Ads promote Canada’s benefits to would-be birth tourists

More on birth tourism and the related “industry:”

Ads urging women to come to Canada to give birth tout the value of providing their child with Canadian citizenship.

“Go to Canada to vacation and give birth to a child,” says one online ad targeting Mainland Chinese mothers. “U.S. rejected your visa? No problem! In fact, Canada is better!”

Ads tell women that going to Canada for automatic citizenship is a “gift” for their babies since their children will be able to get free education, cheap university tuition and student loans, according to translations provided by Liberal MLA Jas Johal and verified by Postmedia.

Under Canadian law, a child born in this country is entitled to Canadian citizenship.

The ads are being run by brokers offering “one-stop shopping” for women, with offers to put together packages including transportation, housing, meals, contracts, pre- and postnatal medical appointments, shopping and checking in at hospitals. The ads generally do not mention the broker’s fees.

Some of the ads tell women their offspring can sponsor their parents under family reunification plans once they are adults: “You want to retire in Canada, but you don’t meet the requirements?” asks one such online ad. “You can give birth to your child in Canada. When your child turns 18, your child can apply for the parents.”

Ads tout monthly government subsidies, Canadians’ visa-free entry to 200 countries, unemployment benefits, and that “Canadian passports mean immigration to the U.S.,” Johal said.

Others say birth tourism is ideal for people who “care about their children’s education.”

And in a reference to China’s long-standing policy that limits most couples to a single child, some of the ads suggest birth tourism is ideal for “people who would like to have several kids.

Johal, the Richmond-Queensborough MLA, said birth tourism offends a large proportion of his constituents who want the practice banned. And Health Minister Adrian Dix is looking for Ottawa to take a stand on the issue.

Johal said the latest numbers of births by non-residents, reported by Postmedia, are a wake-up call to all levels of government. There was a 24 per cent increase in births by non-resident mothers in B.C., to 837 babies in 2017-18.

“At its core, birth tourism debases the meaning of citizenship,” Johal said. “As a son of immigrants, and an immigrant to this country, let there be no doubt those of us who have come emigrated to Canada by following the rules are the ones who are most offended by this practice.”

Johal finds the content of many of the ads downright offensive: “When you come to this country and strive and sacrifice, you strengthen this country and the value of Canadian citizenship. Allowing affluent foreigners to essentially purchase a passport is not what this country is about.”

In a legislature committee this week, Johal asked Dix about birth tourism. Dix acknowledged his concerns about the growing numbers of foreign women coming to B.C. to have babies.

“I don’t agree with it. I don’t support it,” Dix stated. But it’s an issue, he said, that comes under federal jurisdiction since it’s a citizenship and immigration matter.

“I mean it’s time, if they want to act, that they should act,” he said of the federal Liberals. “Or alternatively, say they don’t want to act.”

Birth tourism is expected to become a federal election issue this fall.

The Conservatives want the law changed so that one parent must either be a landed immigrant or a Canadian citizen before a baby can gain citizenship.

Postmedia asked the federal immigration minister for comment about birth tourism and any possible changes to policies. But a spokeswoman said the federal government can’t “speculate” on that.

Nancy Caron, a spokeswoman for Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada, said the birth-on-soil policy for citizenship has existed since 1947.

The 2019 federal budget has allocated $51.9 million over five years to improve oversight of immigration advisers, including those who deal with birth tourists. Some of the funds will be used to ensure that they aren’t telling women to misrepresent the purpose of their visitor visas.

Mathieu Genest, press secretary to Ahmed Hussen, minister of immigration, refugees and citizenship, said that the Conservatives had once proposed ending the citizenship-on-soil policy but that was “roundly rejected by Canadians.” Now the Conservatives have “backtracked” on their policy, he said.

Source: Ads promote Canada’s benefits to would-be birth tourists

Immigrant service members are now denied US citizenship at a higher rate than civilians

Another illustration of the effects of the Trump administration hard-line immigration policies and practices:

Immigrants serving in the U.S. military are being denied citizenship at a higher rate than foreign-born civilians, according to new government data that has revealed the impact of stricter Trump administration immigration policies on service members.

According to the same data, the actual number of service members even applying for U.S. citizenship has also plummeted since President Donald Trump took office, the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services reported in its quarterly naturalization statistics.

“The U.S. has had a long-standing tradition of immigrants come to the U.S. and have military service provide a path to citizenship,” said retired U.S. Army Maj. Gen. Paul Eaton, a senior adviser to the liberal veterans advocacy group VoteVets.org. “To have this turnaround, where they are actually taking a back seat to the civilian population, strikes me as a bizarre turn of events.”

According to the most recent USCIS data available, the agency denied 16.6% of military applications for citizenship, compared to an 11.2% civilian denial rate in the first quarter of fiscal year 2019, a period that covers October to December 2018.

The fiscal year 2019 data is the eighth quarterly report of military naturalization rates since Trump took office. In six of the last eight reports, civilians had a higher rate of approval for citizenship than military applicants did, reversing the previous trend.

Attorneys for service members seeking to become citizens said new military immigration policies announced by the administration in 2017 and Trump’s overall anti-immigrant rhetoric are to blame.

“I think people are disheartened right now by the immigration climate,” said Elizabeth Ricci, an attorney who is representing immigrant service members. “We talk about a wall all the time. This is an invisible wall.”

Overall, the number of service members who apply to become naturalized citizens is just a fraction of the civilian applications, but both pools have shrunk over the last two years. In the first quarter of the Trump administration, January to March 2017 — which is the second quarter of fiscal year 2017 — there were 3,069 foreign-born members of the military who applied to become naturalized citizens. That same quarter, 286,892 foreign-born civilians applied.

In the first quarter of fiscal year 2019, USCIS reported it received only 648 military applications for citizenship, a 79% drop. For comparison, the agency received 189,410 civilian applications, a 34% drop.

The Defense Department was repeatedly asked for comment by McClatchy, but did not provide a response.

USCIS officials said the drop in applications is not due to any action by their agency, which processes the applications as it receives them.

“The fall in military naturalization applications is likely attributable in significant part to the Department of Defense’s decision not to renew the Military Accessions Vital to the National Interest (MAVNI) program after its expiration at the end of FY17,” USCIS said in a statement.

Deported To Mexico, US Veterans Are Pressed Into Service By Drug Cartels

Immigrants who wish to join the U.S. military fall into three categories: legal permanent U.S. residents, commonly known as “green card” holders; foreign-born recruits with key medical or language skills who came to the United States under student, work or asylum visas and enlisted through MAVNI; and special status non-immigrant enlistees, who are residents of the Federated States of Micronesia, Republic of the Marshall Islands, and Palau.

The Trump administration in 2017 announced major changes to the way the Pentagon would vet and clear foreign-born recruits and other overall changes to when a service member would qualify for naturalization.

Immigrant enlistees previously could join basic training once a background investigation had been initiated, and they could become eligible to start seeking citizenship after one day of military service. Under the new policy, enlistees do not go to basic training until their background investigation is complete, and they have to complete basic training and 180 days of service before they can seek citizenship.

In the months that followed, the Defense Department shut down naturalization offices at some of its basic training locations, citing the new policy.

7 Immigrant Service Members Who Perfectly Capture The Spirit Of Military Service

Other changes appeared procedural but had deep impact, such as the change that only higher-ranking officers, at colonel or above, were authorized to sign key USCIS forms verifying that an enlistee had served honorably. The signatures had to be original, too, which made it much more difficult for troops in outlier areas where the nearest colonel or higher-ranking officer may be hundreds of miles away, Stock said.

The new rules had a chilling effect, military immigration attorneys said. Unit leaders who previously would have shepherded naturalization paperwork through for their service members have stopped doing so, the attorneys said.

“People are telling them ‘wait until you get to your first unit.’ When they get to the unit they are told, ‘we don’t know anything about this anymore,'” Stock said.

The lack of guidance in units for immigrant soldiers “is all intentional,” Ricci said. “It’s part of this overall culture of ‘No.'”

The new rules have left some recruits waiting for years to serve.

Army recruit Ajay Kumar Jaina, 33, came to the United States from India in 2012 on an H-1B visa to work for Veritas Healthcare Solutions. He has a master’s degree in pharmaceutical analysis and wanted to become a military pharmacist. In May 2016 he enlisted under MAVNI for his medical skills.

He’s been in a holding pattern ever since. In the almost three years he’s waited to go to basic training, he’s reported for duty for more than 20 weekends with the 445th Quartermaster Company in Trenton, New Jersey.

He goes to New Jersey knowing that he will be unable to drill with the rest of the unit because he has not yet undergone basic training since the Defense Department has not completed his background check.

So his activities on base are limited to administration and inventory roles.

“When I registered in the Army, at that time I was told my basic training location. I was told within six months my background check would be verified, and then I could go to basic and then (advanced individual training) then I could be come apply for citizenship,” Jaina said.

Jaina said no determination has been made on his background check yet. “Which is actually good!” he said. “I can wait. I can keep my hopes high.”

Jaina’s H-1B visa expires next month and he said he may have to go back to India in order to be able to return to the United States under a new visa as he continues to wait.

Eaton questioned why the Defense Department would make it more difficult to pull from eligible immigrant recruits, particularly in light of the recruiting challenges the military faces overall.

“Only 25% of the U.S. population is eligible to serve, due to academic, health or behavioral issues,” Eaton said.

Last year the Army missed its annual recruiting goal by more than 6,500 personnel. In a statement, the Army would not say whether the immigration policies had impacted its ability to recruit last year.

“Our leaders remain confident that we have laid the foundation to improve recruiting for the Army while maintaining an emphasis on quality over quantity,” the Army said.

Source: Immigrant service members are now denied US citizenship at a higher rate than civilians

Qatar Arbitrarily Revoked a Dissident Qatari Clan’s Citizenship

More on citizenship stripping in Qatar:

A bombshell report from Human Rights Watch (HRW) alleges that Qatar arbitrarily stripped the citizenship of thousands of members of the large Ghufran clan, and that though citizenship has been restored to many, dozens are left stateless with no clear recourse.

Qatar’s move to revoke the citizenship of members of the Ghufran clan came after members of that clan, itself a small part of the larger, semi-nomadic al-Murrah tribe, backed a botched coup attempt in 1996. In the years since, Ghufran members’ citizenship were steadily stripped from them. HRW has found 28 former Qatari citizens who remain stateless and unable to access basic services or see their rights protected.

Throughout the Middle East, states have granted and revoked citizenship status for political reasons.

Israel offered citizenship to Syrian Druze living in the dospited Golan Heights after Israel invaded and claimed the region from Syria during the 1967 war. In April 2019, Bahrain stripped the citizenship of over 130 people alleged to have taken part in 2011 protests. In 2014, Kuwait revoked dozens of dissidents’ citizenships in several waves, reinstating only ten in 2018.

The opaque process under which Qatar decides who gains and loses citizenship has come under fire by HRW, who call it ‘arbitrary.’

An Arbitrary Process

“I have no property in my name, no house, no income, no health card, I can’t even open a bank account, it’s like I don’t even exist.”

Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani (AFP/FILE)

“The restoration of citizenship appears to be taking place in as arbitrary a manner as the revocation of citizenship,” Hiba Zayadin, a HRW researcher focused on the Gulf, told Al Bawaba.

“In the 20 years since the state of Qatar began to target families from the Ghufran clan, it has not provided any comprehensive or transparent information on how many people it arbitrarily stripped of citizenship, how that process was carried out, or how people could go about seeking to restore their citizenship,” she said, adding that nobody knows with any certainty how many people remain stateless as a result of Qatar’s decision.

Though Qatar has not publicly stated its motivations behind the mass move to revoke Ghufran clansmen’s citizenships, members of the clan suspect it is linked to their involvement in the failed 1996 coup attempt.

In Feb 1996, an internal plan by members of Qatar’s ruling al-Thani party, to overthrow Hamad bin Khalifa al-Thani was stopped before it could get underway. Almost immediately, members of the Ghufran clan were suspected to have taken part in the conspiracy, and Qatar began revoking their citizenship en masse. The process appears to have continued well into the 2000s, leaving thousands of Ghufran clansmen stateless; many were forced to acquire citizenship in neighboring countries.

Most citizenship claims have since been restored, but HRW documented dozens of former Qatari Ghufran members who remain in a virtual limbo, without access to basic rights protections or services.

“I have no property in my name, no house, no income, no health card, I can’t even open a bank account, it’s like I don’t even exist,” a 56 year-old man, whose citizenship was revoked in 2004, told HRW.

“When I get sick [instead of going to a doctor or hospital] I take Panadol [a non-prescription painkiller] and hope for the best.” According to the report, his five children’s citizenships were also revoked.

Another interviewee described that in a world where one’s well-being is entirely determined by citizenship status, being stateless means he has had to rely on others’ charity for over 20 years. “We live in suffering because we are stateless,” he said. “If we remain this way, we will have no future.”

Without a legal claim to citizenship within Qatar, those interviewed have no access to Qatar’s public or private schools and universities. They cannot legally work and have had difficulty accessing Qatar’s health care system.

Many cannot leave the country and are routinely stopped by police. Once stopped, they cannot provide a valid Qatari identity card, so they are detained and have to be bailed out. One 58 year-old interviewed has been stuck in Saudi Arabia as she waits to get a Saudi passport. Until then, she cannot even travel anywhere within Saudi.

“The most difficult thing for me is that I can’t visit my family in Qatar. I miss visiting home, I miss al-Wakrah, al-Rayyan, the corniche, the sea. I missed my nephew’s wedding and many other family events. There are some loved ones that I haven’t seen since the day I was stripped of citizenship,” she said.

No Clear Path Forward 

“Interviewees said they never received any formal or written communication informing them of the decision.”

A delegation from the Ghufran clan at the U.N. (Ghufran clan/Arab News)

Though Bahrain and Kuwait stripped some of their dissidents’ citizenship in a similar manner to Qatar, Hiba Zayadin of HRW said Qatar’s handling of the manner stands out. In both Bahrain and Kuwait’s case, “often the government either announces the citizenship revocations or formally informs those being targeted and refers to court decisions, decrees, or executive orders calling for the stripping of citizenship.”

“In the case of members of the Ghufran,” she said, “the Qatari government did not make public any decree mandating the stripping of citizenship and in the cases Human Rights Watch documented, interviewees said they never received any formal or written communication informing them of the decision.”

Because the process has been kept from public view, there are no clear venues for the stateless to appeal the revocation. For the time being, they are stuck without citizenship.

The report itself details the futile attempts of the stateless members of the Ghufran clan to reach out to Qatar’s Interior Ministry only to be met with radio silence.

When asked if there was any feasible way those stateless could regain their Qatari citizenship, Zayadin of HRW recommended that the international community step in and speak on their behalf in order to try and pressure Qatar to re-integrate them.

In other words, the fate of the remaining stateless Ghufran clanspeople rests in the hands of external state delegations who may simply forgo pressuring Qatar if it is deemed too politically risky or extraneous.

In Sep 2018, members of the Ghufran clan staged a sit-in outside the U.N.’s headquarters in Geneva to demand the reinstatement of clansmen’s’ citizenships.

Source: Qatar Arbitrarily Revoked a Dissident Qatari Clan’s Citizenship

Richmond Hospital leads the way as birth tourism continues to rise

No new data in this report:

The number of pregnant foreigners coming to B.C. hospitals so their newborns can get automatic Canadian citizenship continues to rise.

Births by non-residents of B.C. increased 24 per cent from the 2016-17 fiscal year to 2017-18, from 676 babies to 837 the following year, according to records obtained through freedom of information requests.

About two per cent of all births in B.C. hospitals are now by non-residents, just as the birthrate among B.C. residents is dropping.

Richmond hospital continues to be at the forefront of the phenomenon, with the total number of babies born to non-residents of B.C. at the hospital rising from 337 in the 2014-15 fiscal year to 474 by 2017-18. Four years ago babies born to non-residents accounted for 15.4 per cent of all births at Richmond Hospital, compared to 22.1 per cent in the last fiscal year.

By comparison, St. Paul’s Hospital and Mount Saint Joseph Hospital — both operated by Providence Health Care — had a combined 132 babies born to non-residents of B.C. in the 2017/18 fiscal year.

While non-resident births account for about two per cent of all babies delivered in B.C., at Richmond Hospital, that proportion is 10 times higher. Indeed, as a New York Times article reported, the hospital is now perceived around the world as a coveted destination for so-called anchor babies, a term to describe children born here to non-residents to gain citizenship.

Health minister Adrian Dix is concerned by the numbers.

“The immigration issues are in federal jurisdiction. This is where concerns must be addressed, not by turning health professionals and skilled health care workers into immigration officers. That is not their role,” said Dix.

Richmond Mayor Malcolm Brodie agreed with Dix that birth tourism is a federal issue but said there are significant local impacts as well.

“As a city council, we haven’t discussed this but there are individuals who have concerns about the impacts on our already crowded hospital resources,” said Brodie, referring to the aging facilities and to situations when local women are diverted to other hospitals when Richmond Hospital is full.

Brodie said he supports a change to federal laws because he doesn’t believe anchor babies should get automatic citizenship.

“The practice of birth tourism should be curtailed,” he said.

Birth tourism is not illegal and a report by the Institute for Research and Public Policy showed that the numbers are climbing year after year. In 2017, there were at least 3,628 births, mainly in B.C., Alberta, and Ontario, by mothers who live outside Canada.

In 2016, Postmedia reported 295 of the 1,938 babies born at Richmond Hospital for the year ended March 31 were delivered, largely to foreign Chinese mothers. And dozens of birth houses were cropping up across the municipality, catering to women who need housing, meals, transportation and help with documents like birth certificates and passports.

As Dix has said, the provincial government has taken the approach that it doesn’t endorse the marketing and provision of birth tourism services but at the same time, patients needing urgent care can’t be turned away. 

While hospital staff cannot refuse care when women in labour arrive at the front door, Dix said measures have been put in place to help ensure taxpayers aren’t subsidizing the costs of non-resident hospital care.

For instance, late last year the ministry and Vancouver Coastal Health decided to raise fees charged to non-residents when they go to the Richmond Hospital. The cost for a vaginal birth increased to $8,200 from $7,200 and the cost of a caesarean section rose by $300 to $13,300. If their medical care becomes more complicated patients are assessed higher fees.

In 2017, Vancouver Coastal Health billed non-residents of B.C. about $6.22 million for maternity services at Richmond Hospital.

For maternity cases at Richmond Hospital … the majority of non-residents pay their bills in full,” said Vancouver Coastal Health spokesperson Carrie Stefanson. Approximately 80 per cent of billing to non-residents is recovered, she added.

But sometimes, as in the case of Yan Xia, a birth tourist from China, patients leave Canada after giving birth and leave behind a healthy bill.

Vancouver Coast Health has filed a lawsuit against Xia, who gave birth at Richmond Hospital in 2012. The bill for an extended stay in hospital due to complications totalled $313,000.

The case remains in legal limbo as Xia’s exact whereabouts are unknown and the bill may eventually have to be written off by Vancouver Coast Health.

Stefanson said the Xia case is believed to be VCH’s only maternity debt lawsuit over $100,000.

Richmond Liberal MP Joe Peschisolido has sponsored a petition calling on the federal government to end birth tourism. The petition garnered 11,000 signatures and denounces the practice as “abusive and exploitative” for “debasing” the value of Canadian citizenship. The Peschisolido petition was presented to Parliament last fall.

“The Government of Canada is committed to protecting the public from fraud and unethical consulting practices and protecting the integrity of Canada’s immigration and citizenship programs,” said Ahmed Hussen, minister of immigration, refugees and citizenship in response to the Peschisolido petition.

“To this end, (we) are currently undertaking a comprehensive review, with a view to developing additional information and strengthened measures to address the practices of unscrupulous consultants and exploitation of our programs through misrepresentation.”

Birth tourism will likely be an issue in the upcoming federal election as the Conservatives have vowed to withhold citizenship unless one parent is a Canadian or a permanent resident.

Source: https://vancouversun.com/news/local-news/richmond-hospital-leads-the-way-as-birth-tourism-continues-to-rise

Is the British Home Office creating two tiers of Irish citizenship?

Of interest, as the UK grapples with the implications of Brexit and Northern Ireland:

The Good Friday Agreement (GFA) explicitly states that people born in Northern Ireland are unique within the UK in having the birthright to identify as Irish or British or both.

However, the British Home Office is now arguing through the courts that the people born in Northern Ireland are “automatically British” as they were “clearly born in the United Kingdom.”

This is not a cosmetic assertion, it’s not merely a quibble over language or intent. Making citizens of Northern Ireland automatically British against their wishes has profound implications for their lives and for the future stability of the peace there.

Critics contend that the Home Office is essentially forcing British citizenship on Irish citizens born in Northern Ireland – citizens who identify as Irish by birth and by choice.

They are also forcibly countering an option that the people of Ireland north and south voted in record numbers for in the Good Friday Agreement referendum in 1998.

Take the example of an Irish national who holds an Irish passport, and who was born in Derry. The position of the Home Office is that they are a dual British/Irish national, but if they would like to fully retain and access their rights as an Irish and E.U. national in the U.K. they would have to “renounce” their British citizenship and rely solely on their Irish citizenship. Even if they have never claimed British citizenship. Even if they do not hold a British passport.

Source: Is the British Home Office creating two tiers of Irish citizenship?

When does birthright citizenship become citizenship for sale?

No new information and misses government response to petition (the ongoing study):

Kerry Starchuk’s activism begins with homemade granola cookies – specifically, when she took a plate to her new neighbors.

Except the man and a toddler boy who she heard bouncing a basketball outside, and the two pregnant women with them, hadn’t moved into the house next door to hers, where she has lived since 1988. Visitors from China, they were residing in her neighborhood only temporarily and didn’t respond to her greeting. After they awkwardly accepted her cookies, she never saw the group again.

It wasn’t the first time she’d seen pregnant women coming and going in her neighborhood or heard about why they were there. But the meeting began her personal battle against “birth tourism,” where wealthy mothers like the ones she encountered next door pay to give birth, get citizenship for their babies, and return home.

It is an issue gaining prominence across North America, where jus soli, or rules by which citizenship is determined by birthplace, is the standard practice (yet otherwise rare among developed countries, as in Europe where citizenship is more restricted and often granted along bloodlines). An online petition that Ms. Starchuk started against the practice last year, garnering some 11,000 signatures, was supported by a federal Liberal lawmaker representing Richmond. Meanwhile, the federal Conservatives, in opposition during an election year, voted on a motion last summer to tighten laws around birthright citizenship. In the United States, President Donald Trump has said he will end it by executive order.

Mr. Trump’s threat drew widespread criticism by critics who call it anti-immigrant pandering. But concerns about citizenship rules span partisan lines. In Canada, a poll from the Angus Reid Institute in March showed that while more believe birthright citizenship is a good policy than a bad one (40% versus 33%), 60% believed rules needed to be tightened to counter abuse of the system.

Ms. Starchuk, a part-time housecleaner, insists her position is not anti-Chinese or anti-immigrant but is about rules and values, especially in a region where foreign wealth and capital have changed the face of communities. In Richmond, the mothers hail mostly from China, lured by advertisements that sell all-inclusive packages including a stay at a “birth hotel.” Other hospitals in Toronto and Montreal have seen increases in mothers from Eastern Europe or Africa. A recent data analysis showed Richmond’s local hospital with the highest percentage of births to mothers residing outside Canada.

“It does undermine me, because I’m trying to build community and welcome my neighbors to the neighborhood,” she says. “And then I find out it’s not a single-family home where there’s going to be a new family but an international, underground birth-tourism hotel. … It’s like selling citizenship.”

An abuse of the system?

The issue under debate in Canada, which established citizenship rules under the 1947 Canadian Citizenship Act, is largely about the power of foreign money and how it devalues citizenship. The debate in the U.S., on the other hand, sometimes targets so-called anchor babies but revolves around undocumented migration. It was rekindled last fall with Mr. Trump’s threat, which has been highly polarizing.

The national conversations converge around questions of fairness and the changes people fear and perceive around them.

Joe Peschisolido, a Liberal lawmaker, says birth tourism is an abuse of the system. ‘It’s a business where people are making money off of the goodness of Canadians.’

Martha Jones, who wrote “Birthright Citizens: A History of Race and Rights in Antebellum America,” says that citizenship is always an evolving political question. In the U.S., questions about birthright citizenship arose in the early 19th century around the status of former slaves, which culminated in the 14th Amendment in 1868.

But that didn’t settle the issue, and in some ways the debate today is analogous to the one around former slaves because it leaves an entire class of people in a legal limbo. “It is a tragic example of the ways in which American lawmakers have failed in my view to fulfill their obligation to extend to people some basic sense of who they are,” Ms. Jones says.

In Canada, the Conservatives last summer voted that the party should support the position that a baby born in Canada should receive citizenship only if one parent is a Canadian or permanent resident.

Not all Conservatives agree with their party. Deepak Obhrai, a Tory lawmaker from Calgary, says that birth tourism abuses could be addressed with immigration procedures that target the parents but not the child. “It takes away the fundamental right of the child,” he says. “A Canadian is a Canadian is a Canadian.”

Those fighting birth tourism have been accused of overexaggerating the problem. Federal statistics show only 313 births by nonresident mothers in 2016. But new research using hospital financial data puts the number at 3,223 that year. One of 5 births at Richmond Hospital is to nonresident mothers, those figures show.

Joe Peschisolido, the Liberal lawmaker who sponsored Ms. Starchuk’s petition and is awaiting a government response, says it might not be illegal, but that doesn’t make it right. “It’s an abuse of the system,” he says at his offices in Richmond. “It’s a business where people are making money off of the goodness of Canadians.”

And it’s something that many in the community care about, he says. His next meeting is with a constituent who, on his way in, says he’s here to talk to Mr. Peschisolido about ending “birth tourism.”

Among some of the fiercest critics of birth tourism are Chinese immigrants in Richmond.

“Why would the parents want to get their children Canadian citizenship if they themselves don’t want Canadian citizenship?” says one mother, who didn’t want to share her name. She’s at Parker Place, one of several shopping centers catering to the Chinese community.

She emigrated to Canada in 1990 from Beijing and says she had to work hard to learn English. But today, Richmond is 54% Chinese, compared with 34% in 1996. And now newer Chinese immigrants don’t learn the language as she had to, she says, and Mandarin is increasingly heard in town.

‘It’s the unfairness of it’

It is easy to dismiss Ms. Starchuk, who also ran a campaign against Chinese-only signage in Richmond, in a country that embraces multicultural tolerance. But, as a fourth-generation resident of Richmond that has always been diverse, she says her fight is about inclusion and maintaining a healthy community.

This battle is, in fact, amplified by the backdrop of larger changes taking place around her in Greater Vancouver. Foreign money has pushed up housing prices and displaced locals, including her own grown children, who she says haven’t been able to purchase homes and instead rent in Richmond.

She says she probably wouldn’t have gotten involved in the birth tourism fight if it had not been in her backyard, literally.

“This is not ‘a nothing issue,’” says Ms. Starchuk, who has binders full of letters, petitions, and news clips she’s collected about her efforts.

She says not everyone will agree with her. “Some will say, about birth tourism, that they will do whatever they can to get to Canada, even if I have to cheat. Others will say, ‘I paid for it. Why shouldn’t I be able to get what I want?’”

Ultimately, though, it violates her sense of what it means to be Canadian.

“It’s the unfairness of it,” she says. “Citizenship is not partisan, Liberal or Conservative, but about Canadian values. When you’re an immigrant, you take and you contribute.”

“This,” she says, “is a free-for-all.”

Source: When does birthright citizenship become citizenship for sale?

Australia: High court to rule on whether Indigenous people can be deported from Australia

Can’t resist following this absurd argumentation by the Australian government:

The federal government’s attempts to deport two Indigenous men have gone before the high court, examining what lawyers for the two men have said are “absurd” circumstances.

The two men in the separate cases, Daniel Love and Brendan Thoms, were both born overseas to at least one parent who is Indigenous and holds Australian citizenship. They both have Indigenous children, and Thoms is a native title holder.

However, neither formally applied for Australia citizenship and, after being convicted of “serious” crimes and given jail sentences of 12 months or more, both had their visas cancelled under the government’s controversial character test provisions.

The law firm Maurice Blackburn is now asking the high court to determine if an Aboriginal Australian in the men’s circumstances is an “alien” for the purposes of the constitution.

It is the first time the court has been asked to rule on the commonwealth’s use of its alien powers in this way, and the lawyers now representing the two men argue the term must be defined by the court, not parliament.

“Historically we are a nation of immigrants and our ancestors come from other places, except for Aboriginal Australians,” said Claire Gibbs, senior associate at Maurice Blackburn, who is acting for the two men, before the hearing. “The importance and significance of that should be reflected in the common law.”

Love and Thoms are not the only Indigenous people who have faced deportation under the character test provisions. Guardian Australia has previously reported on the case of Tim Galvin, and it is believed there are a number of others.

Love was born in Papua New Guineain 1979 to a PNG citizen mother and Australian citizen father, and automatically acquired PNG citizenship.

The family travelled back and forth until they settled permanently in Australia when Love was five and he was given a permanent residency visa. Love is a recognised Kamilaroi man.

Thoms was born in New Zealand in 1988 to an Australian citizen mother and New Zealand citizen father. He automatically acquired New Zealand citizenship at birth, and was entitled to apply for Australian citizenship, but never did.

He has lived permanently in Australia since November 1994 under a special category visa. Thoms is a recognised Gunggari man, and a native title holder under common law.

In 2018 both men were separately convicted of crimes and sentenced to 12 and 18 months respectively. Both had their visas cancelled under the government’s controversial section 501 of the migration act, relating to character, and were taken to immigration detention.

Gibbs said being put in immigration detention had taken a devastating toll on her clients’ mental health. Gibbs said bringing the case before the court was not seeking to interfere with the government’s power to deport people who were “genuinely non-Australian”.

“What we think is wrong is the government using the power to detain and deport people who, on any commonsense measure, are Australians, like my clients.”

Love was given his visa back under ministerial discretion but Thoms remains in immigration detention after more than seven months.

Gibbs welcomed the return of Love’s visa but said there there were clearly “inconsistencies” between the two cases and that was why the high court needed to determine if the government was using the power lawfully.

In submissions to the court, the men’s lawyers argued that Indigenous people “cannot be alien to Australia” and were “beyond the reach” of that constitutional power.

Indigenous people are known to have inhabited Australia for as much as 80,000 years and are “a permanent part of the Australian community”, they said, and the two men “do not, and have never, owed allegiance to a foreign sovereign power”.

“The statutory definition of citizen is distinct from, and does not control, the constitutional definition of alien and, therefore, that the plaintiffs are not Australian citizens pursuant to Australian citizenship legislation does not automatically mean that they are aliens.”

In defence, the Australian government submitted that whether the men were Indigenous or native title holders was “irrelevant” to the question of their alien status.

“Acceptance of the proposition that Aboriginal people, as a class, were not and are not ‘aliens’ does not entail the proposition that any particular Aboriginal person is not an ‘alien’,” the government’s submission said.

It said certain principles, which were “fatal” to the plaintiffs’ case, “ought now to be regarded as settled”. They said it was an agreed fact that neither plaintiff was a citizen, and “non-citizen” was the same as “alien”.

Numerous cases supported these findings, the submission said, and the plaintiffs had not sought to reopen those cases.

Legal arguments began on Wednesday, with the government citing the high court’s section 44 ruling on MPs, and the men’s lawyers citing significant cases including the Mabo decision, and the high court ruling on Amos Ame, a Papua-born man who was an Australian citizen by birth but who could be treated as an alien.

The government’s push to deport an increasing number of people under the character test provisions has raised numerous complications, including for Indigenous people and those born in PNG before its independence in 1975.

A complex web of citizenship laws and successive changes to them in both PNG and Australia has threatened to leave some people stateless, as both countries assumed people had citizenship of the other and revoked their own, but failed to properly communicate it to individuals.

Source: High court to rule on whether Indigenous people can be deported from Australia

Actor’s Canadian citizenship leaves India’s ruling BJP red faced | Article

The irony:

The Hindi film actor Rajiv Hari Om Bhatia, popularly known as Akshay Kumar, and known for his proximity to the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), confessed that he is no longer an Indian citizen.

His admission that he holds a Canadian passport comes soon after he conducted a “non-political” interview of prime minister Narendra Modi while general elections were underway. In the interview, questions like whether Modi likes mangoes and how he eats them drew a lot of mirth and derision from social media users.

Kumar is also known for projecting himself as a uber nationalist. One of his recent films, Toilet – Ek Prem Katha, was seen as a vehicle to promote a much-touted scheme of the BJP government.

His earlier films are seen as vehicles of a muscular government ready to take on enemies of the state through assassinations and kidnappings. His films like KesariRustom, Goldand Airlift, among others, focus on themes relating to nationalism.

Meanwhile the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party has stoked nationalism while using the national security plank for its electoral campaign.

Kumar’s citizenship issue has become a big deal because BJP supporters frequently subject people from India’s religious minorities to “loyalty tests.” For instance, Muslims and other government critics are frequently asked to “go to Pakistan.” Kumar’s colleagues in Bollywood, Amir Khan and Naseeruddin Shah, had to face such questions when they stated that they were not feeling safe under the current government. Kumar had snubbed Khan for his comments.

As social media users raised questions over the citizenship of Bollywood’s poster boy for nationalism, the situation got worse as Mumbai went to the polls when Kumar’s wife, Twinkle Khanna, turned up at the polling booth on April 29 but he was not seen voting.

Moreover, the actor chose to ignore and walk away when he was questioned by journalists about not voting in the Lok Sabha elections in Mumbai, the capital of western Indian state Maharashtra. Kumar responded to the question with “Chaliye, chaliye (let’s go, let’s go)” as he walked away. Later, he would state that he is a Canadian citizen. Trolls had a field day on social media.

It was out and out ironical as the actor was recently tagged by PM Modi in a tweet urging him to encourage people to vote. Kumar did so. He tweeted saying: “The true hallmark of a democracy lies in people’s participation in the electoral process. Voting has to be a superhit . . . between our nation and its voters.”

The row over his already controversial citizenship issue started after his recent interview with PM Modi. The prime minister, known for rarely giving interviews to journalists, spoke to the actor in an interview described as “informal and non-political.”

Kumar issued a statement on May 3 on Twitter acknowledging his Canadian citizenship while underlining his Indian patriotism: “I really don’t understand the unwarranted interest and negativity about my citizenship. I have never hidden or denied that I hold a Canadian passport. It is also equally true that I have not visited Canada in the last seven years. I work in India, and pay all my taxes in India. While all these years, I have never needed to prove my love for India to anyone, I find it disappointing that my citizenship issue is constantly dragged into needless controversy, a matter that is personal, legal, non-political, and of no consequence to others.”

Kumar proudly declared that he pays his taxes in India. In fact that is not something he does by choice. It is mandated by law.

India has a residency-based taxation system, not a citizenship-based one. Indian citizens who are persons of Indian origin (PIO), overseas citizens of India (OCI) or foreign citizens and who are residents of India for more than 182 days have to pay tax and file income tax return in India. Furthermore, when someone is a resident in India for income tax purposes, income earned anywhere in the world is taxable in India.

Kumar, who had been at the top position for several years among the highest taxpayers in Bollywood, had paid Rs. 295 million in 2017.

Bhatia’s citizenship controversy is not new. In 2017, in an interview with Times Now, Kumar claimed he was an “honorary citizen” of Canada: “About the Canadian thing. I am an honorary citizen. I have been given an honorary thing. It is a thing that people should be proud of. I have an honorary doctorate as well.”

However, according to a fact-check done by Alt News, The website of Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau lists the people who have been given honorary Canadian citizenship and it names six individuals including Pakistani Nobel Laureate Malala Yousafsai. Kumar’s name does not appear in the list. The report also says that an honorary citizen cannot hold a Canadian passport, as Kumar does.

After Kumar’s statement, actor Anupam Kher came out in his support on Twitter. Kher is known as a vocal supporter of the BJP and his wife, also an actor, Kirron Kher is a BJP lawmaker.

Source: Actor’s Canadian citizenship leaves India’s ruling BJP red faced | Article

“Us” or “Them”? How Policies, Public Opinion, and Political Rhetoric Affect Immigrants’ Sense of Belonging

Interesting study by MPI with this counter-intuitive finding that citizenship policy was not a significant factor in national belonging in contrast to popular conceptions of nationhood which, of course, are reflected citizenship policies that emphasize attainable criteria with reasonable requirements:

Citizenship Policy: Do Fewer Restrictions Signal a More Accepting Society?

Boundaries of national membership exist in different forms—whether formal or informal—and are formulated by different actors, such as politicians or the majority population. Formal boundaries are official policies designed to define membership, such as citizenship, voting rights, or employment policies.

The foremost example is citizenship policy, which sets the criteria for who may become an officially recognized member of a particular country. The restrictiveness of citizenship policies varies considerably across Western nation-states as do the signals these policies communicate about the type of knowledge and behavior one must comply with to become part of the nation. To become a citizen of Austria, for example, one must have ten years of residency, be economically self-sufficient, speak German, pass a knowledge test on Austrian history and the principles of the democratic system, and resign any previous citizenship. In Sweden, none of these requirements applies, except for length of residency (and here it is just five years), and dual citizenship is allowed. Scholars often point to citizenship policy as a signifier of a country’s openness or closedness toward newcomers. In this way, it could be expected that immigrants would find it easier to belong in countries with more liberal citizenship regimes.

A 2016 study by the author examined whether the substantial variation in the citizenship policies of Western democracies matter for the extent to which immigrants to different countries feel national belonging. The study used data from 19 Western democracies collected during two different years (2003 and 2013), data from the Migrant Integration Policy Index, and survey answers from first- and second-generation immigrants about the degree to which they feel close to the nation in which they live.

Surprisingly, the study offered no evidence to support the hypothesis that citizenship policy affects immigrant minorities’ national belonging. Other experts have come to similar conclusions in their research on civic integration and multicultural policies: In two studies by Goodman & Wright and Bloemraad & Wright, despite substantial variation over time and space in the use of civic integration and multicultural policies, these policies did not appear to foster (nor hinder) immigrants’ generalized trust and perceived discrimination.

One potential reason for the lacking effect of citizenship (and other types of integration) policy is that it is composed of various requirements—such as length of residence, economic self-sufficiency, language skills, and resigning one’s previous citizenship—making it difficult for the individual immigrant to assess exactly how open or closed a given national community is. In addition, there may be great variation across immigrants in how difficult it is for them to live up to the demands. In other words, while one type of immigrant may find the host country’s citizenship policies exclusive, others may find it relatively easy to live up to them.

Popular Ideas of Belonging

Boundaries are not only defined in formal terms through citizenship or integration policies, but also more informally in conceptions of nationhood shared among members of a society. While these boundaries are not officially sanctioned, they are not any less powerful as signals of inclusivity/exclusivity. In particular, how majority nationals define the boundary of the national community likely affect everyday encounters with immigrant minorities.

In the study mentioned above, the author also analyzed the potential effects of popular conceptions of nationhood by using survey responses to measure the nonimmigrant majority population’s boundary drawing in the 19 countries studied.

The author found the criteria valued for being considered part of the national community clustered in two groups: ascriptive and attainable criteria.

  • Ascriptive criteria include being born in the country, having lived in the country for most of one’s life, having host-nation ancestry, and being of the host nation’s religion. These criteria are impossible to acquire if one does not have them in the first place. Of course, religious conversion is in principle a possibility but the fact that this criterion groups with the other ascriptive criteria suggests that most people consider religion a permanent trait of individuals.
  • Attainable criteria include language skills in the host country’s official language(s), citizenship, respecting the country’s laws and institutions, and feeling like a national. These criteria are possible to acquire, at least over time.

Figures 1 and 2 show the value of importance assigned to the two groups of criteria in each country in 2003 and 2013, using a 0-1 scale, where 0 means not important at all, and 1 means very important. As can be seen, the values vary quite substantially across countries while the within-country variation over time is rather small for most countries, suggesting that conceptions of nationhood are relatively stable over time.

Figure 1. Importance of Criteria Immigrants Cannot Obtain to Select Countries

Source: Kristina Bakkær Simonsen, “How the Host Nation’s Boundary Drawing Affects Immigrants’ Belonging,” Journal of Ethnic and Migration Studies 42, no. 7: 1153-76.

Figure 2. Importance of Criteria Immigrants Can Obtain to Select Countries

Source: Bakkær Simonsen, “How the Host Nation’s Boundary Drawing Affects Immigrants’ Belonging.”

In contrast to citizenship policy, popular conceptions of nationhood have significant effects on immigrant minorities’ national belonging in the study. In particular, first- and second-generation immigrants’ national belonging is greater in countries where the majority population places high value on attainable boundary criteria, such as the United States, France, and Canada. In other words, boundaries can be positive when they signal to immigrants their being welcome to belong, upon having met a set of feasible requirements, such as acquiring language skills and respecting the country’s norms and laws.

Source: “Us” or “Them”? How Policies, Public Opinion, and Political Rhetoric Affect Immigrants’ Sense of Belonging

Australia High Court to Decide if Aboriginals Without Citizenship Can Be Deported

Odd case for the Australian government to be defending:

Australia, a country taken over by white colonizers after the Black indigenous population had lived there for 65,000 years, will now determine if Aboriginal people without Australian citizenship are aliens who are subject to deportation.

There is a case before the High Court of Australia that will establish whether an indigenous person can be considered an alien under the nation’s constitution. Two men, Daniel Love and Brendan Thoms, have filed a lawsuit in which the court will determine whether an Aboriginal Australian with at least one Australian parent — one who was born in another country, came to Australia as a young child and has only left the country briefly — and is not an Australian citizen is an alien under section 51 (xix) of the Australian Constitution. That section allows the Parliament to enact laws concerning “naturalization and aliens.”

The answer the plaintiffs have gotten is no. “For descendants of Australia’s first peoples, an indelible part of the Australian community, to be ‘aliens’ for the purposes of Australia’s Constitution, is antithetical to their indigeneity and to the social, democratic and political values which underpin and are protected by the Constitution The concept of Aboriginality is inconsistent with the concept of alienage,” the men say in their filing with the court.

Under a 2014 federal immigration law, known as a “bad character” law, deportation is mandated for people living in Australia with visas who are sentenced to at least 12 months of imprisonment. The Australian government wants to make their immigration laws even more draconian by broadening the government’s power to revoke visas of people with criminal records. The policy has increased the deportation of people who have lived in Australia most of their lives to countries such as New Zealand, Papua New Guinea or other islands in the Pacific, even when those people have no ties to the country to which they are returned. One third of the 1,300 people in immigration detention are there based on bad character, and in New Zealand, where the Australian deportation plan has been criticized, 600 people were returned in 2017.

Daniel Love, 39, is a member of the Kamilaroi people who was born in Papua New Guinea to an Aboriginal Australian father and a Papua New Guinean mother. Love is also a common law holder of native title —traditional land rights claimed by Aboriginal Australian people under the original ownership of the land.  He has been a permanent resident of Australia since the age of 6, but his parents did not complete the necessary paperwork to obtain his Australian citizenship.  Last year, Love was sentenced to 12 months in prison on an assault charge. The government canceled his visa and Love was placed in immigration detention. After spending seven weeks in detention, Love was released and the government revoked the cancellation of his visa.

Love sued the government for AU$200,000 (US$142,920) in compensation for false imprisonment, claiming the government illegally detained him and that he has suffered loss of appetite, sleep deprivation and anxiety. He was unable to see his five children, all of whom are Australian citizens, and feared for his safety with the prospect of being sent to a country with which he has no family connections.

Similarly, Brendan Thoms, 31, is a Gunggari man born in New Zealand to an Aboriginal Australian mother and a New Zealander father. Thoms was entitled to Australian citizenship by birth but has not acquired it, and has lived in Australia since the age of 6. He was sentenced to imprisonment of 18 months for assault causing bodily harm, and his visa was canceled because he was deemed an “unlawful non-citizen.” Thoms, who has one Australian child, remains in detention.

In its own court filings, the Commonwealth of Australia claims that whether Love or Thoms is an Aboriginal person or is a common law holder of native title is irrelevant in determining if they are aliens. Rather, the government argues that what is important is the men are not citizens and they owe allegiance to a foreign country, and that having an Australian parent or deep ties to the country is irrelevant. “Accordingly, as persons who are not Australian citizens, the Plaintiffs are, and always have been, aliens,” the government argues, adding “it was recognised that the effect of Australia’s emergence as a fully independent sovereign nation with its own distinct citizenship … that the word ‘alien’ in s 5 l(xix) of the Constitution had become synonymous with ‘non-citizen’.”

The state also claims that “Aboriginality does not prevent a person from being an alien,” particularly when that person is a citizen of a foreign country. The citizens of Papua New Guinea, the commonwealth claims, may have traditional and cultural associations with the Torres Strait Islands of Australia — which lie between Papua New Guinea and Australia — yet they are still regarded as aliens.

This case comes in a country that granted citizenship to indigenous people only relatively recently, with a 1967 referendum to include Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in the national census for the first time. Prior to that time, Black people were rendered invisible and treated like animals, supposedly “discovered” by the British in 1788, although they had lived on the land for millennia. Now there is cruel irony in the fact that indigenous Black people would be regarded as aliens on land stolen from them.

Source: Australia High Court to Decide if Aboriginals Without Citizenship Can Be Deported