Canadian Citizenship: Practice and Policy – Library of Parliament Paper

Good and useful overview:

Canadian citizenship can be obtained through birth on Canadian soil, by descent through birth or adoption outside of Canada to a Canadian citizen, or through naturalization (the process by which citizenship is obtained by a foreign national). Requirements related to citizenship are laid out in the Citizenship Act, as well as in the Citizenship Regulations and Citizenship Regulations, No. 2.

Responsibility for implementing the Citizenship Act lies with the Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship, who is supported by Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) in managing the citizenship application process. The Citizenship Commission – an administrative body under IRCC that is made up of citizenship judges – also plays an important role, with duties including assessing citizenship applications to ensure they meet certain requirements under the Act and administering the Oath or Affirmation of Citizenship.

To become a Canadian citizen through naturalization, an individual must first obtain permanent residency in Canada and then apply for citizenship after meeting residency and other requirements. Applicants between 18 and 54 years of age must also complete a written test based on the official citizenship study guide (Discover Canada: The Rights and Responsibilities of Citizenship) and attend an interview to test their abilities in English or French and to discuss their application. Successful applicants attend a citizenship ceremony and take the Oath or Affirmation of Citizenship, through which they swear or affirm their allegiance to the Queen of Canada.

Loss of citizenship can occur if it is revoked (for example, due to citizenship being acquired or retained through false representation) or it can be renounced voluntarily (for example, if an individual chooses to become a citizen of a country that does not allow dual citizenship).

Several issues are currently at the forefront of discourse on citizenship policy. For example, census data show that the rate of citizenship among eligible immigrants declined between 2006 and 2016. The citizenship rate varies for different groups, with contributing factors including income level, education level and country of origin.

Another key issue is that of “lost Canadians,” which refers to individuals who were born before the 1977 Citizenship Act came into force and who should have been Canadian citizens under that Act but were deprived of Canadian citizenship because of outdated or obsolete provisions in the Canadian Citizenship Act of 1947. Many of the problems associated with “lost Canadians” have been addressed through amendments made to the Citizenship Act since 1977. Those whose cases are not covered by legislative amendments may be granted citizenship on a case-by-case basis at the minister’s discretion.

Finally, the concept of birth tourism refers to the practice by foreign nationals of coming to Canada to give birth for the sole purpose of securing Canadian citizenship for their child. While data suggest an increase in non-resident births in the past decade, it is difficult to determine how many non-resident births are cases of birth tourism. The federal government has recognized the need to better understand the extent of this practice and has commissioned further research on this topic.

Source: https://hillnotes.ca/2020/12/07/executive-summary-canadian-citizenship-practice-and-policy/

Full report link: https://lop.parl.ca/sites/PublicWebsite/default/en_CA/ResearchPublications/202064E

6 charged in ‘birth tourism’ scheme that cost U.S. taxpayers millions

Medicaid fraud, not the service itself:

Six people were charged in an elaborate “birth tourism” scheme that helped Turkish women secure U.S. citizenship for their children and cost American taxpayers upward of $2 million, federal prosecutors said Wednesday.

The alleged ringleaders, Sarah Kaplan and Ibrahim Aksakal, both residents of Long Island, New York, brazenly advertised their services on Turkish-language Facebook pages and websites with titles like “My baby should be born in America,” prosecutors said.

The defendants are accused of providing expectant mothers a full-service experience: lodging in New York, transportation, help applying for citizenship for their children, and purported “insurance” to cover all medical costs, which amounted to fraudulently-obtained Medicaid benefits.

The cost for these services: roughly $7,500, nearly all in cash, prosecutors said.

Between January 2017 and September this year, the suspects were paid approximately $750,000 in fees, and Medicaid disbursed more than $2.1 million in illicitly-obtained benefits, according to prosecutors.

“The defendants cashed in on the desire for birthright citizenship, and the American taxpayer ultimately got stuck with the $2.1 million bill,” Seth DuCharme, acting U.S. attorney for the Eastern District of New York, said in a statement.

Five of the defendants – Aksakal, Kaplan, Enes Burak Cakiroglu, Fiordalisa Marte and Edgar Rodriguez – were arrested Wednesday morning. They are all residents of Long Island, where they operated seven “birth houses,” prosecutors said.

The sixth suspect, who has yet to be taken into custody, was not identified.

Aksakal, Kaplan and Cakiroglu were charged with conspiring to commit visa fraud, health care fraud, wire fraud and money laundering. Marte and Rodriguez were charged with conspiring to commit health care fraud, wire fraud and money laundering.

It was not immediately clear if they had hired lawyers.

Birth tourism has long brought expectant mothers to the U.S. The benefits are substantial: the child is given American citizenship, granting them a lifelong right to live and work and collect benefits in the U.S. And when they turn 21, they can sponsor their parents’ application for an American green card.

But the six defendants charged Wednesday submitted fraudulent New York state Medicaid benefits applications stating that the Turkish women were permanent New York residents who had no income and who resided in one of the “birth houses” maintained by the suspects, according to court papers.

The suspects submitted at least 99 Medicaid claims for different women, according to court papers. In all, the defendants facilitated the births of approximately 119 children, who now hold U.S. citizenship, prosecutors said.

Two of the defendants, Marte and Rodriguez, used their experience as assistors, people who are trained and certified to help individuals in New York state apply for health coverage, to facilitate the Medicaid part of the scheme, according to court papers.

The $750,000 brought in by the defendants was funneled to bank accounts in Turkey, thereby preventing the government from seizing it, according to court papers.

The defendants allegedly used their web pages to attract customers. A January 2018 post to the “My Baby Should be Born in America” Facebook page reads: “If you believe your baby should be born in the USA and become an American citizen then you are at the right place.”

The post also informed would-be customers that the defendants’ competitors’ fees were higher because of “misguided information that insurance will not cover expensive hospital and birth fees,” prosecutors said.

Source: 6 charged in ‘birth tourism’ scheme that cost U.S. taxpayers millions

Trump administration revives talk of action on birthright #citizenship | TheHill

Last gasps, supported by the usual groups. Executive orders can for the most part be easily undone by the Biden administration:

The Trump administration has revived discussions around taking executive action targeting birthright citizenship in its final weeks before leaving office, according to two people familiar with the discussions.

President Trump has spoken throughout his first term about ending birthright citizenship. Drafts of a possible order have been circulating for some time, and there is now internal discussion about finalizing it before the Biden administration takes over in January, sources said.

The administration is aware the order would be promptly challenged in court, but officials would hope to get a ruling on whether birthright citizenship is protected under the 14th Amendment, according to one source familiar with the plans. Many lawmakers and experts have argued it is protected, but the courts have not definitively ruled on the issue.

“Since taking office, President Trump has never shied away from using his lawful executive authority to advance bold policies and fulfill the promises he made to the American people, but I won’t speculate or comment on potential executive action,” White House deputy press secretary Judd Deere said in a statement.The Department of Justice has been consulted about a possible birthright citizenship order given it would deal with the legal implications of the new policy. A spokeswoman for the department did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The birthright citizenship measure is being discussed as one of multiple executive actions the Trump administration could take on its way out the door. White House chief of staff Mark Meadows told aides following Election Day to come up with possible policy priorities to push through in the two months before Inauguration Day.

Others in the works include additional reforms to the H-1B visa program, regulatory reforms and measures targeting China. The president earlier Friday announced two major actions aimed at lowering the price of prescription drugs.

The wave of action reflects how many in the White House are attempting to cement their agenda before the Biden administration takes over in January, even as Trump refuses to concede the race and has pursued thus far unsuccessful legal challenges in key battleground states.

The president first proposed ending the practice that grants citizenship to those born in the United States during his 2016 presidential campaign. He revived the idea in 2018 during an Axios interview, saying he would sign an executive order to enact the change.

Trump in August 2019 again said his administration was “very seriously” considering a measure to end birthright citizenship.

In each instance, lawmakers and legal experts have pushed back on the idea and cast doubt on Trump’s ability to unilaterally end birthright citizenship. They have asserted that birthright citizenship is protected under the 14th Amendment, which states, in part, that “all persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the State wherein they reside.”

Some outside groups and allies of the administration have wondered why Trump has waited until his final weeks in office to follow through on a birthright citizenship order that he has talked about for years.

“The Citizenship Clause of the 14th Amendment was clearly intended to guarantee that emancipated slaves would properly be recognized as U.S. citizens,” said RJ Hauman, government relations director at the Federation for American Immigration Reform. “It is a fundamental misapplication of this clause that U.S.-born children of illegal aliens are granted automatic citizenship, much less the offspring of people who come here to simply give birth on American soil.”

“If the president finally issues a long-awaited executive order limiting birthright citizenship, it will be up to the Supreme Court to resolve this issue once and for all,” Hauman added.

Source: Trump administration revives talk of action on birthright citizenship | TheHill

Hearing on birthright citizenship in U.S. territories Wednesday

Decision and rationale will be interesting:

Arguments will be heard Wednesday in an ongoing birthright citizenship case being appealed in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 10th Circuit.

Lawyers for the U.S. Department of Justice will argue in the appeals court to reverse a ruling in Fitisemanu v. United States, which recognized that individuals born in U.S. territories have the same right to citizenship as those born in the 50 states or the District of Columbia, a release from Equally American stated.

Lead plaintiff John Fitisemanu was born in American Samoa – a U.S. territory since 1900.  For the last 20 years he has been a taxpaying, U.S. passport holding resident of Utah. However, based on a discriminatory federal law, he is labeled a “national, but not a citizen, of the United States.”

In December, a district court recognized that he is a natural-born U.S. citizen. The next day, Fitisemanu registered to vote. But because the district court later stayed its ruling pending appeal, Fitisemanu will be unable to vote in November unless the district court’s ruling is affirmed by the 10th Circuit.

“With an important election around the corner, I am hopeful the 10th Circuit will act quickly so that I will finally be able to vote,” Fitisemanu said in advance of the argument. “All my life I’ve met my obligations as an American, it is time I’m able to exercise my rights as a citizen.”

Source: Hearing on birthright citizenship in U.S. territories Wednesday

‘Anchor babies’: the ‘ludicrous’ immigration myth that treats people as pawns

A different situation than that normally captured by the term “birth tourists” without the abuse implied by those visiting only to give birth for the purposes of obtaining citizenship for their child:

Daira García wakes up at 5.50am. She takes out her dog, then tries to eat some breakfast before boarding the bus that gets her to school by 7.26 in the morning.

After class, she heads back home, where her parents, Silvia and Jorge, watch Noticiero and sip mate (she sometimes tries the drink as well but admits she’s never quite gotten used to it). They eat something, talk. When Daira goes off to finish her homework, she forgoes the desk in her room to curl up in her parents’ bed.

“It’s more comfy,” she quips.

Daira, 17, has a fairly standard routine for an American teenager: school, homework, family time. But unlike most kids, the schedule she’s come to rely on each day could easily be disrupted at any point.

Silvia and Jorge traveled from Argentina to the United States as 2001 became 2002, and with a new year came their new life in an unknown country. Daira’s big brother was just an infant then; now a college student, he doesn’t even really remember the place where he was born. And yet he’s only shielded from deportation because of Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (Daca), an Obama-era program the Trump administration has been trying to end for years. Silvia and Jorge, meanwhile, have no protection and could be picked up by agents from Immigration and Customs Enforcement (Ice) at any time.

Daira begins to cry just thinking about it.

“We’ve never had a plan for it if it happened,” Silvia says in Spanish. “Maybe we don’t give much thought to that because we think it’s healthier.”

An estimated 4.1 million US-citizen children lived with at least one undocumented parent in recent years, according to the Migration Policy Institute. They’re kids who anti-immigrant groups disparage as “anchor babies”, a derogatory term that insinuates these children are little more than pawns used by their immigrant parents to get a foothold in the US and eventually become citizens themselves.

Source: ‘Anchor babies’: the ‘ludicrous’ immigration myth that treats people as pawns

Birth Tourism: Considering the Enhanced Drivers Licence Approach

When the then Conservative government considered limiting birthright citizenship to those born to Canadian citizens or permanent residents in 2011-12, two options were considered: the federal government citizenship certificates to those entitled or incorporating citizenship information in birth certificates.

The latter option was preferred given the prevalence of birth certificates for identification purposes. My earlier article outlines the opposition to this proposed change (What the previous government learned about birth tourism).

This somewhat in-the-weeds piece looks at the earlier successful experience the federal government had with respect to the incorporation of citizenship information in drivers licenses in Ontario, British Columbia, Manitoba and Quebec (which later ended issuing Enhanced Drivers Licences given low demand), and what lessons that might have should a future government decide on curtailing birthright citizenship to children born to citizens and permanent residents..

What intrigued me in researching the matter was that the EDL experience did not appear to inform the subsequent birth tourism consultation and policy processes, even if it was the same group, my former team at IRCC, that was responsible for both.

The other interesting aspect was that governments over-estimated the demand for EDLs and thus provincial governments are essentially subsidizing their EDL programs and yet only Quebec cancelled their program.

Birth Tourism – The Enhanced Drivers License Example

IRCC Minister commends Richmond council for tackling birth tourism

No signalling of change or new studies or initiatives as expected (need to await the results of the IRCC, CIHI, StatsCan analysis of those non-resident self-pay on visitor visas compared to other temporary residents):

Marco Mendicino, the Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship, told the Richmond News the federal government wants to “weed out” abuses of the immigration system, but he added the principle of “jus soli” – birthright citizenship – has served Canada well.

Birthright citizenship has been in existence in Canada since 1947 and it is also a common practise in other countries, like the U.S. and some Commonwealth countries, Mendicino pointed out.

“There are families who do come to Canada and do avail themselves of this principle and they’re able to bestow upon their children Canadian citizenship as a result of this principle – along with that a number of rights and privileges,” he said, adding “it’s a principle that has absolutely served the country well.”

But Richmond has become known as the “epicentre” of birth tourism, attracting people who come to give birth here in order to secure Canadian citizenship for their baby. In the past year, 23 per cent of babies born at Richmond Hospital were born to non-residents.

Several businesses advertise – exclusively in the Chinese language – for birth tourism services, saying they will provide accommodations for pregnant women and help with after-care and paperwork.

Richmond council passed a motion on Monday to push the minister to end automatic citizenship for babies born to non-residents.

Mendicino said he “commends” the mayor and council of Richmond for having a discussion about the birth tourism and he will reflect on the motion that was passed. The issue needs to be monitored and tracked “very closely,” he said.

“I think we should express some gratitude to the City of Richmond and the council for examining the issue and advocating what the issues are within the context of the concern,” he said. “It’s more about determining and finding where the abuses are within the system rather than getting rid of the principle.”

Mendicino said the federal government is taking “concrete steps” to strengthen the oversight of immigration consultants “to really hold accountable any individuals who are trying to backdoor or take advantage of the system.”

He added the federal government wants to work with provincial partners and municipalities like Richmond to “weed out any abuse of our immigration system.”

There was a level of frustration at Richmond council on Monday – directed somewhat at Vancouver Coastal Health, the provincial government and the federal government – as councillors debated the merits and wording of a letter to push the federal minister of immigration to tackle birth tourism.

Voting against the motion were Couns. Alexa Loo, Kelly Greene and Michael Wolfe.

While Greene said she’s 100 per cent against birth tourism, she felt the motion was worded so that it could cause “disproportionate harm” to “vulnerable people such as refugees and stateless people.”

She said the harm would be exclusively to people of colour and she didn’t want to see at-risk people further marginalized.

“The motion should be to stop birth tourism,” Greene said. “It’s not – it asks to stop birthright citizenship for a broad swath of people.”

Coun. Bill McNulty said he sees birth tourism in his neighbourhood and called on senior governments to take action.

“I think this is an issue that really has put us in a vulnerable position – the two levels of government are totally out of touch with what’s happening in the communities,” McNulty said.

He also suggested the city needs to push Vancouver Coastal Health into action, considering 66 per cent of non-resident births in B.C. take place at Richmond Hospital.

Au echoed the sentiment that VCH should look into the issue, saying the health authority is “not willing to touch this.”

However, VCH spokesperson Catherine Loiacono pointed out this is a federal issue and health care professionals have a duty to provide care to anyone who needs it.
“Care is always triaged according to the safety of the mother and baby – mothers needing immediate care are seen first,” she added.

Nursing baseline staffing is based on patient volumes – not on census data. A staffing review in 2019 found that Richmond Hospital is staffed “appropriately” for patient safety and quality care, Loiacono said. Because the nature of giving birth is unpredictable, if there are increased numbers of patients, more resources are brought in, she added.

Source: Minister commends Richmond council for tackling birth tourism

Richmond council asks feds to ban birth tourism

More from the epicentre. Good that they are also looking at possible local approaches:

Richmond city council wants the new federal minister of immigration to tackle the problem of birth tourism.

A motion by Coun. Carol Day to write to Marco Mendicino, the Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship, urging him to end birthright citizenship for non-Canadians was supported by almost all of council at Monday’s committee meeting.

In the meantime, city staff are fining birth tourism operators on any illegal activity they may be running – but because there is no business license for birth tourism, they can’t be shut down for advertising birth tourism services, explained Cecelia Achiam, general manager of community safety.

“We do not regulate something that we could not approve, so birth tourism is not something that we could regulate at this point,” Achiam said.

This was challenged by the mayor, Malcolm Brodie, however, at the meeting, and he asked staff to find out whether it is possible to shut them down based on the fact they are an illegal business.

“If they’re doing something that’s unlicensed and not allowed, you’re telling me you can’t do anything about it – surely it’s operating a business without a license,” Brodie said.

Currently, staff will fine any activity advertised by birth tourism services if they don’t have a license, explained Achiam, for example, if they advertise tutoring services, the city can fine them if they don’t have a business license for tutoring – or if they advertise food services and airport pickup/dropoff services without the correct licenses.

The motion passed by council was to write to the new minister to ask for “immediate permanent changes” to end automatic citizenship for babies born in Canada to non-resident, non-Canadian parents.

Greene pointed out that staffing at Richmond Hospital is based on census data, but this would not take into account the quarter of the total number of births that are to non-residents.

“We’re definitely seeing service impacts – I’ve personally been impacted,” Greene said.

Of the countries that have birthright citizenship, North America is a desirable destination, she said, but this is something the “ultra-rich” only can do.

“It feels really unfair and it doesn’t feel right to shop for your citizenship,” Greene said.

Greene also criticized MLA Jas Johal for praising the U.S. government move to ban pregnant women from getting tourist visas, something Greene called “policing women” by profiling them if they’re pregnant when applying for a tourist visa.

The U.S. State Department put in rules more than a week ago that banned women who were pregnant fromgetting tourist visas to the U.S.

Greene called this a “horrifying violation of human rights.”

She said she wants the letter to reflect that Richmond wants to end a practise where “people essentially buy their citizenship so that we’re never ever in a situation where we’re policing women’s bodies.”

Greene also called for an amendment that talked about changes not affecting vulnerable and stateless people but this didn’t pass.

Coun. Bill McNulty said the accommodation rules need to be revisited, because birth tourist stays don’t fall under short-term rentals, rather the provincially regulated long-term rentals.

“I think there are many loopholes to be closed and I think the city can close some of them within our community,” he said.

This was reiterated by Coun. Harold Steves who suggested long-term rentals for birth tourism are actually turning homes into hotels.

McNulty also suggested sending the letter to all MPs in Canada since it’s a federal issue.

“If you want something to be done at the federal level … I think we have to let everybody know,” he said.

Greene was the only councillor who voted against the motion.

Mendicino did not return repeated requests from the Richmond News for an interview.

Why Canada should end our unfair birth-tourism policies: Gary Mason

The latest commentary:

Last week, the U.S. State Department began enforcing new rules limiting the travel of women coming to the country for the primary reason of giving birth.

This is a response to President Donald Trump’s long-pledged promise to end the policy, which bestows automatic American citizenship on newborns. So-called birth tourism is also seen as a backdoor way of making it easier for the child’s parents to one day become U.S. citizens themselves.

Of course, this is not a phenomenon unique to the U.S. We have been experiencing the same issue here, and now B.C. politicians are worried that Mr. Trump’s new enforcement measures will mean an even greater number of foreigners will turn to Canada as an ever-accommodating alternative.

The city of Richmond, B.C., just outside of Vancouver, has become a prime destination, especially for visitors from China. An unsavoury industry has built up around the facilitation of those wanting to come here to give birth. These outfits offer a one-stop shopping experience, which includes a “guarantee” that pregnant women will get through customs with the proper paperwork. These women, and anyone travelling with them, are coached on what to say when interviewed by border agents.

In their advertisements, these companies outline a long list of benefits of giving birth in Canada including the fact the country provides free education before university, free health care and, that once the child reaches the age of 18, he or she can apply to sponsor their parents to immigrate to the country. The advantages to instant citizenship go on and on. All interested parties need is the tens of thousands of dollars that these shysters are charging.

“We’ve basically put a price on Canadian citizenship,” said Jas Johal, a provincial Liberal MLA from Richmond. “These individuals are paying $80,000 so their child is guaranteed a Canadian passport.

“This is an elite, global, moneyed class that has found a loophole and are working the system. These are not your typical hard-working immigrants who built this country.”

Recent numbers tell the story: Between April 1, 2018, and Feb. 7, 2019, there were 389 births to non-resident mothers at Richmond Hospital. The year before, there were 474 and the year before that, 383. “It’s a stark reminder that our hospital has turned into a passport mill,” Mr. Johal told me.

According to an investigation conducted for the Canadian Global Affairs Institute, a non-partisan research group, a few years ago, there were 3,223 births by non-residents in Canadian hospitals in 2016 – excluding Quebec. In 2018, the number had jumped to more than 4,000.

The head of Doctors of BC, Kathleen Ross, has spoken out about the issue, saying the practice is straining resources. Some hospitals have been put in a difficult situation in which they have no choice but to deliver the child of a foreign patient even when coverage for the procedure is in doubt. Some doctors have ended up being short-changed for their services.

Some people have suggested that the uproar over birth tourism is overblown, that the numbers aren’t overwhelming. Of course, that misses the point entirely. Whether it’s one person or 4,000, people shouldn’t be able to effectively buy citizenship in this country, shouldn’t be able to scam their way in front of those who have been waiting to get citizenship legally.

Federal politicians Liberal MP Joe Peschisolido and Conservative MP Alice Wong, who both represent ridings in Richmond, have tabled petitions in the House of Commons calling for action. So far, the federal Liberals have been reluctant to do much about the matter.

Mr. Johal believes the crackdown by the Trump administration is only going to make the situation here even more acute. He thinks the solution is simple: Enact a law that says anybody who comes to Canada on a tourist visa and gives birth, will not automatically be eligible for Canadian citizenship.

The federal Conservatives have proposed legislation that eliminates birthright citizenship unless one of the parents of the child born here is a Canadian citizen or a permanent resident. They’ve also suggested stricter visa requirements, in the first place, for people coming in from other countries in late stages of pregnancy.

Those proposals don’t seem radical to me. Nor do they seem racist or nativist. This is not about blocking foreigners from coming to Canada, or restricting immigrants from building a new life here. This is about fairness, plain and simple.

Several countries have changed their citizenship laws to end the practice of birth tourism, including Britain, New Zealand, France and Germany. It’s long past time that we, too, put an end to a practice that is both deceitful and unscrupulous.

Source: Why Canada should end our unfair birth-tourism policies

The risk of oversimplifying the birth tourism debate

My latest take on recent birth tourism debates (excerpt):

Did the CBC Fifth Estate really demonize pregnant migrant women in its investigative report into the number of non-resident births in Canada? That is the argument made by Megan Gaucher and Lindsay Larios, writing recently in Policy Options. A letter of complaint was also submitted about the report to the CBC Ombudsperson by 30 organizations, including groups representing migrant workers. Is discussion of birth tourism essentially a form of xenophobia given its focus on visible-minority foreigners? Or are the underlying concerns of the critics less about birth tourism and more about gaps in healthcare coverage for temporary residents?

Source: The risk of oversimplifying the birth tourism debate