Hopper: Why immigrant-loving Canada is suddenly worried about immigration

Another critical look at immigration levels given housing and healthcare pressures:
Canada, by virtually any metric, is the most pro-immigration country on earth.

A 2019 global survey by Pew Research found that Canada was the one country most supportive of the notion that immigration “makes our country stronger.” In 2020, a Gallup survey ranked Canada as the world’s most migrant friendly nation. Last September, a poll by the Environics Institute found that 58 per cent of Canadians backed the notion that their country “needs more immigrants.”

Source: Why immigrant-loving Canada is suddenly worried about immigration

Angus-Reid: Canadians strongly support COVID-19 test requirement for travellers from China, but also question its efficacy

Of note. 13 percent call the policy racist, perhaps an indicator of the more activist and woke portion of the population (my understanding of the testing requirement is that it is partly due to the unavailability of credible Chinese government data):

China abandoning its COVID zero strategy has caused a ripple of concern around the globe as the world’s second-most populous country faces an unprecedented wave of infections affecting as many as four-in-five people.

In response to rising cases in China, Canada, alongside other countries, set a new requirement this month that travellers form China must produce a negative COVID-19 test prior to takeoff.

Data from the non-profit Angus Reid Institute finds a majority of Canadians supportive of this policy, but unsure if it will be effective at reducing the spread of COVID-19 in their country. Indeed, Canadians who support the policy (77%) outnumber those who are opposed (16%) by nearly five-to-one.

However, those who believe the policy will be effective at reducing COVID-19 infections in Canada (34%) are in the minority. More Canadians believe it will be ineffective (38%) or are unsure (28%). And even among Canadians who support the policy, fewer than half (44%) say they believe it will be effective at preventing the spread of COVID-19.

There are other concerns with this policy. Some, including the Chinese government, have called it “discriminatory”. Others have gone further and called it “racist”. The pandemic has produced plenty of negative side effects, including discrimination and racism experienced by Canadians of Chinese descent. Some worry this new policy of testing travellers from China will rekindle those ugly sentiments. 

One-in-eight (13%) Canadians call the policy racist. However, more (73%) believe it’s not. Canadians who identify as visible minorities are twice as likely to label the policy racist (23%) than those who don’t identify as such (10%). Still, majorities of those who identify as visible minority (62%) and those who don’t (76%) say the policy is not racist.

More Key Findings:

  • Nearly all (94%) of those who oppose the COVID-19 testing policy for travellers from China believe it won’t be effective at reducing the spread of the virus in Canada.
  • One-in-five (19%) Canadians say they are not travelling at all because they are worried about COVID-19. A further 33 per cent say they have approached their recent travel with caution. Two-in-five (41%) are less worried about the risk of COVID-19 when it comes to travel.
  • Two-in-five (37%) of those who have not travelled at all outside of their province since March 2022 say they aren’t travelling because they worry about catching COVID-19.

Source: Canadians strongly support COVID-19 test requirement for travellers from China, but also question its efficacy

Ibbitson: Why should Sir John A. take all the blame for Canada’s injustices to Indigenous peoples?

Valid points:

In the latest indignity visited upon the memory of Canada’s first prime minister, Ottawa’s National Capital Commission has announced plansto substitute an Indigenous name for what is now the Sir John A. Macdonald Parkway.

Why does everyone pick on Sir John A. and not Sir Wilfrid?

Wilfrid Laurier, one of Canada’s most beloved prime ministers, expanded the residential-school system and suppressed a 1907 report that revealed the schools were cruel and unsafe. His interior minister, Clifford Sifton, dispossessed First Nations of their lands in order to promote settlement in the Prairies. His governments also blocked Black and Chinese immigrants from entering Canada.

But although Ryerson University has been renamed Toronto Metropolitan University on the grounds that Egerton Ryerson helped establish the residential-school system, Wilfrid Laurier University has no plans to change its name. Laurier streets across the nation remain untouched. Renaming Ottawa’s Chateau Laurier hotel is unthinkable.

Macdonald’s likeness has been banished from the 10-dollar bill, replaced by Viola Desmond. Laurier remains on the five.

Macdonald statues have been toppled or removed in Charlottetown, Montreal, Kingston, Hamilton, Regina, Victoria and elsewhere. But I can find no record of a Laurier statue being carted off to storage.

Tearing Indigenous children from their parents and forcing them to attend schools far from their communities, where they were subjected to disease, abuse and efforts at assimilation, and where some died, was an act of cultural genocide by our lights. But by the lights of both Macdonald and of Laurier – and, for that matter, of Robert Borden, Mackenzie King, R.B. Bennett, Louis St. Laurent, John Diefenbaker and Lester Pearson – it was sound policy. And newspapers across the land, including this one, agreed.

King’s governments deserve particular scrutiny. Not only did his administration maintain the residential-schools system, the King government in 1923 enacted legislation banning Chinese immigration. The act was rescinded in 1947 but King continued to maintain that “large-scale immigration from the Orient would change the fundamental composition of the Canadian population.” He also turned away Jews fleeing Europe on the St. Louis; an estimated 254 of its passengers later died at the hands of the Nazis. And his government dispossessed more than 21,000 Japanese Canadians during the Second World War.

Pierre Trudeau’s government began phasing out residential schools. But that same government produced a white paper under Indian Affairs minister (and future prime minister) Jean Chrétien that would have eliminated special status for First Nations, converted reserves into private property and wound down treaty rights. The government retreated in the face of First Nations outrage.

Injustice toward Indigenous peoples long predated Confederation and continues to this day. The record of racism toward non-European immigrants is lengthy and sordid. What makes Macdonald more culpable than the rest?

The answer could be that, as the first prime minister and a Father of Confederation, Macdonald personifies Canada. In pulling down his statue, some people are not simply protesting the legacy of residential schools – they are pulling down the symbol of an oppressive, colonizing state.

In that sense, to pull down a Macdonald statue is to pull down the statue of every prime minister and every leader who contributed to oppression of Indigenous peoples. And given what they’ve been put through, who could blame them?

But Macdonald and a handful of others also gave us Canada. They crafted a dominion unique in its balance of powers between federal and provincial, English and French. Immigrants from Britain and Eastern Europe came here. Italians and Portuguese and Chinese and South Asians and Filipinos came here. Muslims and Jews came here. Refugees came here, the latest from Afghanistan and Ukraine.

Canada is far from perfect, but it is arguably the least imperfect country on Earth, if the embrace of diversity is your measure.

There are lots of John A. Macdonald things in Ottawa. Replacing one of them with an Indigenous name won’t hurt anyone. Reconciliation will take time and be hard, but we must reach for it.

Let’s be careful, though. Sir John A. is part of who we are, good and bad. Let’s talk to each other about that. Talking is always better than tearing down.

Source: Why should Sir John A. take all the blame for Canada’s injustices to Indigenous peoples?

Phillips: Justin Trudeau has not learned from Hillary Clinton’s infamous ‘deplorables’ gaffe

Good advice:

Remember Hillary Clinton’s “basket of deplorables?”

She came up with that peculiar turn of phrase in September, 2016, when she was campaigning for the U.S. presidency against Donald Trump. Half of Trump’s supporters, she declared, were among those deplorables — people who are “racist, sexist, homophobic, xenophobic and Islamophobic.”

There were plenty of reasons why Clinton lost to Trump, but pretty much everyone agrees that dismissing maybe a quarter of American voters as racist, sexist, etc., was one of them. Even Clinton conceded the point in the end. In her memoir of the campaign, “What Happened,” she said she regretted handing Trump “a political gift” by insulting millions of well-intentioned (but wrong) voters.

The lesson — a pretty basic one, you’d think — is that while it’s fine to attack your opponent it’s hardly ever fine to attack their supporters. In the end, you’re after their votes. Not all of them, certainly. Some will never be won over, and some no doubt will be “deplorable” in one way or the other.

But you want to persuade the persuadables, and tarring them with labels like racist and sexist is bound to push people away, not bring them over to your side. At least, that’s how it turned out for Clinton, with tragic results for the United States and the rest of us as well.

In light of that, what to make of Justin Trudeau’s most recent diagnosis of what’s fuelling support for his Conservative rival, Pierre Poilievre?

In a revealing interview with the Star’s Susan Delacourt, the prime minister was eager to take on Poilievre. Trudeau, Delacourt wrote over the weekend, accuses the Conservative leader of “whipping up the anger to appeal to those Canadians who are nostalgic for a country that worked well for them, maybe not so much for others.”

In Trudeau’s words: “He’s playing and preying on the kinds of anger and anxieties about some Canada that used to be — where men were men and white men ruled.”

This is red meat for Poilievre and his core supporters, so it was no surprise to see him jump right on those words. The Conservative leader posted a three-minute video, one of those, “Hey Justin” jobs he’s become so expert at, accusing Trudeau of saying “the reason you claim you’re so unpopular with Canadians is that Canadians are racist.”

So, basic fact check: is that what Trudeau said? Certainly not. Is Poilievre distorting his words for crass political advantage? Of course. 

But is there something to what Poilievre says? Well, kind of. Trudeau didn’t say Canadians are racist; he didn’t even say Poilievre’s supporters are racist. But he did link Canadians’ anger and anxieties to something that could reasonably be interpreted as racist — a fond memory, or nostalgia as Delacourt put it, for a once-upon-a-time Canada where “white men ruled.”

At this point there are people who will be thinking something along the lines of: Right on, Justin. That’s what Poilievre’s really all about. Good for you for “calling out” him and his sleazy supporters. 

To those people, all I would say is — fine, go ahead and think that. But to Trudeau and those around him I would say — don’t go there. If you didn’t actually cross the line into accusing Conservative supporters of being racist, you did edge up to it and took a good look.

Trudeau is actually very thoughtful on these issues. After living through the pandemic and the convoy protests he’s had plenty of opportunity to reflect on what animates the anger across the country — including the fury directed at him personally.

He’s quite right that many people are upset at the way society has changed, and not always for good reasons. But his job isn’t to be a political analyst; it’s to manage that change in a way that unites people and brings as many as possible over to his side. 

To succeed at that, he needs to take on board the lesson Hillary Clinton learned the hard way. Don’t insult people on the other side. It’ll only come back and hit you in the face.

Source: Justin Trudeau has not learned from Hillary Clinton’s infamous ‘deplorables’ gaffe

Globe Editorial: How to succeed in Ottawa without ever trying – Immigration excerpt

While over the top, not completely inaccurate either. Continues the increasing contrast between previous Globe events in favour of boosting immigration to a more critical look:

Take immigration. As we have pointed out, what the federal government calls an immigration plan is really just a running tally of new arrivals, lacking any specific goal such as, say, increasing the average standard of living. The federal bureaucracy is instead only committing to an output – X number of immigrants processed each year.

Source: Globe Editorial: How to succeed in Ottawa without ever trying

Hotel rooms for asylum seekers cost Ottawa $94-million since last election

Of note:

The federal government has spent almost $94-million since the last election booking entire hotels for months to accommodate an influx of asylum seekers entering Canada, according to an access-to-information request.

Since September, 2021, the Immigration Department has paid $93,886,222 for “long leases” with hotels, mostly in Quebec, setting them aside for asylum seekers, including those entering the country through the irregular border crossing at Quebec’s Roxham Road.

The department booked 30 hotels between April and December last year – 10 in Montreal alone, according to a redacted response to the access-to-information request.

The Immigration Department said it wants to help take pressure off the provinces, even though the housing of asylum seekers is a provincial responsibility.

By block booking hotel rooms, it can ensure there are enough places to house the “the rising volume of asylum claimants crossing between the ports of entry, who have no housing options available to them,” said Nancy Caron, a spokesperson for Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada.

She added that most come through the Roxham Road and Lacolle border crossings in Quebec from the United States.

The discovery of the body of Haitian migrant Fritznel Richard near Roxham Road this month reignited a debate in Quebec about the irregular border crossing, about an hour’s drive from Montreal.

A briefing document for the Immigration Department’s deputy minister on irregular migration from July last year said at that time the government had 1,721 rooms leased in 24 hotels in 12 locations across Canada.

It said a big rise in airport arrivals, mainly in Montreal, in June last year meant that the department had to transfer asylum claimants from Quebec to hotels in Ottawa and Niagara Falls. They hired 300 hotel rooms in Niagara Falls in July, to cope with an “accommodation crisis in Quebec.”

“While this option is not cost effective, it was the only immediate solution in this circumstance,” the briefing document said.

Quebec Conservative MP Pierre Paul-Hus said he and other MPs were concerned not just about the cost of block booking entire hotels, but the fact that many rooms are unoccupied a lot of the time. He said one such hotel, Hotel St-Bernard in Lacolle, seven minutes from the Roxham Road border crossing, is often empty. The hotel declined to comment.

“What we want is to stop the illegal border crossing. If they don’t do anything to stop it, we will need more hotel rooms and the problems will get worse,” he said, adding that it was also having an impact on tourism.

The organizer of an annual kids’ hockey tournament in Montreal – which is holding its 30th anniversary event in May and June – told The Globe that families cannot find rooms in hotels the tournament has booked for decades because so many have been totally reserved.

Dave Harroch, who runs the Montreal Madness hockey tournament, said families may now have to stay far from where the games will be held, on the West Island of Montreal.

“One of the hotels told me they are only 20 per cent occupied,” he said.

Between last April and December, the Immigration Department booked one Montreal hotel with 175 rooms for $7.5-million and another 160-room hotel in the city for $9.7-million.

In Dorval, near Montreal’s international airport, it booked a 112-room hotel for $5.2-million in the same period. And between September and December, a 117-room hotel was leased for $1.3-million.

The Hampton Inn & Suites by Hilton, near the airport, is among those reserved for asylum seekers. The hotel declined to comment.

The Comfort Inn Aeroport in Dorval is another. Choice Hotels Canada, which has the Comfort Inn brand within its stable, said it was up to its franchisees to decide whether to lease their hotels to the government.

The access-to-information request shows the Immigration Department had a long-term lease on a 39-room hotel between April and December last year in Lacolle, just minutes from the Roxham Road border crossing, at a cost of $1.7-million. It refused to name the hotel.

The information request shows that in Niagara Falls, the government booked a 150-room hotel between October and December last year and an 85-room hotel between April and December, each at a cost of about $1.6-million.

From July to December last year the Immigration Department spent just over $2-million on a 50-room Ottawa hotel. Between April to October it spent just over $1-million on a 30-room hotel in the capital.

The government has also spent millions reserving entire hotels for asylum seekers who move on to other parts of Canada, including in Winnipeg, Lethbridge, Alta. and Surrey, B.C.

Source: Hotel rooms for asylum seekers cost Ottawa $94-million since last election

Court orders government to repatriate 4 Canadian men detained in Syria

Of note. One of the arguments used against the previous government’s citizenship legislation revocation provision was that countries would “offload” their problem citizens to other countries. Jack Letts, a Canadian citizen by descent had his British citizenship revoked, forcing Canada to be responsible, despite him having minimal ties.

Gurski is likely correct that none of the returnees will ever be prosecuted given difficulties in obtaining evidence and witnesses:

The Federal Court has ordered the government to repatriate four Canadian men currently being held in northeastern Syria.

The Canadians are among a number of foreign nationals in Syrian prisons for suspected ISIS members that are run by the Kurdish forces that reclaimed the war-torn region from the extremist group.

Family members of 23 detained Canadians — four men, six women and 13 children — had asked the court to order the government to arrange for their return. They argued that refusing to do so would violate their charter rights.

The government agreed Thursday to move forward on repatriating the 19 Canadian women and children.

In the written decision, the judge cited the conditions of the prison and the fact that the men haven’t been charged and brought to trial.

“The conditions of the … men are even more dire than those of the women and children who Canada has just agreed to repatriate,” the decision reads.

“There is no evidence any of them have been tried or convicted, let alone tried in a manner recognized or sanctioned by international law.”

The judge also noted that the court was not asked to rule on why the applicants went to the region and that the government didn’t provide evidence that they took part in terrorist activities.

Lawrence Greenspon, the lawyer for most of the applicants, said that if there is any evidence the Canadians took part in terrorist activities, Canada should put them on trial here.

“These are Canadian citizens, they are being unlawfully, arbitrarily detained in either detention camps or in prisons, they haven’t been charged with anything,” Greenspon told CBC.

“There’s no likelihood that they’re ever going to be charged with anything over there. So bring them home.”

Jack Letts, who has been imprisoned in Syria for more than four years after allegedly joining ISIS, is among the four men.

Letts admitted in a 2019 interview to joining ISIS in Syria. His family says he made that admission under duress and there is no evidence that he ever fought for the group.

The former British-Canadian dual citizen, who was born and raised in Oxford, U.K., had his British citizenship revoked three years ago, leaving the Canadian government as his only viable means of escaping.

Barbara Jackman, the lawyer representing the Letts family, told CBC on Thursday that it is a violation of the detainees’ human rights to hold them without trial.

“This case was based on the human rights that are detained abroad and whether Canada, as a country, is obligated to help them,” she said.

Former CSIS analyst Phil Gurski told CBC News Network on Thursday that he doubts any of the adults returning would face justice for any crimes they may have committed.

“The witnesses aren’t here, the evidence isn’t here,” he told host Natasha Fatah. “As a Canadian citizen, I’m outraged that people are going to get away with it.”

Gurski said it would also put extra pressure on Canada’s intelligence bodies to monitor the individuals that do return.

In a statement Saturday, Global Affairs Canada said the department is reviewing the decision.

“The safety and security of Canadians is our government’s top priority. We remain committed to taking a robust approach to this issue.”

Source: Court orders government to repatriate 4 Canadian men detained in Syria

Australia: Why a cultural diversity target for public sector leadership is overdue

Surprising that Australia doesn’t have comparable reports to Canada’s employment equity reports. Their report is high level and has limited data tables, with visible minority data largely limited to immigrants. The Canadian approach of consistent detailed reporting, enhanced for the last five years with disaggregated data, has generated steady increases in representation:

The latest Census data shows that Australia is more multicultural than ever before, however senior leadership in the Australian Public Service (APS) does not reflect Australia’s diversity. A target should be implemented to elevate a greater percentage of culturally and linguistically diverse (CALD) Australians into senior APS roles.

Introducing diversity targets in the APS is not a new concept. Targets are a tried and tested method of achieving systemic change and overcoming institutionalised biases in government hiring practices. For example, through a whole-of-government target, 50-50 gender parity has been achieved in all APS levels of leadership.

The latest Census data is concrete evidence of the increasingly multicultural identity of Australia, where half of Australians were born overseas or have a parent born overseas.

But rather than perceiving this as a “nice-to-have”, the business case for increased CALD leadership in the APS is clear.

The intercultural and linguistic skills of CALD Australians are invaluable in filling the capability gaps in the public sector. For example, leveraging the skills of the Chinese-Australian community will create a more China-literate APS, especially in roles relating to trade, foreign policy, national security, and cyber.

Cultural and linguistic competency is also relevant to domestic policymaking. During the height of COVID-19, Google Translate was used by the Department of Home Affairs to communicate public health messaging to CALD communities. If a senior public servant with multilingual skills and lived experience of engaging with CALD communities was present in the room at the time, they could have easily advised against the inadequacies of automated translation.

Enhanced CALD leadership can also increase staff retention in the APS. For CALD Australians who wish to ascend the career ladder but see a lack of diverse leadership above them, the problem of “you can’t be what you can’t see” serves as a barrier. One consequence of underrepresentation in leadership is increased turnover of staff from that underrepresented background.

For example, research from the UK government found that more than half of surveyed black, Asian, and minority ethnic employees perceived that they would have to leave their current workplaces for promotion opportunities.

While increased CALD leadership in the APS is a clear value-add, the road to reform will not be easy.

Existing CALD-related data in the APS is patchy since the provision of diversity data to the APS except for gender by employees is voluntary. Without comprehensive data, understanding the extent of CALD underrepresentation in leadership as a first step will be difficult to determine.

The finite pool of Diversity and Inclusion (D&I) resources in the APS is another roadblock. Addressing the systematic biases that plague other diverse groups such women, First Nations Australians, and people with disability is equally as important in achieving equity for all in the public sector. Implementing a CALD leadership target may detract time and effort from D&I initiatives aimed at these other underrepresented groups.

At the same time, public discourse has become more vocal in recent years regarding the importance of increased CALD representation in positions of power. The diversity gains in politics have been much applauded and are case studies for what public sector leadership could look like.

In 2013, now-deputy leader of the Greens senator Mehreen Faruqi was the first Muslim woman to enter any Australian parliament. Another win for diversity can be seen with Malaysian-born senator Penny Wong, who last year became Australia’s first foreign-born foreign minister.

Although the road to public sector reform is difficult, the creation of a CALD target in the APS is not impossible. The business case is there, and the public appetite for change exists.

All that’s left now is to convince government that now is the time to act.

Source: Why a cultural diversity target for public sector leadership is overdue

Canada expands immigration program for undocumented construction workers in GTA

Of note:

To help address Canada’s housing crisis, the federal government is expanding a small-scale pilot project that offers permanent residence for out-of-status construction workers who are already working underground in the sector here.

On Friday, the government said it is doubling the annual number of available spots in the program from 500 workers — plus their family members — to 1,000, as part of its plan to ease the labour shortage in skilled trades.

Potential applicants are required to first identify themselves to the Canadian Labour Congress, which pre-screens and refers qualified candidates for final assessment by the immigration department. Eligible candidates have until Jan. 2, 2024, to apply.

“This pilot program is a significant step forward in addressing critical labour shortages for the Greater Toronto Area by supporting stability in the construction industry and bringing workers out of the underground economy,” Immigration Minister Sean Fraser said in a statement.

“By providing regular pathways for out-of-status migrants, we are not only protecting workers and their families, but also safeguarding Canada’s labour market and ensuring that we can retain the skilled workers we need to grow our economy and build our communities.”

In Ontario, the construction sector had 28,360 jobs waiting to be filled in the second quarter of last year, up from 20,895 over the same period in 2021.

Last November, Fraser raised eyebrows when he unveiled Canada’s multi-year immigration plan to bring in 465,000 new permanent residents in 2023, as well as 485,000 in 2024 and 500,000 in 2025 despite concerns over a looming recession.

While the majority of Canadians welcome a higher immigration level, some worry about whether the country will be able to accommodate so many more people amid a tight rental and housing market, fearing the measures could drive up housing costs further.

“We’re pushing people to regions that have more capacity to absorb newcomers. It’s not a coincidence that we’re talking about establishing stronger regional pathways,” Fraser said then, referring to immigration programs that offer incentives for newcomers to settle in smaller, rural communities.

“We’re not going to solve this problem if we don’t build more housing. Realistically, we need to leverage the new flexibilities that will kick in in 2023 to do targeted (immigration) draws for people who have the skills to build more houses.”

There are as many as 500,000 undocumented residents estimated to be in Canada. Many work precarious and often exploitative jobs in construction, cleaning, caregiving, food processing and agriculture.

The vast majority of undocumented residents came to Canada legally, only to later lose status because of issues with student visas, temporary work permits or asylum claims, advocates say.

Those issues are born out of an increasingly temporary immigration system, where many residents struggle to extend short-term permits and gain permanent residency.

One of Fraser’s mandated priorities from Prime Minister Justin Trudeau was to explore more ways to regularize undocumented residents.

The immigration department has completed research and consultation for a broader regularization program based on the construction worker pilot. Cabinet is currently weighing different options for a final plan, the Star has learned.

“Out-of-status workers are vulnerable to employer exploitation and abuse, and they and their families live with limited access to education, health and social programs,” noted Bea Bruske, president of the Canadian Labour Congress, in a news release.

“The extension of the out-of-status construction workers in the GTA initiative for 2023 will help more vulnerable workers and their families during these uncertain times.”

Under the construction worker pilot program, only undocumented construction workers who live in Toronto, Durham, Halton, Peel and York regions qualify.

Source: Canada expands immigration program for undocumented construction workers in GTA

Varela: Joe Biden should be trumpeting this immigration policy victory

One take:

Given the intense focus journalists place on migrants who come to the United States, it’s disappointing that they pay such little attention to the employers on this side of the border who recruit and exploit migrants and then, if they dare complain, fire them and make them even more vulnerable to deportation. The systematic oppression of migrants doesn’t get sufficient attention, partly because journalists haven’t done their jobs but also because those who are abused and exploited don’t speak up because they’re afraid or can’t speak up because they’ve been deported.

That’s why an announcement last week from the Biden administration that it will extend some protections to migrants reporting employer abusewas so historic. In a Jan. 13 news release, the Department of Homeland Security said that “noncitizen workers who are victims of, or witnesses to, the violation of labor rights, can now access a streamlined and expedited deferred action request process. Deferred action protects noncitizen workers from threats of immigration-related retaliation from the exploitive employers.” As a result, DHS noted, the whistleblower program confirmed the current administration’s “commitment to empowering workers and improving workplace conditions by enabling all workers, including noncitizens, to assert their legal rights.”

While I and multiple immigrant rights groups have generally criticized President Joe Biden for muddled immigration policies that carry forward former President Donald Trump’s misguided policies, I stand in agreement with those groups that were quick to praise Biden for this move.

“Today opens a pathway full of hope for those of us workers who fear reporting workplace abuses, so that we can come forward to share the challenges we face every day in hostile workplaces, suffering abuses like wage theft,” Jonas Reyes, a worker leader at Arriba Las Vegas Worker Center, said in a statement published on the website for the National Day Laborer Organizing Network, or NDLON. “When we speak up and exercise our rights, we face retaliation. These protections are an important step to be able to speak up safely, and an opportunity to improve our working conditions and our lives.”

The Biden administration should have played up this announcement and drawn attention to a new policy that will further humanize one of this society’s most exploited populations. Instead, the administration conveyed the news in a press release on the Friday before the three-day Martin Luther King Jr. holiday weekend. NDLON held a virtual news conference to discuss the policy change, and while it did an excellent job of humanizing migrant voices and shining a light on their real plights, as of Thursday, that video had barely more than 150 views. By not playing up the news of the new whistleblower policy, the Biden administration missed an opportunity to transform the immigration debate by focusing on a plan that helps migrant workers instead of punishing them.

That missed PR opportunity means that when the topic is Biden and immigration, one of his progressive moves is likely to be ignored. The focus will remain on his administration’s failures to distance itself from Trump and the presidents before him who have treated immigration not as a humanitarian crisis but as a law enforcement and national security problem.

The White House statements that were released this month during Biden’s first official visit to the U.S. border with Mexico focused on “new enforcement measures to increase security at the border” meant to “reduce the number of individuals crossing unlawfully between ports of entry.” At the same time, those statements claimed that such measures “will expand and expedite legal pathways for orderly migration and result in new consequences for those who fail to use those legal pathways.” Part of these measures includes a mobile phone app that migrants can now use to apply for asylum.

New data from Syracuse University’s Transactional Records Access Clearinghouseposted Wednesday said the immigration court backlog of close to 1.6 million cases is “the largest in history.” While the Biden administration’s announcement of a phone app may have been meant to decrease the number of people making the trek here, U.S. Code still makes it very legal for individuals to physically seek asylum at the U.S. border.

Despite the relative lack of attention the Biden administration and the media have given to the new DHS rule, the announcement does demonstrate that any real positive change in immigration policy will always come from grassroots movements. Rosario Ortiz, another worker leader at Arriba Las Vegas Worker Center, said in a statementthat she and coworkers had met with U.S. Labor Secretary Marty Walsh and DHS Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas “to call for these protections.” Ortiz said, “I am proud of my coworkers and our brothers and sisters across the country who have helped open a pathway for others in our circumstances to seek the protections that we have won.”

That successful grassroots campaign is similar to the grassroots campaign that ended with Arizona voters last year granting in-state tuition to undocumented students. Like the whistleblower policy, the policy change was the result of a targeted campaign that took time to mature.

This kind of substantive change in national immigration policy that considers the rights of migrant workers has been long overdue. The groups who have been fighting for their communities know this, and there is no indication that they will slow down their efforts, no matter who’s in office — whether it’s Republicans who brag about being tough on immigrants or Democrats who are seemingly too afraid to draw attention to those fleeting moments when they’re doing right by them.

Source: Joe Biden should be trumpeting this immigration policy victory