Government urged to speed up foreign-worker applications by farms and meat plants

No surprise. Some administrative bottlenecks likely can (and should) be reduced (e.g., reintroduction of online forms, more streamlined application and renewal applications):

Canadian farmers and meat processors are urging Ottawa to quickly bring in more foreign workers to help ease a labour crisis that is hurting the country’s agriculture industry.

They want the federal government to raise caps and speed up applications for the temporary foreign worker program to allow them to increase production.

Agriculture is one of many sectors struggling to add staff as the Canadian economy tries to recover from the damage caused by the coronavirus.

Although farms and plants were not subject to the sorts of lockdowns faced by restaurants or retailers, the pandemic made travel to rural sites difficult and slowed or stopped international travel. As well, COVID-19 outbreaks in some facilities put migrant workers’ health in danger and hampered operations.

But, agricultural business leaders say, the flow of foreign workers to Canada is integral to keeping the sector functioning as it has struggled for years to retain domestic employees.

Groups, including the Canadian Federation of Agriculture (CFA), Mushrooms Canada and the Canadian Meat Council, say application processing times have grown exponentially during the pandemic, which is making it more difficult for farms and plants to maximize their production.

“When we talk about unfilled jobs, what we’re talking about is lost opportunity,” said Mary Robinson, CFA president and partner of a family farm operation that produces soy, barley and hay in Prince Edward Island. The CFA estimated the agriculture industry lost about $2.9-billion in revenue in 2020 because of low productivity, or about 4.5 per cent of overall sales.

Canadian agriculture has increasingly relied on bringing in workers from overseas to make up for shortfalls in domestic hiring. According to a Statistics Canada analysis from 2020, 27.4 per cent of all workers on crop production in Canada were temporary foreign workers (TFWs).

Meat processors have fewer foreign workers because, by law, there is a cap of 10 per cent or 20 per cent of their work force that can be TFWs. The percentage depends on the amount of a plant’s historical use of the program.

Marie-France MacKinnon, vice-president of public affairs at the Canadian Meat Council, said her group is calling for the cap to be raised to 30 per cent, which is where it was before the Ottawa lowered it in 2014. That year, the Conservative government tightened the rules to the TFW program, responding to reports that it was being overused and abused by some Canadian businesses.

“Our labour shortage is critical right now,” Ms. MacKinnon said. “It’s over 4,000 empty butcher stations from across the country.”

The federal government said in a statement Thursday that adjustments to the program are made on a continuing basis, depending on changes in labour-market conditions.

Mark Chambers, vice-president of Canadian pork production at Alberta-based Sunterra Farms, says his production runs below capacity because of a shortage of workers. He said his pork-processing plant has 120 stations, 20 of which are empty because there is no one to work them.

Mr. Chambers said he has had difficulty attracting new domestic workers to the company’s farms and plants, which he attributes to the low population of the rural communities, the reluctance of urban Canadians to work in the country and the nature of the work.

“You can’t completely fill every position with Canadians,” he said.

As part of the application to bring in a temporary foreign worker, employers first have to fill out a Labour Market Impact Assessment to show that no Canadians want the job. The federal government unveiled a new online form last year to speed up applications. But the website went down in August and has remained offline in the months since then, forcing employers to once again file by e-mail or fax.

Mr. Chambers said using the online portal, the turnaround time on an application was two to seven days – but now that he’s back to old methods, it’s lengthened to two to four weeks.

A spokesperson for Employment and Social Development Canada said some “technical issues” emerged on the website after an update, and department officials are still working on a fix. The government was not able to provide a timeline for when it would be online again.

The government also said processing times have increased because of an increase in the number of applications.

Representatives of the meat industry say their goal is to bring workers into Canada under the TFW program and then sponsor them for permanent residency, because their ultimate aim is to create a long-term work force in the sector. Ottawa made that easier with the launch of the Agri-Food Immigration Pilot in 2020, which allows agricultural employers to sponsor non-seasonal, full-time employees for permanent residency under some conditions.

Syed Hussan, the executive director of the Migrant Workers Alliance of Canada, said if Canada’s economy requires an influx of new immigrants, those people should be brought in through permanent-residency programs and not work permits that are tied to individual employers.

He said migrant workers who have to rely on their employers’ good graces to stay in the country are open to exploitation and abuse, such as having to endure unsafe working conditions. He said he has worked with TFWs who feared lodging labour complaints because they could lose their work permits if they did.

“Our members say this isn’t a pathway [to permanent residency], it’s a minefield where very few of us will survive to get to the other end,” Mr. Hussan said. “And most of us will be injured or hurt or forced to leave the country.”

Mr. Hussan said one solution is for TFWs and their sponsorship status to be protected under collective bargaining agreements, which helps shield those workers from employer reprisals.

One such agreement covers about 2,000 workers at the Maple Leafs Foods’ pork-processing plant in Brandon. That agreement requires all TFWs to be sponsored for permanent residence, which they can qualify for under the provincial nominee system after working two years.

Source: https://www.theglobeandmail.com/business/article-government-urged-to-speed-up-foreign-worker-applications-by-farms-and/

Les agences privées écartées du recrutement à l’étranger

Of note (processing delays and impact on regions):

Des régions en pénurie de personnel auraient pu compter sur plus d’une centaine d’infirmières provenant de l’étranger, mais le réseau de la santé a tourné le dos à plusieurs offres de recrutement provenant d’agences privées, a appris Le Devoir.

Parmi elles, l’agence de placement Serenis, qui n’a pas ménagé ses efforts pour présenter un « projet clés en main » afin de faire venir au Québec une vingtaine d’infirmiers et d’infirmières originaires de la France et du Maghreb. « En ce moment, j’ai 20 infirmières et infirmiers hautement qualifiés qui sont en stand-by », affirme Jackie Lamothe, présidente de trois franchises de l’agence de placement Serenis, pour les régions de la Mauricie, du Centre-du-Québec et de la Montérégie Est.

Selon elle, ces professionnels de la santé ont été choisis par l’agence parce qu’ils sont prêts à aller travailler dans les régions éloignées où les besoins sont criants, comme à La Tuque. Et ils ont tous en poche l’évaluation comparative du ministère de l’Immigration qui indique l’équivalent québécois de leur diplôme.

« J’en ai parlé à des chefs de service des établissements de santé, qui en ont ensuite parlé à leurs supérieurs, et ils étaient tous intéressés. Mais ça finissait toujours par bloquer en haut, comme au niveau du ministère. On a vécu ça partout où on a essayé, même en régions éloignées comme la Gaspésie, le Bas-Saint-Laurent et dans le Nord, comme la Baie-James… »

C’est au début de l’année 2021 que, devant la détresse de plusieurs employés en lien avec la pénurie de personnel, Mme Lamothe a commencé ses propres démarches de recrutement à l’étranger. Neuf mois plus tard et après avoir investi 20 000 $, notamment en analyses de CV, en entrevues et en frais de consultant en immigration, cette ancienne infirmière a été en mesure de dresser une liste de travailleurs francophones « surqualifiés » avec de l’expérience à l’urgence et en pédiatrie, dont la formation allait être facilement reconnue par l’Ordre des infirmières et infirmiers du Québec (OIIQ). « Pour être membre de l’OIIQ, il faut faire un stage de 75 jours dans le réseau public et j’offrais même aux établissements de santé de le prendre sur mon bras », soutient Mme Lamothe. Son agence allait également s’occuper de l’accueil et de l’intégration des travailleurs, comme le logement et la première épicerie. « Je pouvais même signer un papier pour confirmer que ces personnes-là allaient rester dans le public. C’était gagnant-gagnant ! »

Alors que Radio-Canada a rapporté que le gouvernement Legault mène actuellement une opération sans précédent avec Recrutement santé Québec pour faire venir 4000 travailleurs de la santé hors du Québec — dont 3500 infirmières —, des agences privées s’étonnent que leurs offres de recrutement n’aient pas été retenues. « J’ai trouvé ça très dommage. Si le gouvernement avait pris nos services, on aurait déjà une soixantaine d’infirmières pratiquant en Abitibi, ça n’aurait coûté que quelques centaines de milliers de dollars et on aurait pu économiser plusieurs millions en location de personnel », a déclaré Marc Blais, président de l’Agence de placement et de développement internationale (APDI), qui a près de 2000 CV d’infirmiers et d’infirmières de l’Afrique subsaharienne dans sa base de données. « Il y a eu un manque total de vision là-dessus. »

En 2019, son entreprise, qui fait uniquement du recrutement, avait proposé un projet pilote en collaboration avec le Cégep et le Centre intégré de santé et services sociaux de l’Abitibi-Témiscamingue (CISSS-AT) pour offrir une formation de mise à niveau reconnue par l’OIIQ à quelque 400 des Africains de l’Ouest qui avaient été présélectionnés. La force de cette initiative était la promesse que les gens recrutés allaient vouloir s’installer durablement en région, puisqu’ils viennent eux-mêmes de l’extérieur des grands centres. « On a sollicité le ministère de la Santé pour avoir des fonds, et ça a été refusé. [Le gouvernement] préférait travailler à l’interne avec Recrutement santé Québec », a soutenu M. Blais, qui se sent comme s’il s’était fait un peu voler son idée. « Ce programme-là, au fond, c’est nous qui l’avions mis en place. »

Le président de l’APDI constate que les agences privées de placement ou de recrutement sont boudées par le gouvernement. « On dirait que le [ministère] n’est pas très à l’aise avec les agences privées. Lorsque les solutions viennent du privé, il ne les retient pas. On nous met tous dans le même bassin. »

Jackie Lamothe déplore aussi que les efforts de son agence semblent être mal perçus. « Le gouvernement a peur qu’on vole du personnel du réseau, mais ce n’est tellement pas ça ! » lance-t-elle. « C’est le contraire. On prend du sang neuf qu’on met dans le réseau. On évite le [recours au] TSO [temps supplémentaire obligatoire], qui force les infirmières épuisées à partir. »

Longs délais à l’OIIQ

Entreprises privées de personnel soignant du Québec (EPPSQ) dit recevoir une trentaine d’appels par jour de professionnels de la santé de la France et du Maghreb prêts à venir travailler dès maintenant au Québec. « Nous, on pourrait se porter garant, comme agence, de les faire travailler, après validation des acquis et d’un cours accéléré. Mais ce pont-là ne se fait pas », dit Hélène Gravel, la présidente de cette association. EPPSQ a d’ailleurs intenté une poursuite contre le gouvernement, qui veut limiter le recours aux agences privées. Selon elle, le nœud du problème ne se situe pas uniquement dans l’administration du réseau de la santé, mais surtout au sein de l’Ordre des infirmières et celui des infirmières auxiliaires.

« Même pour une personne qui vient de France, c’est très long avant qu’elle puisse venir et gagner sa vie. […] Les délais à l’OIIQ sont encore trop longs. Il va falloir qu’ils s’amenuisent », a-t-elle ajouté.

Selon les données fournies par l’OIIQ, il faut de deux à trois mois pour obtenir une réponse à une demande d’admission par équivalence d’un dossier une fois que celui-ci est complet. À cela s’ajoute un programme de formation de 10 à 14 mois que doivent normalement suivre l’ensemble des infirmières diplômées à l’étranger, sauf les Françaises, qui bénéficient d’une voie rapide en vertu d’une entente France-Québec. S’ajoutent aussi les délais d’obtention des permis d’étude et de travail auprès des autorités en immigration.

À l’heure actuelle, environ 90 dossiers sont en traitement, selon l’OIIQ, qui précise que, généralement, seulement 40 à 50 dossiers parviennent à être complets et sont présentés à son Comité d’admission.

Source: Les agences privées écartées du recrutement à l’étranger

‘He was the rock from which we all started’: How Nobel Prize winner David Card influenced thinking on immigration and jobs

One of the better articles on his work and contribution:

Ten years after the Mariel Boatlift brought more than 125,000 Cuban immigrants to Florida, an economist named David Card wrote about the immigrant influx and its impact on Miami’s labor market.

Card determined there was “virtually no effect” on wages and jobless rates of the city’s less skilled workers. Three years after those conclusions, Card’s work on immigration — as well as other research on hot-button topics like minimum wage — have landed him the honor of a 2021 Nobel Prize in economics.

“His studies from the early 1990s challenged conventional wisdom, leading to new analyses and additional insights,” the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences said. The other award recipients were Joshua Angrist of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Guido Imbens from Stanford University.

It’s often difficult to see the immediate implications of research, Card said in a press conference held hours after learning he was one of three people receiving the prominent prize.

Big-picture questions

But for some who focus on big-picture questions of immigration and economic competitiveness, the impact of Card’s research at the University of California, Berkeley, and previously at the University of Chicago and Princeton University is clear to see, even as the debate over immigration reform continues.

“He was the rock from which we all started,” according to Jeremy Robbins, executive director of New American Economy. The organization — founded 11 years ago by Michael Bloomberg, the data-driven former New York City mayor — focuses on the ways to grow local economies that meld immigration reform and access for people coming to America.

Immigrants or their children founded 40% of Fortune 500 companies, according to New American Economy’s first report.

When New American Economy works with local leaders in places where new immigrants are arriving, Robbins said they start with scrutiny of the facts on the ground. “The first thing we always do, we show who is there, where they work. In the same insight of David Card, you have to show with data what impact immigrants are having in the communities where they are living.”

Card’s impact has been “enormous,” according to Alex Nowrasteh, director of immigration studies at the Cato Institute, a libertarian think tank. “He really does show the cost of immigration has been systemically exaggerated over the years and decades.”

But still immigration debates continue — and that’s because, Nowrasteh said, “people don’t know or care about what the actual research says and they rely on stereotypes or anecdotes.” There are other other academic methods to show larger immigrant impacts on wages, but Card’s formulas and approaches, Nowrasteh said, set the real standard.

“People seem to want to choose the messages that confirm their opinion,” he said.

Card’s academic recognition on immigration topics stems back to the Mariel Boatlift, which unfolded between April and October of 1980. Fidel Castro allowed Cubans who wanted to flee his repressive regime to exit via the port of Mariel. Approximately 125,000 people fled.

The events were just the type of “natural experiments” Card searched for. In a 1990 paper for Industrial and Labor Review, he said Miami’s labor force jumped 7%, but that growth showed “virtually no effect on the wage rates of less skilled non-Cuban workers.”

Card observed Miami’s job market had been absorbing immigrants into its unskilled labor force from Cuba, Nicaragua and elsewhere long before the boatlift, and the local economy was “well suited” for the situation with its textile and apparel industries.

‘The [immigration] debate isn’t about facts anymore. It’s about a bunch of feelings. That is something statistics can’t explain.’

— Alex Nowrasteh, Cato Institute

Other data-driven studies followed, hitting on the money angle of immigration and challenging the idea that immigrants cut into the job prospects of people already situated in a labor market.

He’s focused on other labor-market topics, including the effect on gender preferences in job listings.

At Monday’s press conference, Card said his research and the research of fellow economists are inputs to an understanding of a complex matter. “The kinds of knowledge we can bring are not necessarily the whole story,” he said.

However, Card said, it would be helpful if lawmakers could evaluate evidence on topics like minimum-wage levels and immigration policies from a “scientific view” and not from “an ideological view” — but he’s “not particularly optimistic.”

Last month, the Senate’s parliamentarian, whose role is nonpartisan, said Democrats could not include a pathway to citizenship in a reconciliation bill geared toward improving the social safety net. At the time, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer said leaders would be holding future meetings with the parliamentarian, Elizabeth MacDonough. (Bills passed via the budget reconciliation process require only a Senate majority, rather than a filibuster-proof 60 votes, but have to meet standards as interpreted by the parliamentarian.)

Like Card, Nowrasteh doesn’t express optimism that change to immigration laws will come swiftly in Washington, D.C. “The debate isn’t about facts anymore,” said Nowrasteh. “It’s about a bunch of feelings. That is something statistics can’t explain.”

Source: ‘He was the rock from which we all started’: How Nobel Prize winner David Card influenced thinking on immigration and jobs

This Syrian IT worker was stuck in limbo in Lebanon. Now he works at Shopify — thanks to a Canadian pilot program for skilled refugees

Looks like a success story for this approach even if numbers are relatively small:

With years of experience in IT and surveillance systems, Omar Taha could easily transfer his skills and knowledge anywhere if an employer would give him a chance.

But being a refugee in Lebanon, the Syrian man didn’t know where to start to find an international employer to sponsor him to another country, let alone have the money and proper documentation such as university transcripts for relocation.

Then a fellow Syrian refugee told him about the recruitment drive by Talent Beyond Boundaries, a global non-profit organization that matches skilled refugees with employers around the world in need of their skills.

“It was in October 2018 when I contacted them. Honestly, I thought my chances of getting a job through them was one in a million,” said Taha, who has a master’s degree in computer engineering and years of work experience in IT and system operations in Syria and Lebanon.

“Then they reached out to me in 2019 and told me there’s this job opportunity with a company called Shopify in Canada and asked if I would be interested. And I was like, ‘Hell, yeah!’”

The 31-year-old man finally ended a life in limbo in January when he and his accountant wife, Roula Dannoura, arrived in Hamilton as permanent residents — among 18 former refugees (plus 27 family members) who came under Ottawa’s pilot program to resettle refugees here based on Canada’s labour market needs.

“A lot of the refugees I know in Lebanon have all sorts of skills and knowledge. But we don’t know how, when or where to start,” said Taha, who now works as a support adviser for Shopify, a multinational e-commerce company headquartered in Ottawa.

“I always dreamed of going to Europe or Canada or the U.S. to work there. But it’s very, very hard. How would I go through the process? Why would an international company be interested in someone who was a refugee in Lebanon and didn’t have any Canadian experience?”

With the resounding success of the pilot, Ottawa has expanded the program to recruit up to 500 skilled refugees from around the world.

“We have on a daily basis employers across different sectors now reaching out to us. We’re seeing a significant increase in the private sector engagement,” said Patrick O’Leary, Talent Beyond Boundaries’s Canada director.

“So it’s no longer a proof of concept. And this is really being seen as truly an untapped talent pool in Canada and around the world.”

Since its inception in 2016, the organization has vetted and developed skill profiles of refugees. Its international talent pool currently has 32,000 candidates — in backgrounds from engineering to health care and IT among others — including some 350 Afghans who have registered recently.

Over the last three years, through partnerships with different countries, more than 312 refugees, including 141 principal applicants, have resettled based on this model. While Australia has committed to welcoming 100 skilled refugees, the U.K. is set to usher in 205 refugee nurses in the next six months.

“In terms of the current pandemic, the biggest thing that we’re hearing across sectors in Canada is we need skilled workers,” said O’Leary, whose organization will launch a new online platform soon to allow Canadian employers to glean candidates’ professional profiles directly.

“We are providing a solution that hasn’t been on the table before and employers are coming out now.”

Under Canada’s expanded program, candidates with a job offer are waived permanent residence application fees and biometrics fees. They also have their pre-departure medical services and the immigration medical exam covered.

Those without enough initial settlement fund for their move to Canada are eligible for government loans to help with travel and start-up costs. To make the program more appealing to Canadian employers, immigration officials also aim to process 80 per cent of the cases within a standard of six months through a dedicated team.

Glen Haven Manor, a long-term care facility in New Glasgow, N.S., which has recruited talent locally and globally, welcomes the expanded program. It successfully brought two skilled refugees on staff under the original pilot.

“The long-term care sector throughout Nova Scotia and Canada has been chronically understaffed for many years now,” says Janice Jorden, employee relations specialist at Glen Haven Manor.

“Added pressures from the pandemic have escalated this critical need as well as the growing demands from the constantly increasing care levels of residents. For many nursing homes, being in rural Canada compounds the critical nature of this situation.”

One of the most recent additions to her team is Lamis Alhassan, a former Syrian nurse and nursing instructor, who joined the home in July after living in limbo in Lebanon with her husband, Abd Alazeez Alabaas, also a nurse, and two young daughters for six years.

The 31-year-old registered with Talent Beyond Boundaries in 2016 and spent three years upgrading her English to meet the required language standards before she was offered a job by Glen Haven in late 2019. Due to the visa processing disruption caused by COVID-19, her family received their Canadian visas in April.

“My bosses, colleagues and the residents here really welcomed us with open arms,” said Alhassan, who was matched with a co-worker on the same shift so she can be picked up and dropped off for work because the town only has one bus.

“Life is so quiet and peaceful here. I’m so happy that Canada is expanding this program so more refugees can have a better future and use their skills to make a contribution.”

Alhassan said both she and her husband plan to study toward being licensed to practise nursing in Canada once they are settled.

Source: This Syrian IT worker was stuck in limbo in Lebanon. Now he works at Shopify — thanks to a Canadian pilot program for skilled refugees

#COVID-19: Comparing provinces with other countries 13 October Update

The latest charts, compiled 13 October. Canadians fully vaccinated 73.2 percent, higher than USA 57.2 percent and the UK 67.6 percent).

Vaccinations: Minor changes in Canada, with Ontario ahead of the Canadian North. France and Italy are now ahead of the UK, Japan is ahead of the Prairies, and Sweden and Australia are ahead of the USA. China fully vaccinated 75 percent (unchanged), India 20 percent.

Trendline Charts:

Infections: UK now has more than California, and the Canadian North has more than the Philippines. The chart also shows the number of infections in Alberta starting to level off.

Deaths: New York and the USA have more infections than Italy, with California having more than France. Alberta deaths, along with the Prairies albeit to a lesser extent, continue to climb.

Vaccinations: Alberta vaccinations have surpassed the Prairies.

Weekly

Infections:

Deaths per million:

Canada issues tender notice to improve face biometrics for immigration applications

Of note (passport has been using facial recognition technology for some time) as does NEXUS:

The Government of Canada has issued a tender notice inviting industry engagement to improve its biometric immigration system.

The document was published by Public Works and Government Services Canada (PWGSC) on behalf of Immigration, Refugees, and Citizenship Canada (IRCC).

The Invitation to Qualify (ITQ) is the first phase of a two-phase procurement process, which will initially see suppliers of facial recognition technologies invited to pre-qualify in accordance with the terms and conditions of the ITQ.

Qualified Respondents will then be permitted to submit bids on any subsequent Request for Proposals (RFP) issued as part of the procurement process.

According to IRCC, the biometric system’s requirements should be a “reliable and accurate system for establishing and confirming a person’s identity throughout the passport program continuum,” considered as “an integral component of immigration and border decision-making processes.”

Furthermore, the facial recognition system should also include both a front-end component with a user interface and a back-end component. The former will be used by IRCC to collect, enter, and view biographical and biometric data, as well as passport and potential passport clients, while the latter should store databases, tables, algorithms, permissions, code, IT and security rules, and infrastructures.

The back-end system will be also responsible to perform the validation, transformation, and dissemination and integration of face biometrics data in alignment with Government of Canada IT guidelines.

The first phase of the tender notice will end on 9 November. The full text of the document is available in both English and French.

The publication of the new tender comes months after a similar one the Government of Canada posted in July for biometric capture solutions for IRCC.

Source: Canada issues tender notice to improve face biometrics for immigration applications

Falconer: Why Joe Biden should emulate Canada and go big on private refugee resettlement

Unlikely that it will happen given current polarization but agree with the potential:

As attention turns from the evacuation of Afghanistan to the arrival of refugees, U.S. President Joe Biden has an opportunity for large-scale engagement of the American public in a deeply personal fashion. 

If Canada’s history is any indicator, the capacity of private American citizens to resettle refugees is large and untapped. It may even bridge the divide over immigration in the United States.

In the immediate aftermath of the fall of Saigon in 1975, some 130,000 Vietnamese refugees were lifted by sea and air to Guam and military bases in the southern United States. They were quickly resettled in the U.S., Canada and other countries, and were soon followed by an even larger exodus of refugees from Cambodia, Laos and Vietnam. 

Another three million refugees would flee these countries as communist regimes were consolidating power. Many fled on ramshackle boats where almost one in three were lost at sea. Others died of abuse and neglect in camps, where they were preyed upon by unfriendly governments. 

Despite the situation, the international community was slow to respond — only 8,500 refugees were resettled in the four years between the fall of Saigon and May 1979. In Canada, the government of Pierre Trudeau had committed to resettle 5,000 Indochinese refugees, but only 1,100 had arrived. Then, something remarkable happened.

Canada steps up

On the eve of a United Nations conference in Geneva to discuss the issue, Canada announced its intention to resettle 50,000 refugees by the end of 1980, which was just 18 months away. This would later be revised to 60,000. 

Just as astounding was its intention resettle half of these through its new private refugee sponsorship program. Canadians from all walks of life, from rural Manitoba to urban Toronto, could respond to the situation by volunteering their homes, funds and time to receive and resettle Indochinese refugees.

This announcement coincided with swelling Canadian support for refugee resettlement. In February 1979, 89 per cent of Canadians were opposed to inviting more refugees; only seven per cent wanted more. Within months, opposition had tumbled to 38 per cent, while 52 per cent supported increased resettlement. 

Groups ranging from churches to bowling clubs signed up to sponsor individuals and families, while kids sold lemonade at $50 a glass ($175 in 2021 dollars) to fund new arrivals. Rural townships called into Ottawa to ask when they would receive their family, and townhalls that had been convened to debate the topic of refugees turned into spontaneous sponsorship drives.

Pairing sponsors with refugees

In Ottawa, the government was busy matching sponsors to refugees. An enterprising policy officer drew inspiration from the Berlin Airlift to avoid overcrowding at arrival points. In the late 1940s during a Soviet blockade of Berlin, western allies flew continuous supplies to airports in Berlin. 

Thirty years later, the policy officer obtained one of Ottawa’s first computers that matched refugees to sponsors or immediately placed them in a government-assisted stream. This was aimed at ensuring the smooth transition of Indochinese refugees to their new homes.

Despite some hiccups, more than 80 per cent of eligible refugees were matched with sponsors before the planes landed, and by the end of 1980, all 60,000 had arrived. Adjusted to 2020 U.S. population terms, that’s an equivalent of almost 890,000 people resettled in just 18 months.

Subsequent generations of Canadians have responded with equal enthusiasm to new arrivals from the former Soviet Union, Yugoslavia, Ethiopia and Syria, among others. Private sponsorship continues at a steady, moderate level during years between crises, spurred by cultural groups and family members of refugees, but when sudden large displacements capture public attention a large pool of first-time sponsors step forward. 

Roughly five per cent of the Canadian population has sponsored a refugee, while millions more have donated couches, cash or labour.

Bridging American divides

Perhaps this large constituency of people with experience resettling refugees is one explanation for positive Canadian attitudes towards immigration. If so, private refugee resettlement is a policy that could bridge American divides on migration. 

It would also fill the gap left by drastic cuts to the government-funded resettlement sector under the previous Donald Trump administration. Evidence suggests that those sponsored under a private resettlement program do just as well, if not better.

Contrary to their perceptions, polling suggests the answer is yes — support for resettling Afghan interpreters and other allies sits at around 81 per cent and is unusually consistent across party affiliation. 

Sixty-five per cent support expanding resettlement to other Afghans, and 61 per cent are in favour of hosting refugees in their home state.

While the U.S. State Department has announced its intention to start a private sponsorship program, its size or scope isn’t clear yet. Lessons from history teach us that a limited pilot program risks drastically under-utilizing the American capacity for resettlement.

Now is the time for Biden to ask the American people to invite homeless and war-ravaged Afghan refugees into their homes and their communities. Experience has taught us that, like the Statue of Liberty, many will raise their hand in enthusiastic response.

Source: https://theconversationcanada.cmail19.com/t/r-l-trjluyll-kyldjlthkt-a/

#COVID19 Immigration Effects: August Update

  • IRCC is well on the way to meeting its 2021 target of some 400,000 Permanent Residents: To date 221,360 Jan-Aug 2021 compared to 228,410 in 2019, with close to 40,000 in July and August. The vast majority are transitioning from temporary residency, primarily the PGWP and IMP.
  • Great percentage increase is, not surprisingly, with respect to Afghans, both in terms of applications (from an average of 200 in the first six months of the year to close to 8,000 in August) and admissions (from an average of 170 to over 1,000).
  • The number of Temporary Residents/IMP continues to increase, particularly with respect to “Canadian interests” (post-graduate employment accounting for more than half, spouses of skilled workers accounting for 9 percent, and intra-corporate transferees 3 percent). On the other hand, the number of Temporary Foreign Workers Program decreased, reflecting lower demand in the agriculture sector.
  • Applications for study permits have largely recovered from pre-pandemic levels (down only 5 percent), as have the number of study permits issued albeit to a lessor extent (down 13 percent).
  • Asylum Claimants slightly increased but still more than three-quarters down from pre-pandemic levels.
  • The number of new citizens seems to be stuck around 9-10,000 per month, compared to pre-pandemic numbers of about 20,000. 
  • Visitor Visas issued increased sharply from monthly average of 4,200 in the first six months of the year to close to 40,000 in August, likely reflecting increased vaccinations and reduced travel restrictions.

Alboim and Kohl: A post-election to-do list for the Afghan crisis

Good practical recommendations:

Now that the federal election is over, it’s time to make urgent policy decisions in response to the Afghan crisis. People remain in peril there and Canada needs to play its part domestically and on the international front.

Canadians worked side-by-side with Afghan nationals to improve security, democracy, human rights, women’s rights, girls’ education and a free press in Afghanistan. Canada has a moral obligation to help people who are now at risk. Even if there is no direct link to Canada, coming to the aid of people in danger is the humanitarian thing to do, the right thing to do. It’s what Canada does and has done well in other refugee crises.

Here’s our suggested to-do list of what government should tackle on an urgent basis.

Get people out
Canada should intensify its work with allies on the diplomatic front to encourage the Taliban to allow safe passage out of the country. Afghans with travel authorization to Canada can then leave the country. We should also continue to encourage and support neighbouring countries to keep their borders open to fleeing Afghans and allow Canadian immigration processing to take place in these countries of first asylum.

Increase government assisted refugees 
Prior to calling the election, the Liberals committed to the resettlement of up to 20,000 vulnerable Afghan nationals through two new programs. They have now doubled their commitment to 40,000. At least half of these should consist of government-assisted refugees. This will expedite arrivals and send a strong message to private sponsors that they are complementing, rather than replacing, government efforts.

Keep extended families together
Every effort should be made to keep extended families together when selecting refugees for resettlement to Canada. Where families have become separated, it is also important to enable and expedite mechanisms to reunite them. Many people living in dire circumstances, whether in Afghanistan or other countries, are ineligible under existing rules to be reunited with family members in Canada.

People in Canada can sponsor certain close family members, but they cannot sponsor others such as adult children or siblings. This creates an untenable situation. Afghans in Canada will have a hard time adapting to their new life when fraught with worry over relatives who are in peril abroad. Both groups will suffer without the mutual support that they can provide.

Pave the way for private sponsorship
Canadians are willing to pitch in but there are obstacles to private sponsorship. First, the lengthy processing times and backlogs must be reduced. Organizations that have sponsorship agreements with government are further hampered by caps on the number of refugees they can sponsor each year.

During the Syrian refugee crisis, the government allowed sponsors to exceed those caps. The same approach should be taken for Afghan refugees. Additionally, as Canada did with the Syrian crisis, privately sponsored Afghans should be deemed “prima facie” refugees without requiring a formal assessment by the United Nations Human Commissioner for Refugees or another state. This will allow groups that are not affiliated with agreement holders to play a strong role in private sponsorship.

Clarify the new humanitarian program 
The government has announced a promising new program to resettle vulnerable Afghan nationals who have managed to leave the country. This includes women leaders, human rights advocates, persecuted religious minorities, LGBTI individuals and journalists. The government needs to communicate how eligible people will be identified and what processes will be used for this program. Lists prepared by Canadian organizations, family members and others will be instrumental in identifying candidates.

Speed things up 
Afghan refugee claimants in Canada should be fast-tracked at the Immigration and Refugee Board, as has been done for groups from certain other world areas. We also need to expedite the transition to permanent residence for Afghans who entered the country on a temporary permit because they didn’t have the opportunity to complete their immigration processing overseas. Individuals on a temporary permit are not eligible for federal programs available to permanent residents, including income support and the sponsorship of family members.

Strengthen international aid 
We cannot forget that most vulnerable Afghans are unable to leave and that millions of Afghan refugees are hosted by neighbouring countries. This reality has existed for decades, exacerbated by the most recent crisis. Perhaps the most important task on the government’s to-do list is to increase humanitarian aid for organizations working on the ground in Afghanistan and neighbouring or nearby countries such as Pakistan and Turkey.

Achieving the items on this to-do list will require sustained government commitment, funding and staffing in Canada and abroad. If Canada can check off all of the boxes, we can be confident that we are doing our part in response to this international crisis.

Source: https://policyoptions.irpp.org/magazines/october-2021/a-post-election-to-do-list-for-the-afghan-crisis/

Americans Conflate Border Chaos and Legal Immigration | Cato at Liberty Blog

Of note (irregular crossings at Roxham Road in Canada provoke similar reactions):

A new poll released by Quinnipiac shows strong disapproval of President Biden’s immigration and border policies. According to the poll, 25 percent of respondents approve and 67 percent disapprove of Biden’s handling of immigration issues. Similarly, 23 percent approve and 67 percent disapprove of his handling of the situation on the Mexican border. This poll offers deep insights into how Americans think about immigration and ways for the Biden administration to get out of its chaotic immigration and border mess.

First, the similarity between the polling numbers suggests that Americans conflate what happens on the border with all of immigration policy. Of course, immigration policy is more than just border security. Legal immigration, such as allowing immigrants and migrants to legally come here from abroad, is the most important portion of immigration policy. Second, Americans are deeply concerned about border security issues. Apprehensions of immigrants along the border are up substantially over earlier years. The recent debacle over Haitian arrivals, the government’s heavy‐​handed response, and the certainty of future border arrivals from around the world feed the justified public perception of chaos along the border.

Border chaos makes Americans more opposed to immigration, both legal and illegal. As I’ve written before, there is a convincing academic literature on how public perceptions of chaos and illegal immigration reduce support for legal immigration around the world. When people feel like their government has lost control of immigration, voters are more likely to oppose legal immigration. That’s why the public’s opinion of immigration and the Mexican border are virtually identical in the Quinnipiac poll.

Smart commentators have noticed that the Quinnipiac questions do not indicate precisely what people disapprove of in Biden’s immigration policies. They’ve pointed out that Biden has pursued Trump’s immigration policies with some minor changes, many of which are more restrictive than Trump’s. There is evidence for this in other polls where a trend has emerged that those who are dissatisfied with immigration levels are increasingly dissatisfied because the numbers are too low – although more who are dissatisfied still want less immigration. Perhaps, these commentators claim, people are upset at Biden’s restrictive policies and harsh enforcement along the border? Unfortunately, that interpretation is too clever by half.

The Quinnipiac poll breaks down responses by political party. Democrats, who are more pro‐​immigration, support Biden’s policies while more immigration‐​skeptical Republicans oppose it. We’d see the opposite if the disapproval registered in the Quinnipiac poll were about Biden’s anti‐​immigration policies. The only confounding poll result is that 51 percent of respondents disapproved of deporting some Haitians without allowing them to apply for asylum, with 49 percent of Republicans and 30 percent of Democrats approving. This result is evidence that people are more supportive of immigration when people know how the immigration and enforcement systems actually operate.

Decoupling the immigration issue from the U.S.-Mexico border is key to liberalizing immigration. Candidate Biden ran on the most pro‐​immigration platform since Lincoln’s platform in 1864. If he wants to pursue those policies, his administration will have to reduce perceptions of chaos along the border.

How can he do that?

The first step is to recognize that more enforcement won’t reduce the perceptions of chaos. Even if 100 percent of illegal border crossers are returned or removed from the United States, the images of people crossing will continue to fuel the perceptions of chaos. With more enforcement, we’d even have more images and stories of chaos. The second step is realizing that few people are animated by opposition to legal immigration numbers. Sure, there are some organizations run by population control radicals like NumbersUSA that wants to reduce legal immigration, but they are not the norm. The third step is finding ways for these border crossers to enter legally and in an orderly fashion through ports of entry. By doing so, the scary images appearing in the media will disappear and the public will correctly perceive a vast reduction in chaos. Border Patrol agents can then focus their limited resources on intercepting actual security threats rather than asylum seekers and otherwise law‐​abiding illegal border crossers.

A streamlined parole process run at U.S. embassies and consulates far away from the border, expanded guest worker visa programs, and more green cards would channel many of the would‐​be border crossers into the legal immigration system and away from crossing between ports of entry. More importantly, such systems would allow vetting of migrants.

Opposition to immigration and the border chaos is mostly not a reflexive nativist reaction to immigrants. Americans like immigrants and are generally very welcoming, but Americans are rightly alarmed by chaos. For libertarians and many others, chaos is a sign of government failure and an indication that liberalization will reduce illegal immigration and chaos as it has in the past. For most Americans, their reaction to chaos is to be opposed to anything related to the cause of that chaos. This is the immigration Catch‐​22: Liberalization is required to get control over the border but border chaos politically prevents liberalization. The Biden administration can break that Catch‐​22 only by liberalizing first and incurring that political cost upfront. The political benefits for the Biden administration as well as the economic, social, and security benefits to U.S. society of a bold pro‐​immigration policy would be delayed but also much larger. As the Quinnipiac numbers show, Biden doesn’t have much to lose by following this approach.

Source: Americans Conflate Border Chaos and Legal Immigration | Cato at Liberty Blog