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

More good reporting from Ian Young of SCMP:

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

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

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

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

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

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

Cullen was dismissive.

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

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


‘Protecting taxpayer information’

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Legault s’emmêle à nouveau – On immigration and particularly citizenship

While the first part points out his lack of knowledge, it is the latter part where he is effectively promoting a separate Quebec version of citizenship with longer residency requirements (3 years to become a Permanent Residents, then the 3 year citizenship residency requirement) along with yet again, a Quebec Values Charter that is more revealing.

He also needs to consider the demographic and financial implications of reduced immigration that Chantal Hébert recently pointed out (By campaigning to cut immigration, Quebec’s opposition parties are playing politics with their province’s future):

François Legault reconnaît ne pas connaître sur le bout des doigts les étapes à franchir par un immigrant pour obtenir sa citoyenneté canadienne.

« Ce bout-là, je n’aurais pas gagné Génies en herbe », a-t-il laissé tomber lors d’une conférence de presse dimanche.

Le chef de la Coalition avenir Québec faisait allusion aux « bonnes questions » posées la veille par un reporter sur le système d’immigrationcanadien. À l’une d’elles, il avait répondu qu’un résident permanent n’a qu’à passer « quelques mois » au pays avant de devenir citoyen canadien. Or, c’est au moins trois ans.

« J’ai lu pas mal toute la nuit là-dessus », a mentionné le chef caquiste, tout en disant maîtriser les ressorts de l’immigration ― ou à tout le moins « l’essentiel, oui ».

Pourtant, le favori des sondages a encore confondu, dimanche, les conditions d’obtention de la résidence permanente et celles de la citoyenneté. En effet, M. Legault a dit qu’un résident permanent doit faire l’objet d’une enquête de sécurité et d’un examen médical avant de demander la citoyenneté, oubliant de dire qu’il doit aussi réussir l’examen de citoyenneté, qui porte notamment sur la géographie, l’histoire sociale, culturelle et politique du Canada, et démontrer qu’il a une « connaissance suffisante » de la langue française ou anglaise. « On va prendre votre question en délibéré », a lâché M. Legault, au terme d’un échange de quelques minutes sur le sujet.

Le chef de la CAQ a dit ne pas croire que les réponses erronées ou incomplètes qu’il a données sur le sujet aux médias nuisent à sa crédibilité. « Les Québécois, ce qu’ils veulent savoir, c’est : “Est-ce qu’on veut 40 000 ou 50 000 immigrants par année ?” La CAQ, c’est 40 000. Les libéraux, c’est 50 000. Les Québécois, ce qu’ils veulent savoir, c’est : “Est-ce que les immigrants, à l’avenir, vont devoir réussir un test de valeurs et un test de français ?” Ils savent qu’avec la CAQ, la réponse, c’est oui. Avec le Parti libéral, c’est non. C’est ça que les Québécois veulent savoir. C’est ça la crédibilité d’un chef de parti. Puis, quand je suis concret et pragmatique, je pense que les Québécois comprennent très bien ce que je dis », a-t-il affirmé à la presse.

Dans cet esprit, M. Legault a réitéré dimanche sa promesse de soumettre les nouveaux arrivants à un test de connaissance de français et des valeurs québécoises, dont la réussite serait une condition à l’obtention d’un certificat de sélection du Québec (CSQ).

D’ailleurs, selon lui, l’examen de citoyenneté préparé par le gouvernement fédéral ― qui constitue un « bon test », à ses yeux ― « vient comme montrer que ce n’est pas si effrayant que ça ce [que la CAQ] demande ». « Pourquoi ce test, au fédéral, serait acceptable et le nôtre pas acceptable ? » a-t-il demandé.

Citoyen canadien en 6 ans ?
Selon l’engagement de la CAQ, il faudrait environ six ans à un immigrant pour obtenir un passeport canadien au Québec ― trois ans pour obtenir un CSQ et la résidence permanente, plus trois ans pour la citoyenneté canadienne ―, comparativement à trois ans dans le reste du Canada. « Le français sera toujours vulnérable au Québec, en Amérique du Nord. Donc, oui, il y aura des exigences plus grandes au Québec que dans le reste du Canada », a soutenu François Legault.

Source: Legault s’emmêle à nouveau

Birthplace doesn’t necessarily guarantee citizenship, feds argue at Supreme Court

Have been engaging on Twitter on this case and striking that this press report seemed to miss the focus of the government’s brief: whether the children of spies not working out of a diplomatic mission should be entitled or not to birthright citizenship.

As the factum notes:

98. The Registrar’s interpretation is also consistent with the interpretive principle of avoiding absurdity. The result of the majority’s interpretation is that the children of foreign intelligence agents posted to an embassy and benefiting from diplomatic privileges and immunities (e.g. by posing as “economic development officers”) are caught by s. 3(2)(a), while the children of undercover intelligence agents engaged in surreptitious espionage are not. Justice Bell recognized this absurdity on judicial review,147 but the majority dismissed it on appeal as a policy choice – despite the presumption against absurdity being a well-established principle of statutory interpretation.148

99. Indeed, the policy preference that the majority cited is itself somewhat illogical and results in anomalous outcomes. Here, Vavilova and Bezrukov’s purpose for being in Canada was the same as the other categories of persons in s. 3(2)(a) of the Act, namely, to serve their home government, in their case through their undercover work as long term Illegals for Russia’s Foreign Intelligence Service. Like the other persons listed in s. 3(2)(a), their presence and employment in Canada was intended to advance their state’s interests.

100. As the majority indicates, its preferred interpretive policy choice for s. 3(2)(a) of the Act tries to avoid visiting “the sins of the parents” upon Vavilov, whose parents were undercover Russian spies, but has no difficulty in visiting those same “sins” on the children of accredited diplomats or foreign spies merely because they operate out of an embassy. In any event, this is not a case about the “sins” of Vavilov’s parents, but rather their employment as Russian spies and their duty and service to Russia at the time of his birth in Canada. When considered in this way, the provision provides for the same outcome for both of these categories of persons in Canada in the service of a foreign government. In both cases, the children’s citizenship status is a result of their parents’ chosen employment. By contrast, the majority’s interpretation results in a more favourable outcome for the children of those whose employment is surreptitious and undertaken by fraudulent means.

The CP artilce:

International law does not require Canada to give citizenship to babies born on its soil, the federal government is telling the Supreme Court — an argument that could inadvertently bolster a recent Conservative party resolution aimed at stemming so-called birth tourism.

Canada is one of fewer than three dozen countries that follow the practice of citizenship based on birthplace and some — including Australia and Britain — have modified or ended automatic birthright in recent years, the government says in a case that will determine whether the Toronto-born sons of Russian spies are Canadian citizens.

“Indeed, no European countries, for example, grant an unqualified automatic citizenship by birth and they have no obligation to do so,” the federal submission says.

“Only 34 countries grant the automatic acquisition of citizenship through birthplace regardless of parents’ nationality or status. This practice is not consistent and uniform enough to ground a rule of customary international law.”

Federal lawyers are playing down the concept of automatic citizenship in laying out the reasons the government believes Alexander and Timothy Vavilov — the offspring of Russian intelligence agents — should not be recognized as Canadian citizens, even though they were born in Ontario.

The federal Liberals adopted a decidedly different tone recently after the Conservatives passed a policy resolution calling on the government to enact legislation to end birthright citizenship “unless one of the parents of the child born in Canada is a Canadian citizen or permanent resident of Canada.”

Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer says one of the goals is to end the practice of women coming to Canada simply to give birth to a child that will automatically attain Canadian citizenship.

Refugee and human rights advocates have objected, saying there is no evidence of a birth tourism problem to solve and that the Conservative policy would open the door to stateless children being born in Canada.

Birthright isn’t set in stone

Following passage of the resolution, Mathieu Genest, a spokesperson for Immigration Minister Ahmed Hussen, said it’s a “shame to see the Conservatives going back down the path established by the Harper government, which seeks to strip away the citizenship of people who have only ever known Canada as a home.”

Justin Trudeau’s principal secretary, Gerald Butts, called the Conservative policy “a deeply wrong and disturbing idea.”

However, the federal submission to the Supreme Court strongly suggests the legal notion of automatic birthright is not carved in stone.

It notes even those states that have chosen to grant citizenship to children born on their soil are not prohibited from applying exceptions. “A review of citizenship entitlements in various countries reveals a multitude of variations and restrictions on automatic citizenship by birth.”

The Supreme Court will hear oral arguments in December in the case of the Vavilov brothers.

“In short, nothing in international law requires Canada to bestow citizenship on the basis of birth, much less to give citizenship to children born to parents in the service of a foreign government,” the written federal submission says.

Two years ago, the government took a rosier view of the concept in a formal response to a petition against birthright citizenship sponsored by Conservative MP Alice Wong.

John McCallum, immigration minister at the time, pointed out that the United States and Mexico, as well as a number of other countries in the Americas, such as Brazil and Argentina, provide citizenship based on birthplace.

“While there may be instances of expectant mothers who are foreign nationals who travel to Canada to give birth, requiring that a parent be a citizen or permanent resident in order for their child to acquire citizenship through birth in Canada would represent a significant change to how Canadian citizenship is acquired,” McCallum added.

Source: Birthplace doesn’t necessarily guarantee citizenship, feds argue at Supreme Court

Fewer people are answering a US agency’s citizenship query. That’s fueling fears for the 2020 census

Interesting given that this trend predates Trump and the increased anti-immigrant and xenophobic discourse:

A growing number of Americans are not willing to disclose their citizenship status on a government survey, according to new research. The finding adds fuel to an already fierce political debate over adding a citizenship question to the 2020 census.

State officials and civil rights groups have sued Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross, challenging his decision earlier this year to add such a question to the decennial census. Ross’s opponents worry some groups, notably foreign-born residents, will shy away from answering the question because of the current hyperpartisan battle over U.S. immigration policy. That could undermine the accuracy of the constitutionally mandated exercise used to apportion seats in the U.S. House of Representatives and allocate $800 billion in federal funds, they say. The new data appear to bolster that argument by documenting rising nonresponse rates to the question on a related Census Bureau survey.

Citizenship is one of 72 questions on the American Community Survey (ACS), an annual sampling of 3.5 million households that in 2005 replaced the long form of the decennial census. The new study finds that the portion of respondents who did not answer the ACS citizenship question more than doubled between 2010 through 2016, from 2.7% to 6%. In contrast, the nonresponse rates for other demographic questions on the ACS—including race, sex, age, and Hispanic origin—remained constant, at less than 2%.

“This suggests an increased sensitivity to being asked about citizenship,” says Indivar Dutta-Gupta of the Center on Poverty and Inequality at Georgetown University in Washington, D.C., which released the report late last week. “The findings lend support to the conclusions of many experts, including former census directors, state officials, and the National Academy of Sciences, that a citizenship question will increase the risks for the 2020 census,” says the author, demographer William O’Hare, a veteran census data cruncher and consultant based in Baltimore, Maryland.

O’Hare found that nonresponse rates on the citizenship question also varied greatly by geography in ways that could jeopardize an accurate reapportionment. The highest rates—Arizona led at 9% and California, New York, and Colorado all exceeded 7%—are home to large numbers of immigrants. The lowest rates, below 4%, were found in Vermont, West Virginia, and Maine—states with relatively small immigrant populations.

No answer

In recent years, a growing number of respondents to the American Community Survey are not answering a question about their citizenship. Nonresponse rates to other demographic questions, however, have remained stable.
(GRAPH) D. MALAKOFF/SCIENCE; (DATA) WILLIAM P. O’HARE, GEORGETOWN UNIVERSITY CENTER ON POVERTY AND INEQUALITY

There was also variability by racial and ethnic group. Asian-Americans and Hispanics had nonresponse rates of 8.1% and 7.4%, respectively, whereas the rate for non-Hispanic whites was 5.6%. Some 8.3% of foreign-born residents ignored the question, compared with only 5.7% of those born in the United States.

The mode of response also matters. O’Hare found that nonresponse rates were highest among those who answered the ACS online, at 8%. In contrast, 6.7% of those who mailed back a paper ACS bypassed the citizenship question, and the nonresponse rate was only 3.8% for those filling out the ACS through a personal interview.

That disparity could be a double whammy for the 2020 census, O’Hare says. The internet will be an option for the first time, and Census Bureau officials hope more than 60% of U.S. residents will answer electronically. In addition, he says, the 500,000 fieldworkers hired for short-term duty on the decennial census are likely to be less capable of cajoling reluctant residents to answer any questions they have skipped than the smaller and better-trained workforce deployed for the ACS. In effect, says O’Hare, the Census Bureau “is pushing a mode of data collection and a methodology that results in higher nonresponse rates.”

In a March memo justifying his decision, Ross asserts that his staff found “limited empirical evidence” to support the argument that “adding a citizenship question would decrease response rates materially.” But a memo from John Abowd, the Census Bureau’s chief scientist, casts doubt on Ross’s assertion by detailing the negative impact of such a question on response rates. The memo was disclosed as part of the department’s response to the various law suits, and O’Hare’s analysis reinforces its message that the citizenship question represents an added burden for some respondents.

“It’s not a random sample,” Dutta-Gupta says about who is more likely to ignore the citizenship question. “The differences [in nonresponse rates] are concentrated geographically and racially. And that’s important.”

Source: Fewer people are answering a US agency’s citizenship query. That’s fueling fears for the 2020 census

Mandatory handshake will make Danish citizenship three times as expensive

Hard to believe that this change would increase the cost of the ceremonies (handshake is a standard feature of Canadian citizenship ceremonies unless the new citizen prefers an alternate sign of respect):
A much-discussed proposal that would require new Danish citizenships to shake hands with their local mayor would also come with a tripling of the fee new Danes have to pay to receive their citizenship.
Forcing all citizenship applicants to participate in a ceremony in which they would have to shake hands with their mayor or another elected official would add so much administrative work that the citizenship fee would increase threefold, according to the wording of the proposal.
The fee would increase from the current 1,200 kroner to 3,600 kroner [USD 186 to USD 558, another high fee that IRCC can use to justify the high Canadian citizenship fee].
The anti-immigration Danish People’s Party, a driving force behind the handshake requirement, said it is perfectly reasonable to demand that people pay three times as much to become a Dane.
“When you consider that you are receiving the gift of Danish citizenship, I actually don’t think it’s that expensive. I think it is a tremendously large and valuable gift,” party spokesman Christian Langballe told news agency Ritzau.
As part of the government’s new rules on citizenship, participants at citizenship ceremonies will be required to shake hands with their local official. The proposal is largely seen as targeting Muslim who refuse to shake hands with members of the opposite sex.
“A handshake is how we greet each other in Denmark. It is the way we show respect for each other in this country. Therefore it is a completely natural part of such a ceremony,” Immigration Minister Inger Støjberg said last month.
Participants at the citizenship ceremonies are also required to sign a document promising to respect Danish values.
The proposed handshake is not necessarily a done deal, as the Social Democrats, who typically go along with the government’s immigration rules, have indicated that they do not support the mandatory handshake.
Party leader Mette Frederiksen said she believes that a handshake is important and “completely natural” but expressed concerns about writing it into law.
“The ceremony is what is important to me. If it turns out that there are problems with the handshake, then we should discuss legislation at that point,” she told broadcaster DR, adding that “we make too many laws in Denmark.”
Frederiksen said her party would not take a stance on the proposal until it makes it to parliament in its final form.
A number of mayors, including some from the ruling Venstre (Liberals) party, have spoken out against the proposal and indicated that they will not force new Danes to shake hands if they don’t want to.

Source: Mandatory handshake will make Danish citizenship three times as expensive

Why is the US so far behind on naturalizing new citizens?

Noteworthy backlog increase, consistent with other immigration-related policy changes by the Trump administration:

Naturalization ceremonies are joyous events. They’re an occasion for new citizens — many of whom are longtime U.S. residents — to officially declare the United States as their home. They’re also a reminder that it is not birthplace or ethnicity that makes one an American, but a commitment to shared principles and values.

Encouraging permanent residents to become U.S. citizens traditionally has been an area of bipartisan agreement, even in the face of heated debates over immigration policy. So why is the country lagging behind in naturalizing aspiring Americans?

Data from U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, the agency responsible for processing naturalization applications, currently show a backlog of more than 750,000 people. That’s nearly double the number of pending applications that existed at the start of 2016, as pointed out in a report by the National Partnership for New Americans. Waiting time between applying for and receiving approval for citizenship used to be about six months; now it is closer to a year. Some USCIS processing centers, including Los Angeles, report that applicants could linger in naturalization limbo for nearly two years.

Some USCIS processing centers, including Los Angeles, report that applicants could linger in naturalization limbo for nearly two years.

The problem predates the Trump administration. In the run-up to the 2016 election, a surge of people rushed to become citizens to vote that November. That’s typical of presidential election years, but USCIS seems to have found itself unprepared. During the more normal year of 2015, there were about 800,000 citizenship applications and the backlog at the end of that year (390,000) was only slightly larger than it was at the beginning. During 2016, however, there were more than 1 million applications and the backlog rose to about 640,000. As a result, many would-be citizens were shut out of voting.

Today, however, the elections are long past and yet the application backlog has increased by another 117,000. Two years ago, one might have attributed the logjam to the challenges of hiring to meet unexpected demand. But now there’s been plenty of time to staff up. And yet, as members of Congress recently complained, field office staff has increased just 7% as the application backlog nearly doubled.

While some might point to scarce funding as the cause, USCIS is almost entirely self-sufficient; its funding comes primarily from immigration and naturalization application fees, not tax revenue. More applications should mean more resources. Despite this, USCIS has indicated it has no plans to add more adjudicators or expand its offices.

Slow-walking citizenship applications is of a piece with other worrisome actions by the Trump administration affecting legal immigration. It has, for example, hired several dozen lawyers and agents to ramp up Operation Janus — an effort to prosecute and strip citizenship from about 1,600 individuals (out of the more than 21 million naturalized citizens) who may have misled authorities on their naturalization application. There have also been efforts to discharge immigrants serving in the U.S. military who are part of a program that puts them on a path to citizenship. Currently the administration is writing rules to hinder naturalization for legal immigrants if anyone in their household — often U.S. citizens — utilized social services such as food stamps, children’s health insurance or the Affordable Care Act.

USCIS has also sometimes drifted from its service-oriented mission of adjudicating and processing immigration benefits. Emails exposed in a lawsuit in Boston, for instance, show the agency working with Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents to schedule fake interviews to lure immigrants to appointments where they were arrested and some deported.

In late July, 50 mayors and county executives signed a letter asking USCIS to reduce the citizenship application backlog. In August, immigrant and civil rights groups filed a Freedom of Information Act request to clarify the reasons for the ongoing delays. Shining a light on what’s happening inside USCIS will be key to resolving the naturalization backlog­ — but so will continued public pressure.

Our country is in the midst of an important debate — one in which reasonable people can disagree — about what constitutes a just immigration system. Still, it is hard to find a legitimate reason for making would-be citizens endure long waits after they have jumped through all the hoops of eligibility.

Pramila Jayapal is the U.S. representative for Washington’s 7th Congressional District. Manuel Pastor, a sociology professor, directs the Center for the Study of Immigrant Integration at USC.

Source: Why is the US so far behind on naturalizing new citizens?

Birthright citizenship, past and present

Nice profile of the history and 1898 case that resulted in birthright citizenship in the USA:

Who’s American?

The Trump administration’s troubling attack against immigrants and the children of immigrants continues. The State Department is denying or slowing passport applications from people with official U.S. birth certificates in states along the southern border; there have been repeated requests for additional documentation.

The government is alleging that some midwives and doctors provided fraudulent certificates over the decades, in a crackdown that’s swept up U.S. military veterans and those with certificates originating hundreds of miles from the border.

The move comes in the wake of the administration’s plans to make it harder for legal permanent residents with green cards to become citizens.

As the American-born daughter of Chinese immigrants, I’m outraged by this onslaught.

Birthright citizenship is vital to this country, making it possible for immigrant families to integrate and build a life here.

Eliminating or curtailing birthright citizenship wouldn’t fix our broken immigration system. These racist, xenophobic efforts to block paths to citizenship, whether through naturalization or at birth, could disenfranchise millions of people and generations of families.

The question of who has a right to be an American has been debated throughout our country’s history. Following the Civil War, the 14th Amendment in 1868 granted citizenship and equal rights to African American slaves who had been emancipated, to all those “born or naturalized” (the decision rectified the Dred Scott case, in which an enslaved man sued for his freedom, and lost).

Three decades later, Wong Kim Ark, the son of Chinese immigrants — born at 751 Sacramento St. in San Francisco — challenged the government’s refusal to recognize his citizenship.

In those days, under the harsh terms of the Chinese Exclusion Act, in order to travel outside of the United States, people of Chinese descent had to get a signed affidavit by white witnesses who could vouch for them and their citizenship.

To me, this bureaucratic obstruction is a parallel to the government’s additional requests for documentation from certain passport applicants.

Though Wong had the required paperwork, customs barred him from landing after his trip to China, by claiming that he was not a U.S. citizen.

He had made the round trip as a teenager, and had been allowed to return. With the support of the Chinese Six Companies — a Chinatown benevolent organization — the cook fought his case to the Supreme Court. In 1898, the court ruled in Wong’s favor, upholding that a child born in the U.S. automatically became a citizen.

To exclude Wong would have denied citizenship to those of English, Scottish, Irish or other European parentage who had always been considered and treated as citizens, Justice Horace Gray wrote in the majority opinion.

The fascinating 2014 documentary “14: Dred Scott, Wong Kim Ark and Vanessa Lopez” — about the history of the 14th Amendment and the debate over birthright citizenship that rages on — includes interviews with Wong’s great-granddaughter, Sandra, a native of San Francisco.

“You can only imagine what he might have felt. If you talked to him, what would he have had to say about these experiences … having to do it over and over again,” Sandra Wong says in the documentary, contemplating his years of legal battles.

“My ancestor stood up and took on the challenge,” she says. “He was brave enough to do it. He was just a regular guy; it wasn’t like he wanted to be a hero. He wanted to fight for his right, and so you do what you have to do.”

How terrifying, how daunting it must have been, to fight the powers that be.

Although I don’t remember learning about Wong’s case among the landmark Supreme Court cases that we studied as schoolchildren, he deserves a place among those whose cases changed the fates of the generations who followed him.

My family owes thanks to him, and so do other children of immigrants, and everyone in this country who has benefited from contributions of those who hailed from elsewhere but embraced the United States as a home and a haven.

Yet Wong’s story doesn’t end with the court case, with him living happily ever after in the Bay Area. Eventually, he returned to China, quite possibly because of the rampant discrimination Chinese and Chinese Americans faced at that time. To his family, he spoke little about what had happened.

Yet his descendants later returned to America, in search of the same opportunity and freedom that has drawn immigrants from the beginning, and draws them still — and that we must strive to protect now.

Source: Birthright citizenship, past and present

These Countries Have the Most Powerful Passports in the World

For citizenship shoppers (the ranking is more click bait than substance and any difference of a few points is meaningless and no weighting is made for ease or difficulty in obtaining citizenship):

Singapore can be celebrated for more than its role in the hit film Crazy Rich Asians — its passport is now the most powerful in the world.

Its ranking was determined by Passport Index, an online tool that collects data from 193 United Nations member countries and six territories to compile an ever-changing list of the world’s most powerful passports. The Index is sponsored by global financial advisory firm Arton Capital, and its annual list of the most valuable passports is decided by the amount of countries to which a passport grants entry without a visa.

Singapore is the sole country to snag the No. 1 “power rank” spot, with a visa-free score of 166. A Singaporean passport will grant visa-free access to 127 countries, while just 29 countries would require a visa upon arrival and 32 countries would require a visa in any circumstance.

Singapore’s spot on the list comes as no big surprise, as the city-state ranked high on the index’s previous list, just behind South Korea, which ranked as No. 1. in the 2017 list that was announced in February. This year, South Korea has fallen to the No. 2 spot, with a visa-free score of 165.

The United States, Finland, Germany, Denmark, along with more European nations, also rank at No. 2 with a score of 165. [Canada is 164]

South Korea and Singapore are the only Asian countries with a power rank at No. 1 and 2, though Japan joins the ranks of Italy, France and Canada at No. 3.

Last year’s list impressed many with the rise of South Korea and Singapore to the top of the list. Armand Arton, the founder and president of Arton Capital, credited the changes to the world’s evolving view of Asian nations. “This is a testament to the increased global respect and trust Asian countries are commanding,” Arton said in a statement in February.

Singapore’s rise on the global passport ranking coincides with its growing wealth. WealthInsight, a data firm which ranks wealth around the globe, reported in May that Singapore is the sixth most millionaire-dense city in the world — one in every 34 residents of Singapore are millionaires. WealthInsight also determined that the city-state has increased in millionaire density by 2.9% in the last year alone.

However, a country’s wealth isn’t necessarily proportionate to its passport power ranking. Monaco, which was ranked No. 1 on WealthInsight’s list (and has one millionaire for every three residents), only ranks at No. 11 on the Passport Index with a visa-free score of 155

Source: These Countries Have the Most Powerful Passports in the World

Would-be Canadian terrorists are often made in Canada: Gurski

Good reminder by Phil Gurski:
What is a citizen? Well, it depends. The concept appears to date back to city states in ancient Greece, but in the modern era each state decides what the rules are. For the average person citizenship is determined by the particular country in which they were born. There are, however, exceptions. Some nations recognize anyone born on their soil—so-called jus soli—so that if a woman gives birth while in transit on a flight that child can receive that country’s citizenship. Others do not.
During the recent Conservative convention in Halifax a resolution was passed calling for the government to stop granting citizenship to anyone born on Canadian soil, and instead to require at least one parent to be a Canadian citizen or permanent resident. The motion was spurred by a belief that pregnant non-Canadian women were flying to Canada for the sole purpose of giving birth, although there are no indications that this is a significant problem in our country. The Conservative position has already led to reactions that it is not necessary.
Two cases in our country have arisen that lead to interesting dilemmas. In the first, two children born in Canada to Russians here illegally as spies were once seen as citizens. The Supreme Court is currently weighing in on a lower court decision that removed their citizenship. I imagine that most Canadians would not want to see the offspring of Russian spies receive the privileges our country has to offer, even if the fact they were born here was not their ‘fault’.
So what about terrorists? The Harper government tried to enact legislation that would strip those convicted of terrorist offences in Canada of their citizenship. The case of Zakaria Amara, one of the leaders of the 2005-6 Toronto 18 terrorist cell, was the test case. His citizenship was revoked but re-granted after the Liberals took power.
Like the case of the children of the Russian “illegals” I would wager that most Canadians would have little to no problem with taking away the benefit of being one of us from someone who sought to blow us up. If an immigrant to whom we granted citizenship goes and becomes a terrorist and plans to kill his fellow Canadians, does he deserve to be one of us? Great question.
There are of course limitations on when a state can take citizenship away. No state can—or rather, no state should—render a person stateless. Hence, an individual with status in only one country can not have that status taken away: that act can only be applied to those who can fall back on a secondary citizenship. Mr. Amara had dual Jordanian-Canadian citizenship and had temporarily lost the latter.
As I argued in Western Foreign Fighters, however, the decision to take away citizenship does not solve one significant issue: those who come to our land as children and become terrorists (note that I wrote “become” and not “were born as”) do so within our society. In other words, the process of radicalization occurs here, not elsewhere. Even if we were to remove such people who pose a threat to us through their terrorist plots by stripping them of their Canadian citizenship and deporting them, this does little to disrupt the incidence of radicalization here (aside of course from removing one radicalizing influence who can affect others).
This is an important detail. Contrary to public wisdom, radicalization to violence is a Canadian problem: it does not appear on our shores via the immigration system. We thus have to learn to deal with it and the government has started a new centre to help coordinate those efforts.
I fully understand the anger that Canadians feel towards those of us who choose to embrace terrorism (note that I wrote “choose” and not “were duped into”): I share that anger. Perhaps steps to yank citizenship will act as a deterrent for others: perhaps not (I lean towards the latter). Which ever way the government goes it does not eliminate the need to develop a better understanding of why Canadians radicalize to violence, and either travel abroad to join terrorist groups or plan acts here. One thing we cannot do is deport our way out of this problem.