Japanese firms resist hiring foreign workers under new immigration law – poll

Significant culture change:

Only one in four Japanese companies plan to actively employ foreign workers under a new government immigration scheme, a Reuters poll found, complicating Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s efforts to ease the country’s tightest job market in decades.

And the bulk of the firms that may hire these immigrants do not plan to support them in securing housing, learning Japanese language skills or getting information on living in Japan, the Reuters Corporate Survey showed.

The survey results underscore the challenge for Japan to cope with its dwindling and ageing population that has put pressure on the government to relax tight foreign labour controls. Immigration has long been taboo here as many Japanese prize ethnic homogeneity.

The lack of language ability, cultural gap, costs of training, mismatches in skills and the fact that many foreign workers cannot stay permanently in Japan under the new system were among factors behind corporate wariness about hiring foreign workers, the Reuters poll showed.

The law, which took effect in April, creates two new categories of visas for blue-collar workers in 14 sectors such as construction and nursing care, which face a labour crunch. It is meant to attract up to 345,000 blue-collar workers to Japan over five years.

But the survey suggests the government may struggle to get the workers it needs to ease the country’s labour shortage where there are now 1.63 jobs available for every job seeker, the most since the beginning of 1974.

“Taking education costs, quality risks and yields into account, costs will go up” by hiring foreign workers, wrote a manager at a rubber-making company, who said the firm has no plans to hire foreign workers.

“We have failed in the past by employing foreign workers who could not blend in with a different culture,” a manager of a metal-products maker wrote.

Some 41% of firms are not considering hiring foreigners at all, 34% are not planning to hire many and 26% intend to hire such foreign workers, the survey conducted from May 8-17 showed.

Of those considering hiring foreign workers, a majority said they have no plans to support them in areas such as housing, Japanese language study and information on living in the country, it showed.

The survey, conducted monthly for Reuters by Nikkei Research, polled 477 large- and mid-size firms, with managers responding on condition of anonymity. Around 220 answered the questions on foreign workers.

Under the new law, a category of “specified skilled workers” can stay for up to five years but cannot bring family members. The other category is for more skilled foreigners who can bring relatives and be eligible to stay longer.

While foreign workers are generally viewed as cheap labour in Japan, 77% of firms see no change in wage levels at Japan Inc as a whole, when hiring specified skilled workers. Some 16% expect wages to decline and just 6 percent see wages rising.

Foreign workers “will help ease the labour crunch, bringing down overall wages,” a steelmaker manager wrote in the survey.

Abe, whose conservative base fears a rise in crime and a threat to the country’s social fabric, has insisted that the new law does not constitute an “immigration policy.”

Japan has about 1.28 million foreign workers – more than double the figure a decade ago but still just 2% of the workforce. Some 260,000 of them are trainees from countries such as Vietnam and China who can stay three to five years.

Source: Japanese firms resist hiring foreign workers under new immigration law – poll

Étude sur l’immigration: à la recherche d’un seuil… inexistant

Good and interesting study, using scenarios to capture some of the nuances in relation to choices over immigration levels. And the sensible recommendation to move towards a multi-year plan, with annual adjustments as needed, as was introduced by the federal government a few years back:

Les chefs de parti en ont débattu pendant toute la campagne électorale. Les économistes le cherchent partout. La vérité, c’est que le seuil magique du nombre d’immigrants à accueillir au Québec, à couler dans le béton pour qu’on n’en parle plus, eh bien, il n’existe pas, concluent les auteurs de l’étude Seuils d’immigration au Québec : analyse des incidences démographiques et économiques.

Pour en finir avec le débat dogmatique

En fait, les pénuries de main-d’oeuvre changent à ce point la donne – et améliorent tellement l’intégration en emploi des immigrants ces dernières années – qu’on erre complètement si on essaie sérieusement d’y aller de prédictions de seuils optimaux qui tiendraient la route pendant plusieurs années, résume en entrevue Mia Homsy, directrice générale de l’Institut du Québec.

« On se retrouve devant une question tout en nuances qui ne peut pas se régler par un débat dogmatique de chiffres », insiste-t-elle.

Selon l’étude, « le gouvernement devra avoir l’ouverture de revoir les seuils d’immigration à la hausse sans tergiverser », si les immigrants continuent de s’intégrer au marché du travail comme ils le font ces années-ci.

Les scénarios étudiés

Ce n’est pas que les chercheurs de l’Institut du Québec n’ont pas essayé de le trouver eux aussi, ce fameux chiffre. Ils ont étudié quatre scénarios : d’abord, à des fins de comparaison, celui d’un Québec sans immigration, qui fermerait ses portes ; ensuite, celui du seuil de 40 000 immigrants en 2019 (et de 54 000 en 2040) ; troisième scénario, celui d’un seuil de 53 000 immigrants en 2019 et de 71 000 en 2040 ; enfin, celui d’un Québec très ouvert, qui accueillerait 103 000 immigrants en 2040*.

Ils ont ensuite étudié l’impact de chaque seuil sur la démographie, puis sur l’économie (le PIB réel, la croissance du PIB réel par habitant et la proportion des dépenses en soins de santé par rapport aux recettes fiscales).

Il leur est arrivé ce qui déplaît souvent aux chercheurs (et aux journalistes) : un résultat mi-figue, mi-raisin.

« Ce qui nous a étonnés, c’est qu’il n’y avait pas beaucoup de différences entre les divers scénarios », dit Mia Homsy, directrice générale de l’Institut du Québec

La pénurie qui change tout

Aux fins de leur étude, les chercheurs se sont basés sur des hypothèses du Conference Board du Canada. Elles sont notamment fondées, écrivent les auteurs, sur des tendances selon lesquelles, par exemple, les nouveaux arrivants du Québec rencontreraient les mêmes obstacles sur le marché du travail que les cohortes d’immigrants précédentes.

Ainsi, en se basant sur ces modèles, les chercheurs en sont arrivés à la conclusion qu’un plus grand nombre d’immigrants plombe le PIB par habitant. C’est même avec le scénario d’un Québec sans aucun immigrant que la croissance annuelle du PIB réel par habitant serait la plus élevée, soit de 1,4 % pour la période allant de 2019 à 2040.

Le hic, constatent les auteurs après avoir calculé le tout, c’est que les modèles traditionnels ne tiennent plus. La discrimination traditionnelle dont les immigrants étaient victimes et qui minait le PIB par habitant est de moins en moins présente. La personne au nom étranger, qui n’était jamais appelée en entrevue il y a à peine quelques années, a soudainement pris beaucoup de valeur.

Un chiffre entre tous, cité dans l’étude, en témoigne tout particulièrement, dit Mme Homsy.

Chez les immigrants arrivés il y a de 5 à 10 ans, « le taux de chômage a chuté, passant de 12,7 % en 2009 à 6,7 % en 2018 ».

Les vraies conclusions à tirer

Que faire, alors ? Déterminer le fameux seuil d’immigrants à accueillir « en fonction de notre capacité à les intégrer sur le marché du travail », peut-on lire dans l’étude.

« Plus l’intégration sera rapide et efficace, plus la contribution à l’économie et à la qualité de vie des habitants sera importante. Les seuils annuels d’immigration devraient donc être fortement liés à la capacité d’intégration des nouveaux arrivants au marché du travail québécois et être fréquemment ajustés. »

Autrement dit, insiste Mme Homsy, va pour le plan triennal que veut mettre en place le gouvernement, « mais tous les ans, il faudrait réévaluer ce seuil à la lumière de l’intégration réelle et ponctuelle des immigrants en emploi ».

Les correctifs à apporter

« Le gouvernement doit mettre les bouchées doubles pour pallier aux faiblesses du système actuel comme les délais et la lourdeur du processus de sélection des immigrants, les difficultés de la reconnaissance des qualifications et de l’expérience étrangères et les succès mitigés de la francisation », peut-on lire dans l’étude.

Alors que la population vieillit et que la main-d’oeuvre se fait rare, « il faut plus que jamais tout mettre en oeuvre pour que les progrès récemment observés se poursuivent et permettent enfin à l’immigration de déployer son plein potentiel ».

* Les chiffres ont été choisis en se basant sur différentes proportions d’immigrants (0 %, 12 %, 15 % et 23 %) que le Québec accueillerait par rapport à l’ensemble du Canada.

Source: Étude sur l’immigration: à la recherche d’un seuil… inexistant

An English summary can be found here: Should Quebec reduce immigration to 40,000 newcomers per year?

Immigration program aims to boost Canada’s high-tech sector

More on Canada becoming an attractive destination for tech:

For Hafsa Imran, the decision to come to Canada to work in the high-tech sector was a no-brainer.

“At this point no one in IT wants to go to the United States, and Canada is the natural choice,” said the 26-year-old software engineer, who arrived from Pakistan last September after she was brought in by her Toronto employer under the federal Global Talent Stream pilot program.

The program is aimed at attracting top talent to Canada’s tech industry by fast tracking approvals; the federal government can issue a work permit in less than two weeks, while in the non-migrant-friendly U.S. under President Donald Trump and in protectionist Europe, the process can take months.

“With a work permit, we can see if Canada is for us or not. If we like it, we have a pathway to stay as permanent residents,” Imran said. “It’s a win-win.”

According to the federal government, since the launch of the two-year program in 2017 to this past January, more than 1,000 Canadian companies have used it to hire more than 4,000 highly skilled foreign workers. The program received such positive feedback from employers and applicants that Ottawa announced in the March budget that it was making the pilot permanent.

As part of the application process, an employer is required to develop a company-specific plan that outlines their commitment to generate lasting benefits for Canada, including creating jobs for Canadians and investing in both training and skills development.

The program has spurred the creation of 21,000 new jobs for Canadians as well as 3,500 paid co-op positions, and these employers have invested $9.3 million into skills training for Canadians, according to Employment and Social Development Canada.

“In the global race to attract the investment of innovative companies, competitors in the European Union as well as the United States have considerably larger pools of talent and labour to draw from than we do in Canada,” said immigration department spokesperson Nancy Caron. “By facilitating the faster entry of top talent with unique skill sets and global experience, the goal is to help innovative companies in Canada grow, flourish and create more jobs for Canadians.”

Head hunters for Canadian high-tech companies said since Global Talent Stream was turned into a permanent program, they have noticed a surge of interest from foreign high-tech workers.

Global Skills Hub, a Toronto-based company that helps Canadian startups find international talent, said 249 overseas high-tech workers responded to its recruitment efforts in the month before the government’s March announcement. Since then, the number has shot up to 2,370.

The company’s co-founder Yousuf Khatib said Canada lacks senior tech talent, many of whom have been poached by Silicon Valley. A recent report by the Information and Communications Technology Council projected that Canada has to fill 216,000 tech-related jobs by 2021.

“Whether it’s a startup or big corporation, every company has become a tech company and is looking for IT talent,” said Khatib, whose firm also handles the work permit application process for clients. “This program issues foreign tech workers with a two-year work permit and gives them a chance for permanent residence. The process is quick and it can stay relevant to the needs of the fast-changing tech world.”

Alisha Patel, vice-president of finance and human resources of Toronto-based TWG, a software company, said the Global Talent Stream helps Canada fill the gaps with foreign workers who can, in turn, assist in helping Canadians develop their skills.

TWG tests and screens prospective foreign workers online before issuing job offers. The new arrivals are then provided with an orientation and mentorship to help them settle in, said Patel. TWG has already brought in a handful of foreign software developers and engineers, including Imran, through the government program.

Imran, who has a university degree in electrical and software engineering, previously worked in Lahore for an electronic design automation software company, a subsidiary of electronics giant Siemens, before she was recruited by TWG. She underwent two technical tests and a series of online interviews before she was offered a job. At that time, Global Skills Hub, the head hunter, took over her work permit application.

Although she feels homesick from time to time, she said she is in love with Toronto and plans to apply for permanent residence when her two-year work permit expires.

“The best of the world are here in Toronto. It’s not just work, work and work, like in Pakistan. My employer invests in training me and is helping me develop my career path,” said Imran, who has found more personal time here to pursue her interests in books and sports.

Source: Immigration program aims to boost Canada’s high-tech sector

Limiting Muslim immigration is patriotic, US cardinal says

??? Pope Francis has his challenges:

Limiting the number of Muslims allowed to immigrate to traditionally Christian nations would be a prudent decision on the part of politicians, said U.S. Cardinal Raymond L. Burke.

During a pro-life and pro-family conference in Rome May 17, the day before Italy’s March for Life, Burke outlined his views on immigration.

“To resist large-scale Muslim immigration in my judgment is to be responsible,” Burke said, responding to a written question.

Islam “believes itself to be destined to rule the world,” he said. “You don’t have to be a rocket scientist to see what has happened in Europe,” the cardinal said, citing the large Muslim immigrant populations in France, Germany and Italy.

Burke’s comments are the latest addition to a debate among Catholics regarding the application of Gospel precepts to the large numbers of migrants arriving in Western nations from Africa and the Middle East.

In early May, Cardinal Konrad Krajewski, the pope’s almoner, told a reporter that the Vatican would refuse a papal blessing to Matteo Salvini, Italy’s deputy prime minister, who is known for his restrictive immigration policies.

Burke said that the while the Church must be generous to “individuals that are not able to find a way of living in their own country,” this is not the case for many Muslim migrants, “who are opportunists.”

The cardinal mentioned the book No Go Zones: How Sharia Law is Coming to a Neighborhood Near You, written by former Breitbart News reporter Raheem Kassam, as evidence that Muslim immigration is having an effect even in the United States.

Pope Francis has made a generous attitude toward migrants a cornerstone of his pontificate, underlining the Christian duty to “welcome the stranger” over political or demographic considerations, although he repeatedly has added that government leaders have a responsibility to assess how many migrants their countries truly can integrate. Such an assessment should include the financial costs of helping immigrants learn the local language and customs, the pope has said.

Answering the written question from a conference participant, Burke said Christian nations’ abandonment of traditional moral norms has been a cause of Europe’s Muslim influx.

“Muslims have said that they are able today to accomplish what they were not able to accomplish in the past with armaments because Christians no longer are ready to defend their faith, what they believe; they are no longer ready to defend the moral law,” the cardinal said.

Another reason for the demographic shift, the cardinal said, is that “Christians are not reproducing themselves,” referring to the widespread use of contraceptives.

In this context, Catholics have a duty to instruct migrants on “what is bankrupt in the culture” into which they are received. To the extent possible, Catholics should even to try to work with them “to recover what is true culture,” which includes a recognition of the dignity of life, respect for sexual morality and proper worship of God, the cardinal said.

In view of these considerations, limiting “large-scale Muslim immigration is in fact, as far as I’m concerned, a responsible exercise of one’s patriotism,” Burke said.

In April, Burke contributed a foreword to a book titled, Love for the Papacy and Filial Resistance to the Pope in the History of the Church, by Roberto de Mattei, an Italian historian.

“At a time of profoundest spiritual and moral crisis, the Catholic Church needs more than ever before to recall her sacred tradition, unbroken from the time of the apostles,” the cardinal wrote.

Burke, 70, is perhaps best known as one of four cardinals who, opposed to the possibility that some divorced and civilly remarried couples might eventually be readmitted to the sacraments, wrote a series of “dubia” or doubts about Francis’s 2016 exhortation on the family, Amoris Laetitia.

Source: Limiting Muslim immigration is patriotic, US cardinal says

Trump’s Worthwhile Canadian Initiative vs New Trump administration policy is eugenics for immigrants

Two very contrasting views of the Trump administration’s immigration proposals, starting with the National Review in favour:

Donald Trump has associated himself with the radical idea that the United States should have a legal-immigration system like that of Canada.

He unveiled an immigration plan on Thursday that would emphasize skills, moving us closer to the Canadian model from our current, foolishly monomaniacal focus on family reunification.

The problem with letting immigrants bring in all sort of relatives is that it makes the immigration system random, and effectively takes control over picking and choosing who will come here out of our hands. The Trump plan would limit family immigration to immediate family — spouses and minor children — and eliminate the visa lottery, which is just as arbitrary as it sounds.

Instead, the emphasis would be on a point system and higher-skilled immigrants with extraordinary talents, professional vocations, and academic accomplishments.

The plan also includes an array of welcome enforcement measures, although it’s not clear yet if it includes the most important of all, an E-Verify system for employers that would do much to turn off the jobs magnet drawing illegal immigrants here.

There is a lot to commend in the plan. It would be a significant step toward making our immigration system more rational. With so many people around the world desperate to come here, it is insane that we aren’t choosing the immigrants who best serve our interests. Under the plan, we would favor the immigrants best-suited to thriving in a 21st-century economy, and English and civics tests would select for immigrants with the best chance of easily assimilating.

It is something of a breakthrough to have an administration that considers the interests of American workers in formulating immigration policy and doesn’t want to continue to flood the lower end of the labor market with greater numbers of low-skilled immigrants, a persistent feature of so-called comprehensive immigration reforms.

Our complaint is that the plan doesn’t call for lower numbers of legal immigrants given the historic wave of immigration that has continued unabated for decades now. But the enforcement measures, especially if they include e-Verify, should reduce the flow of new illegal immigrants and diminish the current illegal population, reducing the level of immigration overall.

Also, it would have been better if Trump had come into office with a plan along these lines ready to be immediately written into legislation when Republicans controlled Congress. If so, with the right horse-trading and a deft touch, it might have been possible to get important reforms written and signed into law.

As it is, this is largely a campaign document, and a commendable one.

Source: Trump’s Worthwhile Canadian Initiative

Michael Sean Winters in the National Catholic Reporter takes a strong stand, excessively so IMO, on “merit-based” approaches. Labelling it as “eugenics” is so over the top that it undermines a more reasonable approach that has a blended approach between economic, family and refugee immigrants (as in Canada):

Last week, the estuary where politics and religion mingle was dominated by discussions about abortion, and I will have more to say on that later this week. But, today, I would like to focus on President Donald Trump’s rollout of a new approach to immigration policy. One of the central objectives of the policy proposal will be to implement a “merit-based” system for admitting immigrants legally, rather than the current system which prioritizes family members of those already here.

Ironically, Trump entrusted the policy rollout on Capitol Hill to a member of his own family, Jared Kushner, who met with Senators May 16 and left them with the impression he is clueless when it comes to the issue. The Washington Post cited an individual “familiar with the meeting” who said: “He’s in his own little world. He didn’t give many details about what was in [his plan]. … And there were a number of instances where people had to step in and answer questions because he couldn’t.” Maybe young Kushner should go back to making peace in the Mideast.

The idea of turning to a “merit-based” system that prioritizes migrants with special skills and high levels of education is already supported by some hardline Republican senators. Sens. Tom Cotton, of Arkansas, David Perdue of Georgia, and Josh Hawley of Missouri introduced the RAISE Act last month. Their proposal also reduced legal immigration over time, something Trump apparently does not want to do at this time. But, the core idea is the same.

“Our current immigration system is broken and is not meeting the needs of our growing economy,” said Perdue in a press release announcing the introduction of the legislation. “If we want to continue to be the global economic leader, we have to welcome the best and brightest from around the world who wish to come to the United States legally to work and make a better life for themselves. This will require a skills-based immigration system that is pro-growth and pro-worker. The RAISE Act is proven to work and is still the only plan that responds to the needs of our economy, while preserving quality jobs and wages for American workers.”

See, the needs of the “the economy” are more important than the needs of any families that might wish to be reunited. Or, so say these “pro-family” senators, two of whom garnered a 100 percent rating from the Family Research Council last year. Hawley was not yet a senator, but I would be willing to bet he will earn a 100 percent rating this session.

One of the cornerstones of Catholic social doctrine is that the family and its rights precede the state and its rights. Indeed, all four pillars of Catholic social doctrine — human dignity, the common good, solidarity and subsidiarity — rise or fall based on how a society fosters family life.

There is no constitutional requirement that a public policy cohere with Catholic moral teaching, to be sure. But, let’s call this “merit-based” system what it is: Eugenics for immigrants. In its earlier iteration, eugenics aimed to prevent those deemed to lack “merit” from procreating. “Three generations of imbeciles are enough,” thundered Supreme Court Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr., in 1927, before eugenics got a bad name at Auschwitz.

Now, corporate America gets to play the part of deciding who does and does not get to be treated with that equal human dignity both the Gospel and the Constitution take as their most basic premise. Corporate America tells the government what kind of foreign workers it needs, and the government lets those workers move to the front of the line. Why should the needs of the impersonal “economy,” or the needs of the corporate titans who hide behind economic theories, take precedence over our moral values? Christian moral theology recognizes that the people with the greatest claim on society and government are those in need, not those with special skills. An immigrant is a human person. Is the president and his party saying that the proper assessment of “merit” is an economic assessment, not a moral one? What about an unborn immigrant child? Do they lack the “merit” human dignity confers?

The U.S. bishops were quick to put out a letter, signed by four relevant committee chairmen, voicing their opposition to a bill that would confer equal rights to members of the LGBT community. The statement they did issue is totally inadequate.

“While we appreciate that the President is looking to address problems in our immigration system, we oppose proposals that seek to curtail family-based immigration and create a largely ‘merit-based’ immigration system,” said Cardinal Daniel DiNardo, president of the bishops’ conference. “Families are the foundation of our faith, our society, our history, and our immigration system. As Pope Francis notes: ‘Family is the place in which we are formed as persons. Each family is a brick that builds society.’ ”

I do not recall them acknowledging the good faith of those who support the Equality Act. And, really, what is there to “appreciate” about this president’s attempts “to address problems in our immigration system”? After all, it is heavy with racism and, in the event, likely to affect mostly our coreligionists from Central America. Many Catholics come to Washington every January to protest Roe v. Wade. Will they come to Washington in similar numbers to protest this social Darwinism?

One expects this kind of morally asinine behavior from the president, but I confess I am surprised that so many conservative members of Congress support this kind of “merit-based” immigration system. They are not stupid people. They are not immoral people. They are people for whom a commitment to Christian faith, and the values that flow therefrom, has been wildly distorted by its entanglement with the Republican Party. They are equally a threat to what is best about our American experiment and most precious about our Christian heritage. This embrace of eugenics for immigrants is only the latest evidence of how great that threat is.

Source: New Trump administration policy is eugenics for immigrants

How an immigration crackdown is hurting UK startups

Long read to note:

The two people who sat down in reception without an appointment would not leave the startup’s office until the end of the day.

Two months later, a letter followed informing the company it had been suspended from the United Kingdom’s register of licensed sponsors, the database of companies the government has approved to employee foreign workers. The business had 20 working days from the typed date to make “representations” and submit “evidence” and “supporting documents” to counter the “believed” infractions spread across 12 pages, threaded through with copious references to paragraphs, annexes and bullet points culled from the Home Office‘s official guidance for sponsors.

Early in the new year another letter arrived, and an assessment process that had begun with an unannounced visit one autumn morning delivered its final verdict: The revocation of Metail‘s sponsor license with immediate effect.

“There is no right of appeal against this decision,” warns paragraph 64 of the 22-page decision letter — in text which the sponsor compliance unit has seen fit to highlight in bold. “Whilst your client can no longer recruit sponsored workers under Tier 2 and 5 of the Points Based system, they can continue to recruit UK and EEA workers as well as non-EEA nationals that have the right to work in the UK. The revocation of the license does not stop a business from trading,” the letter concludes. Tier 2 is the general work visa for regular employees, while Tier 5 is for temporary workers.

The government department that oversees the UK’s immigration system gets to have — and frame — the last word.

London-based Metail is a decade-plus veteran of the virtual fitting room space, its founders having spied early potential to commercialize computer vision technology to enable individualized sales assistance for online clothes and fashion shopping. It now sells services to retailers including photorealistic 3D body models to power virtual try-ons; algorithmic size recommendations; and garment visualization to speed up and simplify the process of showcasing fashion products online.

In the story below, we’ll look at how Metail’s situation sits within wider issues facing startups in the United Kingdom today. We also dig into the details of the company’s encounters with immigration rules, and what startups in the UK can do to hire the people they need without similar problems, in this article for Extra Crunch subscribers.

Metail has approached research-heavy innovation in the field of 3D visualization with determined conviction in transformative commercial potential, tucking $32 million in VC funding under its belt over the years, and growing its team to 40 people (including 11 PhDs) at a head office in London and a research hub located close to Cambridge University where its British founder studied economics in the late ’90s. It’s also racked up an IP portfolio that spans computer vision, photography, mechanics, image processing and machine learning — with 20 patents granted in the UK, Europe and the US, and a similar number pending. Years of 3D modeling expertise and a substantial war-chest of patents might, reasonably, make Metail an acquisition target for an ecommerce giant like Amazon that’s looking to shave further friction off of online transactions.

Nothing in its company or business history leaps out to suggest it fits the bill as a “threat to UK immigration control.” But that’s what the language of the Home Office’s correspondence asserts — and then indelibly inks in its final decision.

“I took them into a meeting room. And at that point, they hand me a bunch of documents and say: ‘We’re here to see and understand about your sponsored migrants.’ So at the beginning, the language is all very dehumanizing,” says Metail founder and CEO Tom Adeyoola, recounting the morning of the unannounced visit. They hand me a bit of material which includes the sentence ‘you’ll be allowed a toilet break every two hours’. And I’m like, ‘am I being arrested?! What’s going on?’

“Then they ask ‘are your sponsored migrants here?’ I said I don’t know, I don’t manage them directly. I only had two.

“‘Can we see your lease? Can we see your accounts?’ Genuinely everything. ‘Can we see proof that this is your office?’ I was like, well you’re in the office… So [it was] very much a box-ticking exercise.

And then the interview process going through with [the HR manager] was effectively ‘why have you hired sponsored migrants over the settled workers? Talk me through your process about how you track everybody in the organization?’

“‘What happens when they are not in one day? What happens when they’re not in at work the second day?’

“A bit of this thing was like an assumption that they’re not human beings but they’re like prisoners on the run.”

Immediate effects

The January 31 decision letter, which TechCrunch has reviewed, shows how the Home Office is fast-tracking anti-immigrant outcomes. In a short paragraph, the Home Office says it considered and dismissed an alternative outcome — of downgrading, not revoking, the license and issuing an “action plan” to rectify issues identified during the audit. Instead, it said an immediate end to the license was appropriate due to the “seriousness” of the non-compliance with “sponsor duties”.

The decision focused on one of the two employees Metail had working on a Tier 2 visa, who we’ll call Alex (not their real name). In essence, Alex was a legal immigrant had worked their way into a mid-level promotion by learning on the job, as should happen regularly at any good early-stage startup. The Home Office, however, perceived the promotion to have been given to someone without proper qualifications, over potential native-born candidates. We detail the full saga over on Extra Crunch, along with the takeaways that other startups can learn from.

For Metail, the situation suddenly became about its own existence and not just the fate of one hardworking younger employee.

Metail’s other Tier 2 sponsor visa was for Dr. Yu Chen, who is originally from China, and leads the startup’s research efforts based at its Cambridge office. Chen has been with the business for around seven years — starting his relationship with Metail projects while still working on his computer vision PhD at Cambridge University.

Adeyoola describes him as “critical” to the business, a sentiment Chen confirms when we chat — albeit more modestly summing up his contribution as “quite theoretically involved in all these critical algorithms and key technologies developed by this organization since the very beginning”.

A major first concern for Adeyoola was what the loss of Metail’s sponsor license meant for Chen — and by extension Metail’s ability to continue business-critical research work.

The Home Office letter provided no guidance on specific knock-on impacts. And the lawyers Metail contacted for advice weren’t sure. “Our lawyers told us that that was the implication. In their revocation notice, they do not tell you what it means explicitly. You have to figure that out for yourself,” says Adeyoola. “Hence it is confusing and unclear.”

The lawyers advised Chen’s employment be suspended to keep the rest of the company safe — which instantly threw up further questions.

“Can I suspend his employment with pay or not with pay? Because the Home Office had his passport and they’ve had his passport since he’d applied for indefinite leave to remain in October and in January he still hadn’t had his passport back. He can’t go anywhere or do anything, so backward and forth it worked out that, yeah, we could suspend him with pay. But he couldn’t be seen at that time to be doing any work — and he’s critical for us.

“We had government R&D grants, he runs all our research — so I was like well we’re going to have to talk to the government and add an extension to that project.”

They had to tell everybody in the office that while Chen’s employment was suspended they weren’t allowed to talk to him. “He wasn’t allowed to use Slack,” Adeyoola recounts. “So if you were going to talk to him you had to meet him off-premise.”

“Nobody knows whether you can normally work,” says Chen of the uncertainty around his status at that point. “Are you just allowed to stay at home legally but not allowed to work? Lot of question marks. It’s a very, very rare scenario I think.”

Adeyoola says he was also concerned whether Metail having its sponsor license suspended might negatively impact Chen’s in-train application for ‘indefinite leave to remain’ in the UK — which he had applied for in October, before the sponsor license suspension letter landed, having been in the UK the requisite ten years by then. And because, ironically enough, he had been “panicking” a bit about his future status as a result of Brexit.

Metail used an online email checking service, available via a Home Office portal, which suggested Chen could, in fact, work while the company license was suspended. At the same time Adeyoola had reached out to Chen’s local MP for help confirming his status — and with the aid of a political side-channel did manage to get it firmly confirmed in writing from the Home Office that Chen could still work while the license was suspended.

“We had to operate on lowest common denominator basis until we had written notice. Because systems operate on a ‘with prejudice’ basis,” says Adeyoola of the week Chen had been suspended from work.

“It was not in the letter. There was nothing in the letter about what it means for your people. Again, the human aspect of it seems to be the last thing on their mind. I think that’s part of the indoctrination of the people there — so they’re highly process-ified and trained so that they do their job.”

Chen’s period of suspension turned out to be mercifully brief, although that was purely due to lucky timing. Had he waited a month or so longer to lodge the original paperwork for his indefinite leave to remain, then his situation and Metail’s could have panned out very differently.

“In my case, I was just lucky because I started to apply for indefinite leave to remain before this stuff blew up,” he says, saying he filed the application around nine months before his Tier 2 visa was due to apply.

Nearly six months after filing for it in October, Chen’s indefinite leave to remain came through.

But by that time Metail’s sponsor license had gone. Now they wouldn’t be able to hire more people like Chen without overcoming major hurdles.

A hostile environment for immigration

A photograph of the UK prime minister, Theresa May, smiles down at the reader of the Wikipedia page for the Home Office hostile environment policy.

As smiles go, it’s more rictus grin than welcoming sparkle. Which is appropriate because, as the page explains, the then-home secretary presided over the introduction of the current hostile environment, as the coalition government sought to deliver on a Conservative Party manifesto promise in 2010 to reduce net immigration to 1990 levels — aka “tens of thousands a year, not hundreds of thousands”.

The policy boils down to: deport first, hear appeals later. One infamous application of it during May’s tenure as home secretary saw vans driven around multicultural areas of London, bearing adverts with the slogan ‘Go Home’. The idea, criticized at the time as a racist dog-whistle, was to convince illegal workers to deport themselves by making them feel unwelcome.

Summarizing the broader policy intent in an interview with the Telegraph newspaper in early 2012, May told the right-leaning broadsheet: “The aim is to create here in Britain a really hostile environment for illegal migration.”

Associated measures introduced to further the hostile environment have included a requirement that landlords, employers, banks and the UK’s National Health Service carry out ID checks to determine whether a tenant, worker, customer or patient has a legal right to be in the UK, co-opting businesses and non-government entities into policing immigration via the medium of extra bureaucracy.

But in seeking to make life horribly difficult for workers who are in the UK without authorization, the government has also created a compliance nightmare for legal migration.

A Channel 4 TV report last year highlighted two cases of highly skilled Pakistani migrants who, after more than a decade in the UK had applied for indefinite leave to remain — only to be told they must leave instead. The Home Office cited small adjustments to their tax returns as grounds to order them out, apparently relying on a clause that allows it to remove people it decides to be of ‘bad character’.

That’s just the tip of the iceberg where the human impact of the Home Office’s hostile environment is concerned. There have been a number of major scandals related to the policy’s application. The most high profile touches Windrush generation migrants, who came to the UK between 1948 and the early 1970s — after the British Nationality Act gave citizens of UK colonies the right to settle in the country but without providing them with documentary evidence of their permanent right to remain.

The combination of thousands of legal but undocumented migrants — many originally from the Caribbean — and a Home Office instructed to take a hostile stance that pushes for deportations in order to shrink net migration has led to scores of settled UK citizens with a legal right to be in the country being pushed out or deported illegally by the government.

The Windrush scandal eventually claimed the scalp of May’s successor at the Home Office, Amber Rudd, who resigned as home secretary in April 2018 after being forced to admit to “inadvertently” misleading a parliamentary committee about targets for removing illegal immigrants.

Rudd had claimed the Home Office did not have such targets. That statement was contradicted by a letter she wrote to the prime minister that was obtained and published by The Guardian newspaper — in which she promised to oversee the forced or voluntary departure of 10% more people than May had during her time at the Home Office by switching resource away from crime-fighting to immigration enforcement programs.

May chose Sajid Javid to be Rudd’s replacement as home secretary. And while he has sought to distance himself from the hostile environment rhetoric — saying he prefers to talk about a “compliant environment” for immigration — the reality is the architect of the policy remains (for now) head of the government in which he serves.

Her government has not directly repeated the 2010 Conservative Party manifesto pledge to reduce net migration to the “tens of thousands”. But an immigration white paper published at the end of last year retraced the same rhetoric — talking about reducing “annual net migration to sustainable levels as set out in the Conservative party manifesto, rather than the hundreds of thousands we have consistently seen over the last two decades”.

It’s clear that controlling immigration remains right at the top of the government’s policy agenda, and is bearing out in how policies are enforced today.

Austerity and the Brexit divide

As UK prime minister, May is also in charge of delivering Brexit. And here she has made ending freedom of movement for European Union citizens another immutable red-line of her approach — repeatedly claiming it’s necessary to ‘take back control’ of the UK’s borders to deliver on the Brexit vote.

Brexit the UK’s 2016 referendum to exit the European Union saw around 52% of those who cast a ballot voting to leave, or around 17.4 million people out of a total population of approximately 65.6M.

May’s interpretation of that result has been to claim citizens voted to end free movement of EU people and workers, despite there being no such specific detail on the ballot paper. (The referendum question simply asked whether the UK should remain a member of the European Union or leave.)

So her vision of a post-Brexit future will require UK businesses which want to recruit EU workers needing a sponsor license and relevant visas for all such hires. This will mean UK businesses hiring from outside the settled worker pool will have to expose more of their inner workings to the rules and regulations of the immigration system — with all the compliance cost and risk that entails.

From the outside looking in it might seem odd that the Conservative Party a formidable political force that likes to claim it can be trusted to manage the economy, and which is traditionally associated with being more closely aligned with the interests of the private sector is presiding over policies that drive up compliance bureaucracy for companies while simultaneously increasing their recruitment costs and squeezing their ability to access a broader talent pool.

But the traditional politics of right and left do seem to be in flux in the UK, as indeed they are elsewhere.

This is perhaps in part linked to the aging demographic of the Conservative Party’s base. (One disputed guesstimate, put out by a right-leaning think tank in 2017, suggested that the average age of a member of the party is 72; whatever the exact figure, no one disputes it skews old.)

The UK’s position in Europe as a major economy, with a low unemployment rate and English as its first language has also historically served to make the country an attractive destination for EU workers to settle. Hundreds of thousands of EU migrants arrived in the UK annually between mid 2014 to mid 2016, prior to the Brexit vote. Post-referendum, EU immigration dropped to 74,000 last year (even as net migration to the UK has not reduced).

That locus has long been a major benefit to UK businesses and startups, and so to the wider economy. But once it got geared into years of austerity politics — also introduced by the Conservative-led government in the wake of the 2008 financial crash — the country’s success as a worker and talent magnet started to butt up against and even drive rising resentment among sections of the population that have not felt any economic benefit from the concentrated wealth of high tech hubs like London.

Against a backdrop of growing inequality in UK society and sparser access to publicly funded resources, it has been all too easy for right-wing populists to re-channel resentment linked to government austerity cuts — framing immigration as a drain on services and pointing the finger of blame at migrants by encouraging the idea that they have a lesser claim than natural UK-born citizens to essential but now inadequately resourced public services.

This cynical scapegoating glosses over the fact that public services have been systematically and deliberately underfunded by austerity politics. But, at the same time, research that suggests EU migrants are in fact a net benefit to the UK economy has little comfort to offer those who feel economically excluded by default.

One interesting component of the UK’s Brexit vote split is that it appears to cut not so much along traditional left/right political lines but across educational divides, with researchsuggesting that pro-Brexit voters were more likely to live in areas with lower overall educational attainment.

High tech hubs and startup businesses are therefore in the awkward position of risking exacerbating the same sort of societal divide. They can be seen as driving the automation of traditional jobs, creating work that’s more specialized which in turn makes employable skills harder to attain from a low skills base, and concentrating opportunity and wealth in the hands of fewer people. Hence the needs of startups are becoming more difficult for politicians to prioritize.

There’s no doubt the politics of austerity has supercharged UK inequality as service cuts have hit hardest at the regional margins where wider economic gains were always the least profound and first to evaporate under pressure. While rising competition for scarcer state-funded resources has created perfect conditions for scapegoating migration.

A report by the Institute for Fiscal Studies think tank earlier this month, at the launch of a five-year review into factors driving UK societal inequality, also warned that widening inequalities in pay, health and opportunities are undermining trust in democracy.

All of which makes responding to Brexit a political minefield for the UK government. The Brexit crisis seems to require a bold, society-wide re-engineering that attacks inequality of opportunity, radically invests in education, reskilling and upskilling to grow participation in the digital economy, and a tax policy that works to dilute concentrated wealth to ensure economic benefits are more fairly redistributed. None of which, it’s fair to say, is terrain traditionally associated with Conservative politics. (Though, in recent years, there have been attempts to claw in more tax from profit-shifting tech giants.)

Instead, the government’s top-line answer to the Brexit conundrum has, first and foremost, been to attack immigration. Playing to the lie that inequality is a simple numbers game based on population figures.

It’s not a strategy that properly addresses the question of how to manage wealth, resources and opportunity in an increasingly digital (and divided) world — to ensure it’s more equally and fairly distributed so that society as a whole benefits, rather than just a fabulously wealthy techno-elite getting richer.

Yet the government is badging its planned post-Brexit immigration reforms as a ‘Britain first’ overhaul that will create a system that’s “fair to working people here at home”, as the prime minister puts it. “It will mean we can reduce the number of people coming to this country, as we promised, and it will give British business an incentive to train our own young people,” runs her introduction to the immigration white paperpublished at the back end of last year, when Brexit was still marching towards a March 29 deadline.

The government making reducing net migration both flagship policy and political success metric has the knock-on effect of heaping cost, administrative burden and operational risk on UK startups — which rely, like all high tech businesses, on access to skills and talent to develop and scale commercial ideas.

But in the new austerity-fuelled Brexit political reality, the UK government not being overly supportive of the needs of talent-thirsty businesses seems to be the order of the day. Even as, on the other hand, other bits of opportune government rhetoric talk about Britain being “open for business” — or wanting the country to be the best place in the world to build a tech business.

Another government claim — that the planned “skills-based” future approach to immigration will allow businesses to cherry pick the very best talent from all over the globe — does not credibly stack up against the Conservative Party’s overarching push to shrink net migration.

The political reality, certainly for now, is that the ‘compliant’ environment approach to immigration is a euphemist label atop the same openly hostile policy that has slammed doors on people and businesses.

“I want to be able to hire great talented people with drive, enthusiasm and dynamism. I don’t want my choices to be restricted and if they are going to continue to be restricted we’ll have to look at other ways of maintaining the talent pool” says Adeyoola, discussing how he feels after Metail’s brush with the ‘compliant environment’.

“I’d love to just be able to hire the best person for the job… often a lot of that comes from people who want to come and make a life here. They have greater drive. So you get higher quality so you want to be able to hire those people if they come up.

“I think, unfortunately for us, we’re going to see fewer and fewer of them. Because if stuff continues the way it’s continuing, well we’ve already seen net migration from Europe fall dramatically over the last three years. In part that’s Brexit, in part that’s also because eastern European nations are flourishing… so the prospects are the other way. That’s just generally how things work. Great people move to great places.

”Just through going through this process it’s cost me money,” he adds of the audit and everything it triggered. “Real money in legal fees… lost time through weeks of work and effort from people inside the organization… We’re having to restrict the talent pool we can hire from… We’re going to have to spend more money on recruiters to find the right people… It is all just negative… The Brexit argument has always been Brexit will mean fewer EU which means we can have more people from outside… Well, that’s not how the immigration rules work now.

“You’re trying desperately to keep people from outside out. So I can’t believe that, post-Brexit you’re going to loosen the rules… So this whole thing about ‘fewer EU, more commonwealth and more everywhere else’ is not believable.”

Towards politically charged borders

Change is coming for the UK’s immigration system. But if the government executes on May’s version of Brexit — which intends to end freedom of movement for EU citizens — it will require UK businesses to interface with the Home Office if they wish to recruit almost any skilled individual from overseas.

Simply put, the same set of rules will apply to EU and non-EU migrants in the future. With the caveat that it remains possible for any post-Brexit trade deals that the UK might ink to include agreements with certain countries to carve out distinct offers related to work visas.

Per its white paper, the government has said it will simplify immigration requirements, as part of the shift to a single, “skills-based future immigration system” post-Brexit, slated from 2021 onwards.

Planned changes include removing the cap on skilled workers, which has — in years past — put another hard limit on startups hiring skilled migrants as, up until doctors and nurses were excluded from the quota last summer, it kept getting hit each month — limiting how many visas were available to businesses.

The government has also said it will do away with the requirement that employers advertise jobs to settled workers. So no more resident labour market test — aka the process which helped skewer Metail’s sponsor license.

Instead, for skilled workers, the plan is to apply a minimum salary threshold of £30,000 (including those with lower, intermediate level skills than now) — using pay as a lever to discourage migrant workers from being used to undercut wages. So no more forcing businesses to undertake an arduous, lengthy and risky (from a compliance point of view) process of advertising to settled workers in case one can be found for a vacancy.

Although the 2021 timeline for introducing the skills-based system that’s written into the immigration policy paper was contingent on the UK leaving the EU on March 29 this year.  Whereas Brexit still has yet to happen. So the implementation date for any post-Brexit immigration reforms remains as equally uncertain and moveable a ‘feast’ as Brexit itself.

“Cost certainly won’t go away,” says Charlie Pring, a senior counsel who specializes in immigration work for law firm Taylor Wessing, of the planned reforms. “The red tape will go away a little bit from 2021 when they rework this new one-size fits all system that will cover Europeans and non-Europeans — because they’re going to scrap the cap and they’re going to scrap advertising. And they’re also going to lower the skill level as well — so almost like A-level qualified jobs rather than graduate one jobs. So it’ll be mid-level jobs as well as graduate ones. But that’s still best part of two years away — so until then employers have got to lump it.”

The immigration system that remains in force has been designed to make the process of sponsoring migrant workers akin to a tax on businesses — with associated cost, complexity and uncertainty designed to discourage recruitment of non-UK workers.

For startups, Pring (who to be clear did not advise Metail) sees costs as the biggest challenge — “because the visa fees are so high”. He also points out the fees scale with the company. Once a startup is “no longer deemed to be a small” by the Home Office there’s “a higher skills tax to the government as well. So that’s a real issue”.

Startups don’t get any kind of compliance break based on the fact they’re trying to be innovative, develop new skills, tap novel technologies and create new business models. The same skeptical compliance can also be seen operating across the board — whether a business entails low tech seasonal fruit picking or is a high growth potential AI startup with a wealth of PhD expertise and patented technologies.

Nor does the Home Office have any remit to actively support sponsors to help them understand how to fulfil all the various knotted requirements of an immigration system that can be charitably described as opaque and confusing.

On the contrary, the government’s goal of shrinking annual migration creates a political counter-incentive for immigration rules to be complex and unclear. Encouraging enforcement to be aggressive and confrontational — and for compliance officers to hunt for reasons to find and penalize failure.

UK startups that sponsor migrants should understand they remain at risk of falling foul of the charged politics swirling around immigration — and having all their sponsored visas liquidated and business penalized by a system that, parts of which the government’s own policy plan concedes are not working as intended.

Even with reform looming, the future for entrepreneurs in the UK looks no less uncertain — if, as the government intends, free access to the EU talent pool goes away after Brexit. That will give the Home Office far greater control over migration, and therefore a much bigger say over who businesses can and cannot hire — putting its hands on cost and skill levers which can be used to control migrant flow.

Here’s Pring again: “The government is deliberately funneling people through into Tier 2 [visas]. If they push everybody through Tier 2, which is what they want, that’s the way they control skill level and salary level because you can only get a Tier 2 visa if the job is skilled enough and you’re paying enough for it. So it enables the government to put an element of control onto the visa numbers. And even though they’re not [generally] capping the numbers… they are through the backdoor deterring people from applying by making it difficult to qualify and ramping up the visa fees.”

The UK’s future immigration system is also being fashioned by a Conservative government that sees itself under siege from populist, anti-immigration forces, and is led — at least for now — by a prime minister famed for her frosty welcome for migrants.

Without a radical change of government and/or political direction it’s hard to imagine those levers being flipped in a more startup-friendly direction.

Entrepreneurs in the UK should therefore be forgiven for feeling they have little reason to smile and plenty to worry about. Rising costs for accessing talent and growing political risk is certainly not the kind of scale they love to dream of.

Source: How an immigration crackdown is hurting UK startups

Immigrants — many highly educated — are changing California for the better

Interesting how the debate over whether the US should adopt a “merit-based” system, market forces are already making the shift, with California, as always, being a trend setter:

Distracted by President Trump and his riled resisters, it’s easy to miss the big picture of foreign migration to California.

It’s the old story of not seeing the forest for the trees.

Portrayed in this forest grandeur is a new story in the long history of people uprooting and migrating to California chasing opportunities and dreams.

It is the story of many newly arrived immigrants — especially from Asia — being better educated than U.S.-born citizens.

They’re not starting at the bottom of the work ladder as Chinese laborers did 150 years ago when they risked life and limb to help build the Transcontinental Railroad through the granite Sierra.

True, many Latin Americans are still migrating here to work in the fields and harvest crops — although not nearly enough of them, farmers say — or wash dishes in four-star restaurants. But many of them also are much better educated than their predecessors.

“It’s the old story of immigrants coming to the U.S. and California seeking a better life for themselves and their children,” says Hans Johnson, an immigration and demographics expert at the nonpartisan Public Policy Institute of California.

“What’s different now is the trend toward immigrants coming into California with high levels of education. The share of those who already have completed college is extremely high. Asian immigrants are the best educated group in California, better than U.S.-born. Immigrants from India are the single best educated group in our state.”

And the increasing education levels of Latin American migrants, Johnson says, “means there are fewer lower-skilled immigrants and a smaller pool of farm workers than there used to be.”

But California’s economy still relies on immigrants with little education, Johnson notes in a PPIC research paper released last week. The report is based on immigration figures through 2017, the latest available.

In 2017, Johnson reports, 32% of working-age California immigrants had not graduated from high school. They primarily worked in the agriculture and hospitality industries.

But that same year, 52% of working-age immigrants who had lived in the U.S. for five years or less had at least bachelor’s degrees — up 30 percentage points since 1990. In contrast, only 37% of U.S.-born Californians were college graduates — up just 10 points since 1990.

And in 2017, 55% of newly arrived immigrants were from Asia, roughly double the number from Latin America, 29%. The majority from Asia had at least a bachelor’s degree — and 80% of immigrants from India did.

Of all California workers with bachelor’s degrees, about 30% were immigrants. The overwhelming majority of college grads working in electronics and product manufacturing were immigrants.

What’s attracting them to California now is not railroad building, gold strikes or even farm harvests, but technology, especially in Silicon Valley and the Los Angeles basin.

“Silicon Valley is drawing in immigrants,” Johnson says.

There are five counties where more than a third of the population comprises immigrants. And the top three are in and around Silicon Valley: Santa Clara, San Francisco and San Mateo. The other two are Alameda, across the bay from Silicon Valley, and Los Angeles.

The influx of college-educated immigrants couldn’t come at a better time. California needs these people to replace U.S.-born, college-educated baby boomers who are rapidly retiring, Johnson says. The U.S. birthrate hasn’t kept up with the retirement pace.

“The number of college grads leaving the labor market is at a record high,” Johnson says. “We’ve never seen in the history of California, or the U.S., such a large and highly educated cohort of people leaving the labor force. We need more highly educated workers in California.”

And many are arriving from foreign countries to fill the void.

There’s much more happening with immigration than border walls, family separations, caravans of refugees from violent Central America and demagogic diatribe.

In his research, Johnson concluded there are almost 11 million immigrants in California, about a quarter of the foreign-born population nationwide. That’s 27% of California’s population, more than double the percentage of foreign-born for the rest of the country.

Only about 14% of immigrants are in California illegally. That’s 1.5 million people, down from 2 million in 2010.

Half of California immigrants are from Latin America; 40% from Asia. The main countries of origin are Mexico (4.1 million), China (969,000), the Philippines (857,000), Vietnam (524,000) and India (507,000).

But since 2010, most immigrants — 56% — have arrived from Asia; 29% from Latin America.

Illegal immigration from Mexico has tailed off and it has little to do with anything Trump has tried. It started early in President Obama’s administration and probably was partly due to his stepped-up deportations. But mainly it was because of a better job market in Mexico.

“Labor opportunities in Mexico have generally been improving,” the researcher says. “Population growth has slowed as birthrates have come way down. The number of new workers has declined dramatically, which translates into fewer people in the labor force.” And that means less competition for jobs.

Birthrates are falling because more women are working, he says. That’s happening in many developed countries, including ours.

Meanwhile, California’s technology hub is attracting a much-needed, highly educated workforce.

The state is changing for the better before our eyes. But probably few of us are noticing.

Source: Immigrants — many highly educated — are changing California for the better

Liberals end ‘unfair’ policy that penalized refugees from so-called ‘safe countries’

Not much left of these measures between court decisions and Liberal policy changes, will see what Andrew Scheer says in his forthcoming policy speech on immigration:

The Liberal government has killed a controversial Harper-era initiative that did not afford all refugees the same rights and instead penalized those who came from so-called “safe countries” like the United States.

Starting immediately, Canada will remove the tight timeframe for their claims to be heard and let them appeal possible rejections, as well as grant them the right to work immediately and receive health care — benefits previously bestowed only on asylum seekers fleeing from war-torn countries and corrupt regimes.

“The system is unfair and treats people differently based on nationality,” Immigration Minister Ahmed Hussen told the Star in a phone interview Thursday. “The policy hasn’t worked. It was meant to introduce efficiency, but it has created the opposite effects. It’s time to go.”

The move by Ottawa follows several Federal Court decisions over the years that have chipped away at the core provisions of the so-called “safe country” policy introduced in 2012 by Stephen Harper’s Conservative government to target rising asylum claims from Eastern Europe and Mexico. The government established a list of safe countries and created a faster processing and removal system for claimants from these nations.

The Liberals’ decision to eliminate the safe country list, to be made public Friday, officially strikes down the last remaining planks of their predecessor’s controversial revamp of the refugee asylum system.

The original reforms aimed to deter “bogus claimants” whose lives weren’t in danger, but who came to Canada for economic opportunities. However, the changes failed to stem the flow of migrants and the Conservatives did not invest the necessary resources to manage the new system.

Refugee claims from these countries were not being processed any faster, said Hussen, and added additional burden to the asylum system that was further stretched over the past two years as a result of a surge of claimants crossing into Canada from the U.S.

“We are getting rid of the last piece of the policy that is responsible for creating the legacy backlog,” said Hussen. Under the safe country regimen, refugees from the list were given limited time for claims to be heard, had restricted access to appeals and health coverage, and faced quick deportation — which the court has ruled violated the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

Critics have long noted that people from so-called safe countries can still face persecution at home due to sexual orientation, ethnicity and religion, and for a variety of reasons their countries can fail to protect them. They also complained the statutory timelines to process safe country claims were unreasonable and created chaos and further backlogs because the previous government did not put in enough resources to let the refugee board do its job.

The safe country list initially included 23 countries and has since been expanded to 42, including the United States, Czech Republic, Hungary and Mexico.

Hussen said improving the efficiency of the asylum system has always been part of his mandate since being appointed immigration minister in 2017. Under his watch, an independent review of the system was completed, an asylum management board was established to oversee the system, the legacy backlog was cleared and additional resources were pumped in to boost the refugee board’s processing capacity.

The removal of the safe country list, however, has no impact on the bilateral Safe Third Country Agreement with the U.S., which bans refugees from third countries coming through the United States and seeking asylum in Canada at the official ports of entry. These so-called irregular migrants can still seek asylum in Canada if they manage to sneak in and meet exemption requirements — and be processed like all refugees.

In 2018, the federal government invested $74 million over two years to hire 64 refugee judges and 185 support staff to handle the ballooning backlog, which reached 74,000 cases as of the end of March. As part of the 2019 federal budget, Ottawa has added more resources to boost the board’s operation to allow it to process up to 50,000 asylum claims and 13,500 appeals a year by 2021.

Immigration officials said only 12 per cent of asylum claims submitted from Jan. 1, 2013 to March 31, 2019 were from citizens of the designated safe countries.

Source: Liberals end ‘unfair’ policy that penalized refugees from so-called ‘safe countries’

Irregular asylum claims in Canada drop nearly 50% from last year

Ironic, given the government’s plan to close the STCA loophole for those entering Canada outside regular border posts. And of course, still too early to see if this trend continues for the balance of the year:

The number of asylum-seekers crossing the border “irregularly” into Canada has slowed compared to early last year.

Statistics published by the federal government show the RCMP apprehended 3,944 irregular migrants between official border crossings in the first third of this year.

That’s a 48-per-cent decline compared to the more than 7,600 irregular border crossers intercepted between January and April 2018.

Despite this, Darrell Bricker of the polling firm Ipsos Public Affairs says data shows Canadians are increasingly concerned over immigration levels in Canada, due in large part to the influx of irregular migrants.

He and other experts who took part in an immigration summit in Ottawa last week are warning against rising populist sentiments that could harden Canadian attitudes against newcomers.

Fen Hampson, executive director of the World Refugee Council, says a key concern is that the public doesn’t differentiate between refugees and economic immigrants — and that Canadians may not realize Canada’s refugee influx is nothing compared to the migrant crises facing other countries.

Source: Irregular asylum claims in Canada drop nearly 50% from last year

Immigration Form Denials Rise Every Quarter Except One Under Trump, Up 80% Overall

Source: Immigration Form Denials Rise Every Quarter Except One Under Trump, Up 80% Overall