Companies That Rely On US Census Data Worry Citizenship Question Will Hurt

Same issues arose from the Canadian business community with respect to the 2011 National Household Survey, given the adverse impact on demographic and other data, particularly in smaller geographic areas:

Some critics of the citizenship question the Trump administration wants to add to the 2020 census are coming from a group that tends to stay away from politically heated issues — business leaders.

From longtime corporations like Levi Strauss & Co. to upstarts like Warby Parker, some companies say that including the question — “Is this person a citizen of the United States?” — could harm not only next year’s national head count, but also their bottom line.

How governments use census data is a common refrain in the lead-up to a constitutionally mandated head count of every person living in the U.S. The new population counts, gathered once a decade, are used to determine how congressional seats and Electoral College votes are distributed among the states. They also guide how hundreds of billions in federal tax dollars are spread around the country to fund public services.

What is often less visible is how the census data undergird decisions made by large and small businesses across the country. The demographic information the census collects — including the age, sex, race, ethnicity and housing status of all U.S. residents — informs business owners about who their existing and future customers are, which new products and services those markets may want and where to build new locations.

Weeks before the Supreme Court heard oral arguments over the citizenship question last month, more than two dozen companies and business groups filed a friend-of-the-court brief against the question. Its potential impact on the accuracy of census data, especially about immigrants and people of color, is drawing concern from both Lyft and Uber, as well as Levi Strauss, Warby Parker and Univision.

“We don’t view this as a political situation at all,” says Christine Pierce, the senior vice president of data science at Nielsen — a major data analytics company in the business world that filed its own brief with the high court. “We see this as one that is around sound research and good science.”

Next year, the Trump administration wants to use the census to ask about the citizenship status of every person in every household in the country through a question approved by Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross, who oversees the Census Bureau. The collected responses, the administration maintains, would be used to better enforce Voting Rights Act protections against discrimination of racial and language minorities.

Researchers at the Census Bureau, however, recommended against adding a question, which they said would produce citizenship information that’s less accurate and more expensive than existing government data. The question could bump up the cost of the 2020 census by at least $121 million, according to the bureau’s latest estimates.

Three federal judges have issued orders blocking the question, and the issue is now before the U.S. Supreme Court. The justices are expected to issue their ruling by the end of June.

“No substitute for a good census”

In the meantime, Nielsen and other companies are pushing back against the administration’s efforts.

Pierce says asking about a topic as sensitive as a person’s citizenship status is likely to discourage some people from participating in the head count. It’s also important, she adds, to test changes to a survey before implementing them.

The Census Bureau had not conducted a field test of a 2020 census form with a citizenship question before Ross decided to include the question.

Pierce emphasized these points last year in an affidavit for the New York-based lawsuits over the citizenship question. Through the court filing, she testified that Ross mischaracterized comments she made in a phone conversation they had that was later cited in Ross’ memo announcing his decision to add the question.

“If there is an undercount, that could carry through to our audience estimates and could mean that people will make decisions based on data that isn’t as accurate as it should be,” Pierce says, referring to the TV ratings that Nielsen produces using census data.

That data, Nielsen estimates, are tied to $90 billion in TV and video advertising.

“There’s just no substitute for a good census and having that count be as thorough as possible,” Pierce says.

Data that affect “our day-to-day lives”

The ride-hailing app Lyft is worried that an inaccurate census could mean that some communities may not get their fair share in federal funding for roads and public transportation over the next 10 years.

“That is a direct impact on our business because it means that those roads will end up being more clogged up and those people will have a harder time getting around,” says Anthony Foxx, a former U.S. secretary of transportation during the Obama administration who now serves as Lyft’s chief policy officer.

“This data that comes out of the census is not just some bureaucratic government data that sits in a vault somewhere that no one sees. It’s actually data that affects our day-to-day lives,” says Jessica Herrera-Flanigan, Univision’s executive vice president of government and corporate affairs.

Census Bureau research suggests including the question would discourage Latinos and Latinas from responding. Herrera-Flanigan is concerned that could lead to an undercount of Latinx residents.

“It’s a big lift”

Still, Univision is planning to talk up next year’s census on its TV programs. The children’s talent show Pequeños Gigantes recently featured a segment with kids attempting to explain what a census is.

“Regardless of what happens in the courts, we are going to be pushing people to know about the importance of the census and actually do it,” Herrera-Flanigan says. “It’s a big lift.”

It’s also tricky ground for businesses to navigate — especially after President Trump has tweeted his support of the citizenship question.

“The American people deserve to know who is in this Country,” Trump tweeted the day after the Supreme Court hearing.

At a public meeting earlier this month, Census Bureau official Burton Reist noted the bureau is running into hurdles trying to recruit businesses to promote the census.

“We had a meeting with McDonald’s, but that was a year ago. And we’ve had a hard time getting anything to come from it,” he explained to members of the bureau’s National Advisory Committee on Racial, Ethnic and Other Populations.

In response, Arturo Vargas — who leads the National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials Educational Fund, a member of the committee — said business leaders have told him they’re reluctant to promote a census that has become so “politicized” by the Commerce Department’s efforts to get a citizenship question added.

“This is now something that, even though it’s such a fundamental aspect of our democracy, that they themselves are not willing to be associated with something that is so controversial now,” Vargas said.

Reist said, so far, a promotional partnership is “underway” between the bureau and the J.M. Smucker Company.

NPR has confirmed the bureau is also in discussions with Procter & Gamble, the company behind Pampers, Luvs and other brands.

Since speaking with the bureau early last year, McDonald’s has “not made any decisions on this at this time,” a spokesperson for the company, Lauren Altmin, said in an email.

Source: Companies That Rely On Census Data Worry Citizenship Question Will Hurt

Revamped citizenship guide still a work in progress as election nears

The government clearly dropped the ball on the revised citizenship guide as it is now too close to the election to be released without it being perceived as overtly political. The current guide, Discover Canada, also has a political aspect to some of its messaging.

The delay also means not fulfilling the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s recommendation 93:

“We call upon the federal government, in collaboration with the national Aboriginal organizations, to revise the information kit for newcomers to Canada and its citizenship test to reflect a more inclusive history of the diverse Aboriginal peoples of Canada, including call upon the officials and host countries of information about the Treaties and the history of residential schools.”

The other related TRC recommendation 94, calling for a change in the oath to add “including Treaties with Indigenous Peoples” has also been missed by the government (while including the change in an omnibus budget bill would be highly inappropriate, hard to see how this would be anymore inappropriate to other measures included in the recent budget):

A promised overhaul of Canada’s citizenship guide remains a work in progress with just months left in the Liberal government’s mandate.

That leaves newcomers to the country with the existing guide — which is riddled with historical gaps and outdated information — as their primary document for preparing for the citizenship test.

The government is revamping the 68-page Discover Canada document, last updated in 2012, to better reflect diversity and to include more “meaningful content” about the history and rights of Indigenous people and the residential school experience.

With just five months to go before the federal election, a spokesman for Immigration Minister Ahmed Hussen said a launch date still has not been set and offered no specific explanation for the delay.

“We are committed to getting the citizenship guide right, and that includes consulting with as many stakeholders [as possible] on the proposed changes. This work is ongoing,” said Mathieu Genest. “We are listening to experts, stakeholders and community representatives, because what we want to do is take the politics out of the guide.”

Janet Dench, executive director of the Canadian Council for Refugees, said it’s “incomprehensible” that the guide is taking this long to roll out.

“Our major concern is that newcomers be presented with a fair and balanced picture of Canada that acknowledges the problems in Canadian and current reality, and how that affects Indigenous people and racialized people. When we fail to provide an accurate picture of our country, it’s a disservice to the country as a whole as well as to the newcomers,” she said.

The Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) had recommended revising information materials for newcomers and the citizenship test to reflect “a more inclusive history of the diverse Aboriginal peoples of Canada, including information about the treaties and the history of residential schools.”

Historical gaps, outdated information

Until the new guide is released, newcomers will have to use the existing guide to study for the citizenship test. It contains limited information on the legacy of residential schools, outdated information on things like population numbers and lyrics to the national anthem that have since been changed by Parliament to make them more gender-neutral.

Calling the delay “astounding,” NDP immigration critic Jenny Kwan said it’s unacceptable that there’s still incorrect, outdated information in the guide.

“You want our newcomers to know the wording to our national anthem. It’s embarrassing to have in our citizenship guide this kind of misinformation,” she said.

Kwan said she is puzzled by the delay, given that MPs were consulted on it two years ago and an early draft was leaked last year to The Canadian Press.

“I certainly think that with the citizenship guide, we can take the opportunity to ensure that new Canadians, newcomers understand our history, the good, bad and the ugly, and … fully appreciate the history of Canada, most certainly around the issue of Indigenous people,” she said. “To give full recognition to that, I think, is very important.”

Plan was to release guide in 2017

A draft copy of the revised guide obtained by The Canadian Press showed a reference to the illegal practice of female genital mutilation had been dropped. CP also reported that the Liberals hoped to have the new guide in place for Canada’s 150th anniversary in 2017.

Last fall, CBC News reported that the updated citizenship guide would, in fact, include a warning to newcomers about female genital mutilation.

The issue had become politically charged, with Conservative immigration critic Michelle Rempel repeatedly pressing Hussen on the topic. She also sponsored an e-petition in the House of Commons on the matter.

Vancouver-based immigration lawyer Zool Suleman said the government likely thought the updating exercise would be easier than it turned out to be. He said the citizenship guide reflects the priorities and values of the government that writes it, and helps to define how people see the country.

Political tilt on focus

The previous Conservative government tilted the guide’s wording toward military history and rights and the responsibilities of citizenship, while the Liberal government appears to be inclined to explain Indigenous reconciliation and multiculturalism, Suleman said.

“Given that we have an election coming up, there’s probably a calculus about whether it’s worth releasing a new guide, which inevitably will make some people happy and other people unhappy,” he said.

Dory Jade, chief executive officer of the Canadian Association of Professional Immigration Consultants, said he believes it’s better to take the time to get it right instead of rushing it for political reasons.

“I personally believe the bureaucratic machine requires more time to do such a job and the government did not foresee that in their promise,” he said, noting that the Conservative government also took a long time to finish its update.

Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada said the revamp is focused on several key areas:

  • Responding to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s call for language that better reflects the perspectives and history of Indigenous peoples of Canada.
  • Showcasing Canada’s cultural diversity and commitment to official languages.
  • Presenting the social evolution of civic rights and freedoms for LGBT, women and people with disabilities.
  • Using language that is more accessible for second-language learners and structuring the document so the newcomer can more easily identify the main points of each chapter.

The government has also pledged to update materials for newcomers and to amend the oath of citizenship to reflect respect for Indigenous rights. That change to the citizenship oath was also recommended by the TRC and included in Hussen’s Feb. 1, 2017 mandate letter.

Those initiatives are also still ongoing, according to Hussen’s office.

Source: Revamped citizenship guide still a work in progress as election nears

Colby Cosh: Vancouver’s birth-tourism issue could soon become Ottawa’s problem

More on birth tourism and good summary of some of the issues involved.

Will remain to see if the Conservatives decide to address the issue or not in their election platform or one of Andrew Scheer’s policy speeches beyond his earlier policy statement (SCHEER STATEMENT ON BIRTH TOURISM | Press & Media, “ending birth tourism will be among the objectives of our policy”):

It would be faintly ludicrous to suggest children born in Canada to mere visitors cannot have their entitlement to auto-magical citizenship compromised or questioned

Is birthright citizenship doomed in Canada? An omen appeared in Friday morning’s Vancouver Sun: B.C. Liberal MLA Jas Johal did some research and presented the paper with a number of examples of online advertising from Chinese websites that tout the benefits of intentionally delivering an anchor baby on Canadian soil.

The ads suggest that brokers are offering “one-stop shopping” for pregnant women: they promise to set up housing, transportation, and perinatal care, all so that the blessed event itself can happen in a comfortable, clean, high-quality Canadian hospital. This gives your child the golden ticket of Canadian citizenship — coming as it does with access to superior Canadian education, Canadian welfare and social insurance, and widespread visa-free international travel.

In turn, your Canadian infant can one day serve as your own access point for Canada’s family-reunification immigration stream. Or you may set your eyes on higher vistas: one ad says enticingly that “Canadian passports mean immigration to the U.S.” (The Sun says that it checked Johal’s translations from the Chinese.)

Last year there was a controversy over birth tourism when the Conservatives voted at their annual convention to eliminate automatic citizenship for the children of non-citizens born in Canada. This policy plank was contentious at the time, and the Conservatives were denounced for even discussing the issue. Nobody, of course, was willing to defend birth tourism as such. You would have to be a pretty extreme advocate of open borders to say, on being presented with Chinese ads for birth-tourism brokers, that these are legitimate businesses serving a noble purpose to the benefit of Canada. (Although it might be true!)

The complaint against the Conservatives was not that automatic “jus soli” citizenship for everybody born here makes sense as an eternal, universal principle, but that birth tourism just doesn’t happen enough to be a problem. The question now being raised — the question that Johal’s folder of ads is likely to emphasize — is whether anybody was really bothering to check.

In November, Andrew Griffith, a former senior bureaucrat in the federal Citizenship and Immigration department, did some research using hospital finance statistics from the Canadian Institution for Health Information (CIHI). Griffith found that the numbers of non-residents giving birth in Canadian hospitals was growing, that they are approaching 10 per cent of all births at a few urban hospitals, and that for one enormous outlier they are twice that. And, surprise! The outlier is the Richmond Hospital in Richmond, B.C.

These numbers are still not enormous (against a national background), and they include some births that obviously are not “tourism,” within families that are in Canada for study or business. Nonetheless, it is hard to imagine a non-tourism explanation for the patterns Griffith found. The situation at the Richmond Hospital had already been noticed locally, and had become a pet issue of local Liberal MP Joe Peschisolido.

Johal challenged B.C.’s health minister, the former provincial NDP leader Adrian Dix, on birth tourism in a legislature committee this week. Dix did not give the natural New Democrat answer that jus soli citizenship is sacred. He said he was concerned about the tourism issue, that he doesn’t support or favour birth tourism, and that only Ottawa can do something about it — “if they want to act.”

This does not sound to me like an issue that is likely to remain confined to B.C. in the long run, or to be easy for the federal Liberals to deflect if it emerges. It is hard to imagine the provinces being able to limit birth tourism at the hospital level: a woman standing in a Canadian emergency room in a pool of amniotic fluid is going to receive care whatever her own citizenship or other bona fides are. Preventing anchor-baby births by means of the visa process, Griffith acknowledges, “would be virtually impossible.” The humane solution to the problem, if it is a problem, must involve putting new restrictions on birthright citizenship.

Canada’s constitution does not specify automatic jus soli citizenship, explicitly or otherwise. The enterprising gadfly lawyer Rocco Galati tried to argue the opposite in a case that reached the Federal Court in 2015, and he got his head handed to him by Justice Donald Rennie, who piled up eons of British and Canadian law and concluded that “Nationality and citizenship are entirely statutory constructs.” Canada has tinkered with the rules concerning the children of its citizens born abroad several times, and now restricts “jus sanguinis” (inherited citizenship) to one generation in most cases.

It would be faintly ludicrous to suggest that we can make such a change affecting persons descended solely from undoubted Canadian citizens, but that children born in Canada to mere visitors cannot have their entitlement to auto-magical citizenship compromised or questioned. I sense, however, that making exactly this argument will be the initial instinct of a Trudeau government, if it comes to that.

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.

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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.

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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