundering and reputation laundering [by China],” Fulda told University World News

Need for disclosure legislation

“We need legislation that universities have to make funding public,” Fulda said, pointing to Section 117 of the United States Higher Education Act which requires universities that receive foreign gifts of US$250,000 or more within a calendar year to file a disclosure report to the government. 

Other draft foreign influence bills, including the Senate Bill S.1169 in the US, are currently attempting to tighten those rules, including reducing the amount that has to be declared by institutions and individuals if the funding comes from certain countries such as China, after a number of universities failed to report substantial foreign gifts under Section 117

An amendment to the UK Higher Education Bill tabled on 12 January in the House of Commons would require disclosures of foreign funds of £50,000 (US$68,000) going back 10 years. 

“The question is, if the Dutch government or other governments in Europe issued new regulations where universities were forced to make these contracts public, whether it would change things, and I think it would,” said Fulda. 

Leiden Asia Centre’s d’Hooghe said: “There is no regulation that forces people to register somewhere what kind of collaboration they have. With new regulations in Australia and, to a certain extent, in the US and Canada, you have to become public with that kind of information. Not so in the Netherlands.”

“It’s not necessarily that people want to keep it a secret, it’s just not something that is done routinely. So at top levels in the university, but often even at the faculty level, the departments don’t have a good overview of exactly what kind of research is being done with whom, and how this is financed,” she said

The Association of Universities in the Netherlands (VSNU) published a “Framework for Knowledge Security” in July 2021 that outlined risks and the need for monitoring research collaboration, as well as recommending that universities set up their own internal ‘knowledge security advisory team’ to include experts such as cybersecurity specialists.

The focus is on building risk awareness but does not go as far as requiring disclosure of foreign funding. Some universities have pointed out that they cannot ‘police’ research or researchers on behalf of the government. 

Who will investigate?

The Netherlands Inspectorate of Education has not indicated that it will carry out a broader investigation into China influence at universities in the country, saying in a statement following the VU Amsterdam row: “No other signals about Chinese influence are known to the inspectorate.”

Sophie Richardson, China director at Human Rights Watch, said in a statement that the Inspectorate of Education “would be wise to do more homework in this area”.

“In a decade of documenting Chinese government threats to academic freedom around the world, Human Rights Watch has found threats at universities from Australia to the United States, and proposed a code of conduct to help mitigate these risks. 

“One key step: universities should publicly disclose all direct and indirect Chinese government funding and a list of projects and exchanges with Chinese government counterparts on an annual basis,” she said.

“In showing its permeability to Chinese government influence, the Free University shouldn’t limit its response simply to returning the funding. It should urgently assess whether students and scholars of and from China on its campus are subjected to harassment or surveillance,” which she noted had been well documented elsewhere, notably in Australia, Canada, the UK and the US. 

“University leadership and scholars should assess whether censorship and self-censorship have eroded the curriculum or classroom debate,” Richardson added. 

“The Free University should also join forces with counterparts across Europe – from Berlin to Cambridge to Budapest – who have faced similar problems, and agree to share information and adopt common standards with the goal of collectively resisting Beijing’s efforts to curtail academic freedom. The list of potential participants – supposedly ‘free’ universities – is disturbingly long.”

EU toolkit for universities: will it make a difference?

The EU issued a toolkit for universities on 18 January. Although it is comprehensive, d’Hooghe noted that “these rules are not binding because the EU has no competence in the area of education”. Universities are outside Brussels’ remit.

She saw it more as a “service to EU member states who still don’t have national rules, who find it very difficult to develop them or don’t have the capacity to develop them”.

While many ongoing collaboration projects with Chinese universities continue, despite academics and researchers being unable to travel due to pandemic restrictions, d’Hooghe said she knew of many who “are staying away” from starting new projects with China, in part due to risks, including reputational risks. 

But she noted that legislation on a national level regarding foreign influence could be tricky. “University autonomy is regarded as an important value and very important for science to advance, so universities are very reluctant to be limited by binding regulations.”

Source: https://www.universityworldnews.com/post-nl.php?story=20220126093628860

Australia: Early signs of international student numbers rebounding

Of note:

Australia’s position in the international higher education market weakened significantly while our border was closed over the past two years. But recent demand and application data suggest our position may be strengthening since the border re-opening was announced in November. 

More than 43,000 international students have arrived in Australia since 1 December.

The Australian share of demand from international students has recovered from a low of 16.22% in October 2021 to 19.68% in January 2022, despite rising COVID-19 case numbers driven by the Omicron variant. The real-time aggregated search data come from students researching their international study options on IDP’s digital platform. It’s a dataset of more than 100 million site visits a year.

This improving trend is also seen in student applications data. The largest intake for Australia is usually in semester one. There were concerns that northern hemisphere countries would gain from pandemic uncertainties this summer. 

These early signs of recovery are encouraging. However, we cannot confidently predict at this point the impact of this summer’s Omicron wave on enrolments. IDP survey data were showing Australia had a relatively strong reputation as a COVID-safe destination. 

What will it take to sustain the recovery?

Sustained market recovery is a longer-term project. To be globally competitive, universities should focus on creating a world-class student experience. Some changes may take time to build and communicate to the market. 

Strengthening skilled migration pathways for international students will also improve Australia’s market position.

The recently released Australian Strategy for International Education identifies the creation of a world-class student experience as a priority. It recommends universities work to create social connections between international students, domestic students and local communities. It also recommends they improve the classroom experience. 

There is evidence to support this approach. It would help address international students’ concerns about experiences of loneliness, racism and harassment for their political views.  

The Australian Productivity Commission’s 2020 report on its inquiry into mental health highlighted concerns for international students’ mental health. A 2021 QS survey of international studentssuggests COVID-19 added to these concerns due to increased social isolation and difficulties in accessing mental health services. 

In 2022, universities can act to improve the social integration and well-being of international students. Actions should cover COVID safety, welcoming and connecting new and returning students and re-engaging local communities on international education. This builds a platform for longer-term change.

Omicron presents challenges for the sector as semester one enrolments are finalised. Policy uncertainty and acrimonious public debate put at risk Australia’s reputation as a COVID-safe destination. 

Universities can act to ensure travel pathways and campuses are COVID-safe and meet the public health challenges of Omicron. Clear and timely communication is needed to reassure prospective students and their families.

Universities are putting in place programmes to welcome international students and support their social integration and well-being. The cohort of returning students requires specific attention as they reconnect to campus life. Some have been stranded outside Australia for up to two years, leaving them socially and educationally isolated. 

Local communities must be considered too

During the pandemic international students have been noticeably absent from local communities. Many, including tourism and hospitality operators, will welcome them back. 

But universities should not assume that welcome will be uniform. Anecdotally, some domestic students and their families are raising concerns about the impact of international education on the quality of the domestic student experience. 

Universities should act on these community concerns. This will help to rebuild the brand of international education over the longer term. 

In its road map to recovery, the Strategy for International Education recommends a stronger focus on domestic skills shortages. However, it is silent on issues relating to the policy settings that underpinned skilled migration for international graduates.

Students take into account opportunities for post-study work rights when deciding their destination of study. Research published in 2019 reported international graduates were ambivalent about the rights granted by temporary graduate visas. However, many still saw this visa class as a pathway to skilled migration. 

As Australia emerges into the post-COVID economy, key sectors face significant skill shortages. There is a strong case for the Australian government to revisit post-study work rights. Any policy changes would need to consider local political and community concerns. 

The aim should be stronger outcomes for the economy from a more competitive international higher education sector and great outcomes for local economies and communities through targeted post-study migration rights. 

The latest international higher education data are encouraging. But universities and government have more work to do to ensure recovery is sustained.

The author acknowledges the contribution of Andrew Wharton of IDP Connect to this article.

Ian Anderson. Palawa is deputy vice-chancellor (student and university experience) at the Australian National University

Source: https://www.universityworldnews.com/post-nl.php?story=20220125081813147

Almost one in five Canadian truckers is South Asian, but many don’t see themselves represented in the trucker convoy

Of note (judging by television coverage, mainly white with few visible minorities in the protest):

When the freedom convoy was rolling into Canada’s capital this week, Arshdeep Singh Kang was more than 4,440 kilometres away in Los Angeles making a delivery.

The 30-year-old long-haul trucker followed the news of the convoy on his phone during rest stops, but he certainly had no desire to be part of it.

“I don’t believe in the issues they are raising,” Mr. Kang said. “I know there are some South Asian people who support this convoy, but I couldn’t see any of my people in the videos of the convoy.”

According to the 2016 census, South Asians comprise 18 per cent of all Canadian truckers. In major cities such as Vancouver and Toronto, they make up more than half the industry’s work force.

And yet many drivers such as Mr. Kang have no stake in the protest in Ottawa, even though its supporters have dubbed it a “truckers’ movement.”

Jagroop Singh, the president of the Ontario Aggregate Trucking Association, said, “Nobody invited me or any South Asian truckers I know. In fact, we don’t even know who the organizers of this protest are. Nobody asked us if we agree with their demands.”

The convoy may have started as a protest against vaccine mandates, which some truckers say threaten their livelihoods, but it has now embraced several issues. It has drawn support from far-right and extremist groups, with one vlogger even saying he hoped it would become “Canada’s Jan. 6” – a reference to the deadly storming of the U.S. Capitol last year by a mob of Donald Trump supporters and right-wing groups. Many Ottawa residents and journalists have reported seeing Confederate flags in the convoy.

Mr. Kang is a resident of Brampton, Ont., which is considered the heart of the trucking industry in the Greater Toronto Area. As of 2019, Brampton and surrounding Peel Region were home to approximately 2,000 trucking companies. But the convoy’s stand against vaccine mandates will find few supporters in the region, where 90 per cent of residents are double vaccinated as of Wednesday, and about 40 per cent have received booster shots.

Manan Gupta, the publisher of Road Today magazine, which caters to the South Asian trucking community in Canada, said “not only is there no anti-vaccine sentiment among South Asian truckers, but there is also an acute need to get vaccinated and boosted as soon as possible. Immigrant families in places like Brampton and Mississauga live in multigenerational families. A South Asian trucker doesn’t want to catch COVID, only to come back and infect the grandparents.”

Mr. Singh added, “I understand that mandates can be frustrating, but everyone should get vaccinated to protect their loved ones. We’ve encouraged all our members to get their shots as soon as possible. We’re even getting our kids vaccinated now.”

Ravish Garg, who regularly drives a Toronto-Chicago route, said, “I was hesitant at first, but I believe the experts. After getting my shots, I can drive carefree.”

Many of the freedom convoy’s supporters say they are not opposed to vaccines but to mandates. But Mr. Garg said opposing Ottawa’s rules won’t help. “Canada isn’t the only country in the world that has mandates. If you want to drive long-haul, you will have to enter the United States. And you can’t fight America’s vaccine mandate. It’s easier for everyone if we all just get the shot.”

Mr. Kang says the convoy may simply prove to be a distraction from some of the more systemic issues plaguing the trucking community. “They don’t stand for the issues that they should be standing for. Ask any trucker who drives through Western Canada or Northern Ontario how dangerous those roads are. There are hardly any rest stops. When you do find a place, there’s no parking,” he said.

Mr. Gupta said, “Northern Ontario has single-lane highways for trucks. Drivers have been demanding the twinning of highways for a very long time.”

While most South Asian drivers may not be taking part in the convoy, Brampton truckers are no strangers to protests. Mr. Kang was among the many agitating for better working conditions and fair wages last year. “Wage theft is a major issue across the trucking industry, not just in Brampton,” he said. “There are employers who don’t pay their drivers. These are the real issues we should all be uniting over, not vaccine mandates.”

Mr. Singh said trucking is an industry in crisis. “Inflation is hitting us hard. Drivers are quitting every day. Trucking companies are folding every day. The cost of trucking is increasing every day, but truckers are still expected to work at rates they were paid back in the 1980s. Trucking is becoming a tough business.

“If only we came together for the issues that are putting us out of business.”

Source: https://www.theglobeandmail.com/canada/article-almost-one-in-five-canadian-truckers-is-south-asian-but-many-dont-see/

It’s Time for an Honest Conversation About Affirmative Action

Needed reference to income diversity or class:

On Monday, the Supreme Court announced it would hear arguments in Students for Fair Admissions v. President and Fellows of Harvard College. In 2014, the group sued the university, accusing it of discriminating against Asian students during its admissions process. After years of court filings and an actual trial, S.F.F.A. ultimately lost its case but immediately appealed to the Supreme Court.

I spent much of 2018 and 2019 covering that trial and getting to know its main players. Edward Blum, the conservative legal activist pushing the lawsuit, was behind Fisher v. University of Texas, the last college admissions affirmative action case to reach the Supreme Court. In the 2010s, he also spearheaded Shelby County v. Holder, which effectively gutted the 1965 Voting Rights Act. He is a tireless activist who will now have his hearing in front of a 6-3 conservative majority on the Supreme Court. If the justices find in S.F.F.A.’s favor, Blum will have had a hand in both disenfranchising thousands of voters and ending affirmative action as we know it.

This work has turned Blum into a villain in progressive circles, and some have denounced the whole package as a right-wing program to end racial preferences and remediations in every corner of American life. I generally agree with this assessment and fear the world Blum might bring about.

But it’s also important to assess the specifics of the Harvard case. When excised from the context of Blum’s crusade, they reveal a profoundly broken system that relies on obfuscation and misdirection, especially when it comes to the treatment of Asian applicants.

Did Harvard discriminate against Asian students?

This is a question with a both complicated and simple answer. On the one hand, proving that Harvard violated the legal standards set by earlier Supreme Court rulings on affirmative action is difficult, given both the amorphous nature of the admissions process and the intricacy and various contradictions in the law. As it stands now, colleges are allowed to consider the race of an applicant, but only to a limited extent and not in a way that resembles a quota system.

But when you apply the normative definition of discrimination, in which race hinders an applicant’s acceptance into an institution, the case becomes much clearer. The evidence against Harvard on that front is, frankly, overwhelming. Asian applicants to Harvard routinely scored significantly lower than students of other races on their “personal scores,” a metric cobbled together from alumni interviews, essays and teacher recommendations. During the trial, Harvard’s attorneys did not really explain why this disparity existed, but only tried to prove that it did not come out of intentional or even implicit bias from anyone inside the admissions office. What seemed to be happening was that the people writing the appraisals were routinely downgrading Asian students, judgments that Harvard apparently accepted without any further investigation.

I don’t really know why Asians got low personal scores, but I do know that if Harvard drapes itself in the mantle of diversity, inclusion and equity, it should probably also take a look at the way it uses evaluations that seem to reflect bias. Harvard continues to use recommendations today.

One of the clearest examples of Harvard’s history of anti-Asian discrimination that was presented at the trial centered around “sparse country,” a term Harvard uses to describe geographic regions that generally do not send a lot of students to the Ivy League. Sparse country students generally get a bump in the admissions process because the university seeks to have a student body that’s geographically as well as racially diverse.

In the past, Harvard recruited students from sparse country after they took the Preliminary SAT exams. To receive an invitation to apply to Harvard — yes, some students receive invitations to apply to Harvard — a Black student in sparse country needed to score above 1100 on the exams, a white student needed 1310, an Asian female student needed 1350 and an Asian male student needed 1380.

This, by itself, seems like enough to prove that Harvard created a system for recruitment that certainly preferences one race over the other. The testimony given by William Fitzsimmons, the longtime dean of Harvard admissions, only made his office look worse. When asked to explain why Asian students from sparse country needed to score so much higher than white students, Fitzsimmons said, “There are people who, let’s say, for example, have only lived in the sparse-country state for a year or two.”

What he seems to be saying is that Harvard believes Asian students from sparse country are Asian before they are Arkansan or Nevadan or Alaskan and that whatever diversity benefit they might bring to the school will be based on their ethnicity, not from the state where they may have spent their whole lives. To Fitzsimmons, evidently, and by extension, the Harvard admissions office, Asian applicants are not citizens with legitimate ties to a community but are instead newcomers who should be thought of by their race.

Evidence of this type of reductive racial thinking could be found throughout the trial. Past documents brought to light showed that Harvard would consider your “ethnicity” a “plus” only if you wrote your personal essay about its significance in your life or if it led to extracurricular involvement in ethnic community groups. If you were a minority student who did not belong to an affinity group in high school and you did not share a moment of trauma or triumph with strangers on the admissions committee for the most prestigious university in the world, Harvard would withhold the “plus” on your application.

Does anyone really believe in a version of “equity” and “diversity” that forces minority students to, in essence, perform their ethnicity for Harvard, of all places?Sign up for the Jay Caspian Kang newsletter, for Times subscribers only.  A wide-ranging cultural critic and magazine writer tackles thorny questions in politics and culture. Get it in your inbox.

So, if all this is done in the name of diversity, what exactly does it look like at places like Harvard?

I am an alumni of Bowdoin College, which at the time I attended, in the late ’90s and early 2000s, had a very small percentage of Black, Latino and Asian students. The school has changed quite a bit since then, thanks to strong diversity initiatives. On the occasions I’ve returned to campus, I’ve come across students of all sorts of ethnic backgrounds who simply would not have been at Bowdoin in my era. This more inclusive atmosphere made me feel excited to be on campus, even as an adult, and undoubtedly would have improved my undergraduate experience. When you read the case law of affirmative action cases or diversity statements from exclusive colleges, they largely speak of the need to make all students feel comfortable and represented on campus. I do not dispute the importance of this.

But while the percentage of “students of color” at Bowdoin has gone up to 35.1 percent in 2021 from an abysmal 7.5 percent in 1988, there has been little meaningful change in socio-economic backgrounds. Twenty percent of Bowdoin students come from families who make $630,000 or more a year. Sixty-nine percent come from families in the top 20 percent of income earners in the country. Only 3.8 percent come from the bottom 20 percent. Increased racial diversity has not changed the fact that exclusive schools cater almost entirely to a wealthy population.

Bowdoin is far from being an outlier. A full 15 percent of Harvardstudents come from families who make $630,000 or more a year, and only 4.5 percent from the bottom fifth of income earners. Elite state institutions aren’t much better. Two-thirds of students at the University of Virginia, for example, hail from the top fifth; only 2.8 percent come from the bottom 20 percent.

What do “diversity” and “equity” really mean, then, at an institution that has more than three times as many kids from the top 1 percent as from the bottom 20?

The browning of these elite institutions should be seen as progress on its own, and it would be harmful if these trends were suddenly reversed. But to what extent is all this just window dressing? Elite schools in liberal cities, whether they are private elementary schools or the Ivy League schools, do not populate their websites with all kinds of faces out of some heartfelt desire to contribute to an equitable society. Rather, they push diversity because they know their customers — the students and their parents — want it. Plus, they couldn’t get away with being majority white or even white and Asian without attracting a great deal of scrutiny.

The impending Supreme Court decision will change none of this. Schools like Harvard that can fill their incoming freshman class many times over with top-tier applicants of every race are likely to maintain their diversity levels, more or less.

Over the past two decades, there’s also been a quiet but fierce argument over who, exactly, constitutes the Black and Latino student populations at elite colleges. At a Harvard Black alumni gathering in 2004, Henry Louis Gates Jr. and the late Lani Guinier, professors at the school, noted that perhaps as many as two-thirds of Harvard’s Black students were first- or second-generation immigrants from Africa or the Caribbean or the children of biracial couples.

This is an extremely fraught conversation to have because it asks a person to rank Black people in terms of oppression and could encourage schools to enact an even more specific and potentially xenophobic set of hierarchies. Black immigrants appear to be overrepresented at elite colleges when compared with African Americans who have descended from slavery. This, of course, is not the fault of Black immigrants who attend these schools, but rather the schools themselves, who have turned college admissions into a brutal, zero-sum game in which each minority applicant must also double as a racial statistic.

“I just want people to be honest enough to talk about it,” Gates said in 2004. “What are the implications of this?”

For me, the implications are as follows: At elite schools, affirmative action mostly serves an increasingly ethnically varied group of wealthy students and their families. As a result, the narrative around diversity in these places has been reduced to pure racial representation, which, while important enough, does not exactly fulfill the social mission that most people think is inherent to any affirmative action program — helping students whose families have suffered under generations of white supremacy. Anti-Asian discrimination, which I believe to be as clear as day, is one of the byproducts of all this balancing and weighting and obfuscation.

Schools like Harvard have no one to blame but themselves. Their flimsy approach to “diversity” and their desire to stay as academically exclusive as possible have created an indefensible system of racial nonsense that demeans not only its Asian and Black applicants, but everyone else who has to play this absurd game.

This, I believe, would be the honest starting point for conversations about affirmative action at elite schools.

On Monday, I will write about what an alternative might look like.

Source: https://www.nytimes.com/2022/01/27/opinion/affirmative-action-harvard.html

Applicants to Canada’s skilled-worker immigration program will soon face 36-month wait times, documents reveal

Yet another article on the delays in the federal skilled worker program, reflecting in part the government focus on meeting its target of 401,000 by giving priority to those already in Canada (TR2PR):

Kartikay Sharma has a master’s degree in civil engineering and works as a researcher in building energy efficiency — knowledge and skills that are highly sought after in Canada these days.

In fact, Canada had selected and invited the Indian man to apply for permanent residence back in December 2020.

Yet more than a year after that offer, the 27-year-old is still waiting for Canada to complete his application and let him into the country.

Sharma is among thousands of skilled immigration applicants overseas whose lives and plans are in limbo, as Canada has halted the federal skilled immigration program since then in order to prioritize applicants already in Canada and to address Afghan refugee resettlement.

“Whenever anyone is talking about backlog, no one is talking about backlog for federal skilled applicants overseas,” Sharma told the Star. “As all of us are awaiting our permanent resident visa, we face huge uncertainties.”

Canada’s skilled worker program, introduced in 1967, was the first in the world to recruit the best and brightest immigrants as permanent residents through an objective system awarding points to candidates points based on their age, language proficiency, education achievements and job experience.

Despite updates through the years, it has been a signature economic immigration program that brings in people based on their general skills, knowledge and experience, in order to fill Canada’s labour market needs.

According to an Immigration Department internal memo, processing time for skilled applicants is already at 20.4 months — more than three times the six-month target — and that’s expected to climb to 36 months this year.

Anyone interested in becoming a skilled immigrant to Canada must put their names in a pool; Canada normally makes regular draws from the pool and those who meet the threshold scores in each draw will be invited to apply. However, the number of skilled immigration candidates was forecast to grow to 207,000 by last December and, said the memo, the backlog must be reduced by half before any new invitations are issued.

Source: Applicants to Canada’s skilled-worker immigration program will soon face 36-month wait times, documents reveal

Five years after Quebec mosque shooting, everyday Islamophobia continues to have long-term impact on Muslims

Of note. Would benefit from linking to other forms of bias, prejudice and discrimination that affect many groups:

Every year on the anniversary of the Quebec City mosque shooting, I am reminded of my visits with the families of the six victims who continue to endure the consequences of deeply rooted hatred for Muslims. It’s important as we approach Jan. 29 — the National Day of Remembrance and Action Against Islamophobia — their stories continue to be heard, and that, as a society, we work together to make this form of racism as unacceptable as any other.

The need continues to be urgent, with last year’s violent attack in London, Ont. that killed four family members and left a 9-year-old survivor.

That’s why our team here at Islamic Relief Canada has been talking to Muslims about their experiences with hatred and ignorance, and compiled them in our new report, “In Their Words: Untold Stories of Islamophobia in Canada.”

Our research reveals that hate is present in all spheres of Muslims’ lives. We heard from women who had their head scarves ripped off at school or experienced Islamophobic comments in the workplace; a man who faced discrimination within sports; a woman whose non-Muslim in-laws openly insult her religion at family dinners; and from a Quebec shooting survivor who was targeted at the mosque.

Often, when we talk about Islamophobia, we read and hear about the political implications. While that is important — you cannot combat Islamophobia without adequate legislation — the consequences of hate for ordinary people are often overlooked.

They can include emotional and mental trauma, stress in personal and professional relationships, and even long-term physical injury. For some research participants, negative experiences have led to switching schools or ceasing participation in sports. In one instance, it has meant deliberations on leaving Canada.

Sanaa (not her real name), a teacher in Quebec, says last year she was told by her school to remove her hijab to comply with Bill 21 regulations (the bill prevents those working in the public sector from wearing religious symbols). She was suspended for months, but was able to return to work on a contract technicality. Disheartened, she is taking foreign teaching exams and contemplating leaving the country she grew up in.

Along with Sanaa, others also told us Bill 21 was a pressing issue and felt strongly that the federal government needs to address it. As a country that prides itself on multiculturalism and tolerance, it is unacceptable to have legislation that discriminates against Muslims and other minority groups.

Source: Five years after Quebec mosque shooting, everyday Islamophobia continues to have long-term impact on Muslims

McWhorter: Stay Woke. The Right Can Be Illiberal, Too.

Indeed:

The characterization of the problem on the left strikes me as somewhere between uninformed and willfully blind. Yes, left-leaning students might demonstrate their free-speech intolerance within the cozy confines of their campuses, but one day they graduate into the real world and take that rehearsed intolerance with them. Superprogressive views may predominate in certain settings, but the presumption, held by too many, that their woke outlook doesn’t even warrant intellectual challenge in the public square is an extension of the broader “dis-enlightenment” I described back in October.

That said, I’m genuinely open to the idea that censorship from the right is more of a problem than I have acknowledged. The truth may be, as it so often is, in the middle, and two legal cases from the past week have made me think about it.

Making sense of things requires synthesis, identifying what explains a lot rather than perceiving a buzzing chaos of people suddenly crazed, which is an implausible and even effort-light approach to things. In that vein, our problem today is illiberalism on both sides.

We will salute, then, U.S. District Court Judge Mark Walker, who last week ruled, in a 74-page opinion, in favor of six professors at the University of Florida who were barred by school officials from acting as expert witnesses in cases challenging state policy on issues ranging from restrictive voting laws to Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis’s attempt to withhold funds from schools with mask mandates. (There are also recent reports that U.F. faculty members have been cautioned against using the words “critical” and “race” in the same sentence to describe the curriculums they teach, apparently to head off discussion of critical race theory and its effects on education in a way that might draw a backlash from state legislators or others in the Florida government.)

Judge Walker analogized the actions of University of Florida officials to the removal in December of a statue commemorating the Tiananmen Square massacre from the campus of the University of Hong Kong. He echoed the plaintiffs’ argument that “in an apparent act of vorauseilender Gehorsam,” or anticipatory obedience, “U.F. has bowed to perceived pressure from Florida’s political leaders and has sanctioned the unconstitutional suppression of ideas out of favor with Florida’s ruling party” — admonishing the defendants in a footnote that “if those in U.F.’s administration find this comparison upsetting, the solution is simple. Stop acting like your contemporaries in Hong Kong.”

The judge summed up by noting that “the Supreme Court of the United States has long regarded teachers, from the primary grades to the university level, as critical to a healthy democracy.” He added, “Plaintiffs’ academic inquiry ‘is necessary to informed political debate’ and ‘is of transcendent value to all of us and not merely to the teachers concerned,’” emphasizing that “when such critical inquiry is stifled, democracy suffers.”

Let’s not forget, either, what happened to the schoolteacher Matthew Hawn last summer: He was fired by school administrators in Tennessee for leading classroom discussions with high school juniors and seniors (in a course called Contemporary Studies; it’s not as if this had been a chemistry lab) on concepts such as white privilege and implicit bias, not long after passage in the state of a ban on teaching critical race theory. As I’ve argued, ideas rooted in that theory do, in refracted form, make their way into how some schoolteachers teach, and it’s legitimate to question the extent of this. But that hardly justifies Hawn’s getting canned for things such as assigning a widely read article by Ta-Nehisi Coates. Hawn is pursuing an appeal of his dismissal, and if justice is on his side, he should win it.

I’m not doing a 180 here or letting those I term the Elect off the hook. The illiberal tendency on the left is just as oppressive and requires equal pushback: The University of North Texas music professor Timothy Jackson, a founder of his school’s Center for Schenkerian Studies, studies the work of the German Jewish music theorist Heinrich Schenker, whose early-20th-century work figures prominently in music theory. In a 2019 speech to the Society for Music Theory, Philip Ewell, a Black music professor at Hunter College characterized Schenker as a racist and wrote in a 2020 article for Music Theory Online (a publication of the Society for Music Theory) that “Schenker’s racist views infected his music theoretical arguments,” that “there exists a ‘white racial frame’ in music theory that is structural and institutionalized” and that by extension, music theory and even the academic field of musicology are racialized, if not racist.

In 2020, Jackson led the publication of an issue of The Journal of Schenkerian Studies dedicated to addressing Ewell’s case, publishing five articles defending Ewell’s case and 10 critiquing it. As The Times reported last year, Jackson was hardly gentle in his pushback, arguing that Ewell’s “denunciation of Schenker and Schenkerians may be seen as part and parcel of the much broader current of Black antisemitism” and partly attributing the dearth of Black classical musicians to fewer Black people who “grow up in homes where classical music is profoundly valued” and that fostering music education in public schools is the proper remedy.

The result was, by today’s standards, predictable: Hundreds of students and scholars signed a letter condemning the issue. After an investigation, the university relieved Jackson of his supervision of the journal and, according to Times reporting, didn’t rule out further disciplinary action.

The point here is less whether Jackson’s argument and the issue it appeared in were the quintessence of tact on race issues than whether he deserves to lose his career status and reputation because of them. Nor is the point whether Ewell’s argument was enlightened; one is (or should be) free to subscribe to it. Or not. My view is that while the field of musicology is correct, generally, in examining itself for remnants of racist bias, Ewell’s specific take is flawed.

No, the point is that the through line between Jackson’s treatment at North Texas and the treatment of the Florida law professors is that instead of their views being addressed as one side of heated, complex debates, their views were squelched as unutterable heresies.

Jackson has sued, and if justice is on his side, he should win. I could cite a great many cases similar to his.

To many, I suspect, what happened to the University of Florida professors and to Hawn is more frightful than what happened to Jackson. However, that sentiment is a matter of one’s priorities, not a neutral conception of what justice consists of. Too many of us suppose that people should not be allowed to express opinions they deem unpleasant or dangerous and are given to demonizing those who have such opinions as threats to our moral order.

On the right, even if you’re wary of critical race theory’s effect on the way many kids are taught, it is both backward and unnecessary to institutionalize the sense that discussing race at all is merely unwelcome pot stirring (and if that’s not what you mean, then you need to make it clear). On the left, illiberalism does not become insight just because some think they are speaking truth to power. Resistance to this kind of perspective is vital, no matter where it comes from on the political spectrum.

Source: INSERT

House Adds ‘Game-Changing’ Visas For Immigrant Startups And Ph.D.s

Significant if it passes and a measure that will reduce some of the advantages for Canadian immigration that were generated by the Trump administration’s restrictive policies:

The House Rules Committee has added a significant element missing from a Senate innovation bill—visas for people who will produce innovations. House Democrats addressed that oversight by adding two potentially game-changing measures for immigrant entrepreneurs and immigrants with Ph.D.s in STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) fields. If these measures become law, their impact could be far-reaching. (See sections 80301 to 80305 in the bill.)

Immigrant Startup Visa: The lack of a startup visa costs America talent, according to the National Security Commission on Artificial Intelligence. In its final report, the commission members said the absence of a startup visa places the United States at a disadvantage compared to other nations like Canada in retaining and attracting foreign-born entrepreneurs. Many innovations are realized through entrepreneurship, and, according to a 2018 National Foundation for American Policy (NFAP) analysis, more than half of the billion-dollar startups in the United States had at least one immigrant founder. The list included some of America’s most innovative companies, such as SpaceX, Stripe and Moderna.

On January 25, 2022, the House Rules Committee added Rep. Zoe Lofgren’s (D-CA) LIKE Act to the nearly 3,000-page America COMPETES Act (H.R. 4521). The bill creates a temporary visa for foreign-born entrepreneurs who qualify and, according to a summary, “Allows the founder to apply for and receive lawful permanent residence if the start-up entity meets certain additional benchmarks.”

An individual qualifies for a new temporary W visa for an initial three years if:

“(1) the alien possesses an ownership interest of not less than 10% in a start-up entity;

“(2) the alien will play a central and active role in the management or operations of the start-up entity;

“(3) the alien possesses the knowledge, skills, or experience to substantially assist the start-up entity with the growth and success of its business; and

“(4) during the 18-month period preceding the filing of the petition, the start-up entity received at least $250,000 in qualifying investments from one or more qualified investors; or at least $100,000 in qualifying government awards or grants.”

The bill allows for an extension of the W (temporary) status for an additional three years if the individual possesses at least a 5% ownership stake, will continue to play a “central and active role” in management or operations, has received at least $500,000 in “additional qualifying investments,” created “at least 5 qualified jobs” or “generated not less than $500,000 in annual revenue in the United States and averaged 20% in annual revenue growth.”

An entrepreneur in W status may adjust status to lawful permanent residence without being placed in a green card backlog (i.e., they are exempt from the numerical limit) if the individual has maintained W status, ownership interest in the startup and an active and central role in the company, and the startup has “created at least 10 qualified jobs and . . . has received not less than $1.25 million in qualifying investments . . . or generated not less than $1 million in annual revenue in the U.S. in the two-year period preceding the filing of the petition.”

The startup visa’s impact could be significant. The measure could create approximately 1 to 3 million jobs over a decade, depending on factors that include how government agencies administer the provision, according to an NFAP estimate of an earlier Lofgren startup visa bill.

“The National Venture Capital Association (NVCA) is excited to see the America COMPETES Act include a startup visa,” said Jeff Farrah of NVCA. “Immigrant entrepreneurs have created some of the most iconic American companies. But our immigration laws make it too hard for foreign-born entrepreneurs to launch new, high-growth companies in the U.S. A startup visa would provide a dedicated visa category that will allow the world’s best entrepreneurs to create the next generation of great companies that will ensure the United States remains the global leader in technology and innovation.” (See a startup visa coalition letter here.)

A Green Card Exemption For Ph.D.s: Another significant provision added to the House bill would exempt from annual green card limits individuals with Ph.D.s in STEM fields. That would allow U.S. employers to gain a significant competitive edge by offering the chance at permanent residence to outstanding researchers from around the world, including those early in their careers and engaging in cutting-edge work.

Under the bill, individuals can gain permanent residence without being placed in a green card backlog (or be subject to per-country limits) if they “have earned a doctoral degree in a program of study involving science, technology, engineering, or mathematics—from a qualified United States research institution; or from a foreign institution if such degree is the equivalent to a degree issued by a qualified United States research institution; and are seeking admission to engage in work in the United States in a field related to such degree.”

Analyzing a similar provision, an estimated 10,000 people a year could benefit from a measure limited to Ph.D.s in STEM fields from U.S. universities. However, since this new provision also allows for Ph.D.s from foreign universities, the annual number of potential beneficiaries could be higher. Moreover, the bill uses a broader definition of STEM.

The bill states, “The term ‘program of study involving science, technology, engineering, or mathematics’ means a field included in the Department of Education’s Classification of Instructional Programs taxonomy within the summary groups of agricultural sciences, natural resources and conservation, computer and information sciences and support services, engineering, biological and biomedical sciences, mathematics and statistics, military technologies, physical sciences, or medical residency and fellowship programs, or the summary group subsets of accounting and related services and taxation.”

The broader definition of STEM will carry several benefits. “The bill also expands the definition of STEM in sensible directions that include highly skilled and productive individuals in important industries,” noted Alex Nowrastesh of the Cato Institute. Attorney Greg Siskind said, “Including physicians who do residency and fellowships in the U.S. also has the added benefit of dramatically helping health care in the U.S. since MDs are one of the most backlogged occupations for green cards.”

An indirect benefit of the provision will be to help individuals waiting many years in employment-based green card backlogs even if they do not have a Ph.D. That is because individuals with Ph.D.s who previously would have used a green card number would now be exempt from the numerical limits.

“It is increasingly important that the U.S. be able to recruit foreign-trained Ph.D.s,” said Mark Regets, a senior fellow at the National Foundation for American Policy. “Not only do they link us to research being done abroad, but they are an increasing proportion of the total doctorate-level STEM talent in the world. It is not just China that has increased Ph.D. production, but many European and other developed countries as well.”

Postdoctoral researchers work at U.S. universities after completing their Ph.D.s and play a significant role in research in the United States. Approximately 56% of postdocs at U.S. universities are on temporary visas, with many in biological sciences, medical sciences and engineering. A large number of PhD.s with foreign degrees assist in research and development. The new measure would allow many more an opportunity to stay and contribute in the United States.

A great example of someone who could have benefited from a special green card provision for Ph.D.s is Katalin Karikó. She is credited with producing the underlying research breakthrough that made messenger RNA possible for vaccine use. That discovery likely already has saved hundreds of thousands of lives. Karikó earned her Ph.D. in Hungary and toiled for years in the United States, first as a postdoctoral researcher, before her work became recognized as life-saving.

The House is expected to vote on the bill as soon as next week. The legislation, including the new immigration provisions, would need to be reconciled with (and pass) the Senate and signed by the president to become law.

Helping America and its companies better compete for talent through startup visas and a clear path to U.S. permanent residence for the world’s top researchers might help a bill on innovation live up to its name.

Source: House Adds ‘Game-Changing’ Visas For Immigrant Startups And Ph.D.s