AOC Expertly Breaks Down Why Words About Immigration Matter

Interesting reframing of the increase in asylum seekers at the Southern border:

Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) gave a compelling argument on immigration policy on Tuesday, dismissing the term “border crisis” and instead calling it an “imperialism crisis” and a “climate crisis.”

While answering questions from her Instagram followers Tuesday night, Ocasio-Cortez responded to someone who asked, “Why are you not addressing the border crisis and the kids in cages like you used to?”

“Are you for real?” Ocasio-Cortez responded. “So often people wanna say, ‘Why aren’t you talking about the border crisis?’ Or ‘why aren’t you talking about it in this way?’ Well, we’re talking about it; they just don’t like how we’re talking about it.”

Ocasio-Cortez continued, saying it’s not a border crisis but rather, “It’s an imperialism crisis, it’s a climate crisis, it’s a trade crisis.” The current immigration system is based on the U.S. carceral system, she said, and the solution should be “rooted in foreign policy.”

Last month, White House press secretary Jen Psaki confirmed that there had been an influx of people at the U.S.-Mexico border in recent months, overwhelming the facilities set up to house them. Psaki said factors including the pandemic creating “undue hardships,” natural disasters, and flight from violence or persecution has contributed to the rise in people.

Ocasio-Cortez attributed the United States’ outsized role in the climate crisis to the increase of natural disasters in regions including the global south, which has ultimately forced people in those regions to leave their homes.

“The U.S. has disproportionately contributed to the total amount of emissions that is causing a planetary climate crisis right now,” Ocasio-Cortez continued on Instagram. “But who is bearing the brunt of that? … It’s actually not us.”

She continued: “It’s South Asia, it’s Latin America that are gonna be experiencing the floods, wildfires and droughts in a disproportionate way, which ding ding ding, has already started a migration crisis.”

Ocasio-Cortez also denounced calling the increased number of people crossing the border a “surge,” because of the term’s militaristic and white supremacist connotations.

“This is not a surge. These are children,” Ocasio-Cortez said. “And they are not insurgents. And we are not being invaded — which by the way is a white supremacist idea, philosophy. The idea that if an other is coming in the population, that this is like an invasion of who we are.”

Last week, President Joe Biden addressed immigration at the U.S.-Mexico border during his first official press conference, including children being detained for long periods of time instead of being transferred to shelters. Biden said the increase in people migrating to the U.S. in the winter months occurs every year. (While the total number of people crossing the border is relatively similar to prior years during the same period, the number of unaccompanied children crossing the border between January and February 2021 is significantly up, government data shows.)

“The reason they’re coming is that it’s the time they can travel with the least likelihood of dying on the way because of the heat in the desert, number one,” Biden said.

He proposed “putting together a bipartisan plan of over $700 million to deal with the root causes of why people are leaving” their countries. Biden also said former President Trump eliminated funding for government agencies like Health and Human Services to provide proper care for migrant families, which has led to the influx of children being detained. (NBC reported that this claim is partially true.)

Source: AOC Expertly Breaks Down Why Words About Immigration Matter

Un peu d’humanité s’il vous plaît, M. Legault

More on the “gardian angels” by Quebec opposition members:

Marie (nom fictif), le téléphone dans la main droite et sa petite fille de deux ans agrippée à son bras gauche, tente désespérément de récupérer les passeports de toute la famille détenus par Citoyenneté et immigration Canada (CIC) afin d’obtenir une copie certifiée de toutes les pages des précieux carnets et de les acheminer au ministère de l’Immigration, de la Francisation et de l’Intégration (MIFI) à Québec. L’épisode est kafkaïen. La tâche de récupérer tous les documents exigés par le MIFI afin de compléter le dossier du programme des « anges gardiens » est titanesque. Peu importe, elle fera tout pour avoir accès à ce certificat de sélection du Québec (CSQ) béni qui les conduira, elle et ses enfants, à la résidence permanente.

Une résidence permanente pour Marie, veuve d’un préposé aux bénéficiaires mort de la COVID-19, lui permettra de sortir la tête des eaux troubles de la pauvreté. Ça voudra dire pouvoir envoyer ses enfants de deux et trois ans en garderie et, donc, travailler comme préposée aux bénéficiaires, métier pour lequel elle a étudié, et contribuer à la société québécoise. Ça voudra dire aussi ne plus avoir peur d’être expulsée en Haïti, qui sombre de plus en plus dans l’anarchie. L’anxiété est à son comble.

Marie a soumis sa demande en décembre, dès l’ouverture du programme des anges gardiens visant les étrangers au statut précaire qui ont prodigué des soins au printemps dernier dans le domaine de la santé. Et tout traîne toujours.

Même si ce programme est pancanadien, le gouvernement Legault, en raison d’un accord avec le gouvernement fédéral en matière d’immigration, demande une liste différente de documents à fournir. « Les exigences du MIFI sont inadaptées à la crise », nous dit Me Guillaume Cliche-Rivard, spécialiste en droit de l’immigration. Et pourtant, pour Québec, tout va bien, Madame la Marquise.

La lenteur avec laquelle la CAQ traite la régularisation des « anges gardiens » n’est pas seulement honteuse, elle nuit à la société québécoise.

Dans un article de Radio-Canada, on apprenait la semaine dernière qu’en deux mois, seulement 3 dossiers sur 721 ont été approuvés au Québec. Tandis que dans le reste du Canada, ce sont 459 dossiers sur 932. Pourquoi ? Par manque de volonté politique ou incompétence dans sa mise en œuvre ? Les questions se posent et cela n’aide personne.

Ce qui est absurde dans tout ceci, c’est que ce manque d’humanité, cette bureaucratie digne des 12 travaux d’Astérix du gouvernement de la CAQ, n’a rien de bon pour le Québec. Elle laisse des gens dévoués dans une grande précarité avec tous les dommages collatéraux que cela implique. La précarité est synonyme de pauvreté et d’exclusion sociale. Leur situation les rend vulnérables à l’exploitation de toutes sortes. L’incertitude quant à leur statut crée aussi un climat anxiogène qui se transmet à toute la famille, et la santé mentale en prend un coup énorme. Tout ce désespoir accable les ressources communautaires, qui sont déjà à bout de souffle.

Le gouvernement se doit d’accélérer le processus de traitement des demandes du programme. Il doit aussi l’élargir et l’ouvrir aux travailleurs de la santé qui ont travaillé au-delà du 14 août 2020. La guerre contre la COVID-19 n’est pas terminée. Ces gens-là donnent encore à manger aux malades, les nettoient, les aident. Certains ont même contracté le coronavirus. Il faut les considérer.

Le gouvernement doit finalement accepter la main tendue d’Ottawa qui souhaite élargir le programme à d’autres travailleurs essentiels de la santé, comme les gardiens de sécurité et les gens responsables de l’entretien, entre autres.

La ministre, Nadine Girault, doit imposer un leadership fort. Ce n’est pourtant pas le cas. Ce manque de vision nous désespère. Le sentiment d’exclusion qui est en train de se développer nous conduit tout droit vers une intégration toute croche. Mauvaise intégration, pauvreté, exclusion : les ingrédients pour un gros gâchis. C’est très mauvais pour le Québec.

Si le gouvernement a décidé d’en prendre moins, il devrait peut-être en prendre soin.

Paule Robitaille et Christine St-Pierre, Respectivement députée de Bourassa-Sauvé, porte-parole en matière de lutte contre la pauvreté ; et députée de l’Acadie, porte-parole en matière d’immigration

Source: Un peu d’humanité s’il vous plaît, M. Legault

Few Quebec ‘guardian angels’ who worked in health care during COVID granted residency

Hard to understand the reasons for the delays:

Advocates for asylum seekers who worked in health care during the pandemic’s first wave are calling on Quebec to speed up the processing of immigration applications from workers dubbed “guardian angels” by the premier.

In December, the federal government launched two special programs allowing asylum seekers who worked in the health-care sector during the early part of the health crisis to apply for permanent residency.

One program, which applies outside Quebec and is run by the federal government, has received 932 applications for permanent residency, according to the most recent data available. Of those, 459 had been approved in principle as of Feb. 20, the federal Immigration Department said in an email.

The other program is run through an agreement between Ottawa and Quebec. The federal government said it has received 721 applications — the first step in the process. Of those, just three applications for permanent residency have been approved in principle by the federal government, the Immigration Department said.

Wilner Cayo, president of Debout pour la dignite, a group that advocates for asylum seekers to be given status, said the difference shows a lack of political commitment from Quebec. “Quebec has always been very reluctant to recognize the extraordinary contribution of the ‘guardian angel’ asylum seekers,” Cayo said in an interview Tuesday.

Premier Francois Legault said Tuesday he was unaware Quebec was lagging behind other provinces, adding that the criteria for the program was decided in conjunction with the federal government. “There is no instruction given not to accelerate the acceptance of these people,” Legault told reporters in Quebec City.

“On the contrary, we want to keep our word.”

Cayo said the delays have caused people to put their lives on hold. Some “guardian angels,” he said, are waiting for permanent residency so they can earn a degree or take a training program.

Many are parents, he said, adding that without permanent residency, they don’t have access to Quebec’s public daycare program. For people with low salaries, paying for private daycare has a big impact on their quality of life, Cayo said.

“It’s a big disadvantage.”

Marjorie Villefranche, director of La Maison d’Haiti, a community group that works with newly arrived immigrants, said applicants in Quebec have an additional step compared with asylum seekers in the rest of the country. After their initial applications are approved by the federal government, they have to apply to the province to receive a Quebec selection certificate. Once that is issued, they have to apply to Ottawa for permanent residency.

Villefranche said Quebec needs to put additional resources into application processing. “I don’t think there’s any political will,” she said in a recent interview.

Flore Bouchon, a spokeswoman for Quebec Immigration Minister Nadine Girault, said the government hasn’t received any formal complaints about the program from immigration support organizations or from the affected asylum seekers.

Files are processed “within a very reasonable time frame, 21 days on average,” she wrote in a recent email. The number of applicants who have received Quebec selection certificates is a sign of the program’s success, she wrote.

As of March 19, the Quebec government had received 389 requests for Quebec selection certificates and 114 of those requests had been finalized, she said. Counting applicants and dependants, 237 people have been given Quebec certificates, Bouchon wrote.

Quebec Immigration Department spokeswoman Arianne Methot said after certificates are issued, applications become the responsibility of the federal Immigration Department.

Alexander Cohen, press secretary for federal Immigration Minister Marco Mendicino, said delays are to be expected with a new program. Ottawa’s priority, he said in a recent interview, is expanding the program to include more workers.

The two special programs are only open to people who worked at least 120 hours between March 13 and Aug. 14, 2020, and who provided direct care in a health-care establishment in Canada.

Villefanche said she would like to see the program expanded to more workers who may have been exposed to COVID-19 on the job but who didn’t provide direct care, such as cleaning staff. She said she would also like the August deadline extended because she said it’s not fair to people who provided vital care during the second wave of the pandemic.

“It’s like if there was a good wave and a bad wave,” she said. “This is ridiculous.”

Source: Few Quebec ‘guardian angels’ who worked in health care during COVID granted residency

Quebec making it difficult for asylum seekers to get permanent residency, advocates say

Ironic given issue and advocacy first emerged in Quebec if memory serves me correctly:

In the three months since the federal government launched a program to provide permanent residency to some asylum seekers, the number of people living in Quebec who have been approved can be counted on one hand.

Out of 462 asylum seekers who have been able to complete the process, only three live in the province, according to Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada. Advocates say it’s proof the Quebec government is making things too difficult for applicants.

The federal government launched a program last December for so-called “guardian angels” — asylum seekers who worked in health-care facilities during the height of the pandemic.

Source: Quebec making it difficult for asylum seekers to get permanent residency, advocates say

Thousands of asylum seekers stuck at home as work permit approvals slow during pandemic

IRCC operational difficulties:

Marius Tapé is bored, restless and frustrated.

The engineer arrived in Canada from the Ivory Coast in July with his teenage daughter, joining his wife and three other children who had already settled in Granby, Que.

Tapé says his family fled the Ivory Coast after he and his wife were attacked for his political affiliation. They are trying to start a new life here, but it’s been tough.

Source: Thousands of asylum seekers stuck at home as work permit approvals slow during pandemic

Border agency reports spike of nearly 6,000 immigrant children crossing into US alone

Less than 10 percent of 2019 numbers:

Thousands of unaccompanied immigrant children are attempting to flee to the United States amid the coronavirus pandemic, propelled by devastating natural disasters, chronic violence, and severe economic hardship at home.

US Customs and Border Protection encountered 5,871 kids at the south-west border without a parent or legal guardian last month, the largest influx yet since the start of the public health crisis in early 2020.

That sudden spike is still relatively modest compared to huge figures from fiscal year 2019, when Border Patrol apprehended more than 76,000 unaccompanied children, a trend that reached its zenith that spring.

But unlike in past years, the Office of Refugee Resettlement – which cares for those kids – has had to slash its housing capacity nearly in half in light of Covid-19. And, with nearly 5,700 of 7,100 total beds already accounted for, ORR is preparing to resurrect a controversial influx facility to create space.

“Even though the numbers of children in custody are still relatively low by historical standards,” the lack of available shelter beds is cause for concern, warned Mark Greenberg, director of the Human Services Initiative at the Migration Policy Institute.

Greenberg added: “If we return to the levels that had been experienced in all recent years except 2020, it will pose a significant challenge because of Covid.”

As more migrants attempt the arduous journey across the US-Mexico border, CBP officials are citing push factors such as “underlying crime and instability” in their countries of origin and “inaccurate perceptions of shifts in immigration and border security policies”.

Before taking office, Joe Biden’s administrationwarned that its comparatively pro-immigrant agenda would not translate to an immediate shift at the border. On Wednesday, White House press secretary Jen Psaki reiterated that, despite rare exceptions, the vast majority of migrants are still being turned away.

“Now is not the time to come,” she said.

Since 2014, a flood of immigrant children and families largely from Central America’s Northern Triangle have made their way to the US, many in search of refuge from a crush of gang-related violence, poverty and persecution. Between fiscal year 2013 and 2014, CBP apprehensions of unaccompanied children at the south-west border surged by 77%, while apprehensions for families more than quadrupled.

That significant change heralded a new era in US border migration, defined by asylum seekers and other vulnerable populations. In response to the humanitarian crisis, former president Donald Trump devised hard-line tactics to try to deter Central Americans and others from seeking protection in the US, then used Covid-19 as a rationale to effectively shutter the border altogether to defenseless migrants.

Under the guise of public health, the Trump administration subjected hundreds of thousands of people – and at least 13,000 unaccompanied children, according to the ACLU – to rapid expulsion from the US without due process during the pandemic.

A federal judge eventually blocked the US government from applying that policy to unaccompanied minors, and Biden has said he will not resume expulsions for kids who show up without a parent or guardian, according to CBS News.

But amid the border closure, children unable to safely enter US custody have turned to perilous border crossings, said Erika Pinheiro, policy and litigation director at Al Otro Lado.

“They suffer so much,” she said. “And the fact that the US government forces them to suffer more is really hurtful to think about.”

In an elaborate game of telephone, news articles about immigration enforcement in the US and Mexico have gotten distorted in the foreign press, then exploited by smugglers, who have every incentive to spread rumors encouraging people to cross the border.

“There’s sort of like one message that comes out of the news. It gets repeated down here, maybe not completely accurately, and then the smugglers really capitalize on that, too. So it sort of builds on itself,” Pinheiro said.

As the number of unaccompanied children encountered by border enforcement increases to levels not seen since the summer of 2019, ORR is preparing to reactivate a temporary influx care facility in Carrizo Springs, Texas, that will initially be able to house about 700 kids.

The remote Carrizo Springs facility was opened in July, 2019, but closed in a few short weeks.

ORR said officials anticipate “the need to start placing children at Carrizo Springs in 15 days or soon after”, a move that has alarmed some advocates.

“There’s no reason to warehouse these children in these potentially dangerous facilities,” Linda Brandmiller, an immigration attorney in San Antonio, told USA Today.

Unaccompanied kids have been arriving primarily from Guatemala, El Salvador and Honduras in recent years. The vast majority are teenagers.

“In a substantial number of cases, they are fleeing for their lives,” Greenberg said. “But whether that will allow them to qualify for asylum will depend upon how asylum policies are now changed.”

Source: Border agency reports spike of nearly 6,000 immigrant children crossing into US alone

COVID-19 Impact on Immigration: October data

The latest October numbers for Permanent Residents, asylum seekers and study permits (international students). Unfortunately, the data tables for temporary residents have not been updated since August, and citizenship not since June.

Permanent residents

Overall, permanent resident admissions are down by 51.8 percent in October 2020 compared October 2019, and  42.9 percent year to date. Family and refugee categories have declined more than the economic category.

With respect to Provincial Nominee Program, declines have been less in Alberta and British Columbia than other provinces.

Transition from temporary residents to permanent residents account for close to 40 percent of total admissions in 2020 year to date, with the post-graduate work program and the International mobility program being relatively less affected that international students and the temporary foreign worker program (note some double counting between these programs and overlap with the Provincial Nominee Program). 

Asylum claimants have declined dramatically given travel and border restrictions (particularly airport arrivals), from an average of over 5,000 a month in 2019 to an average of less than 1,300 April to October 2020. Inland claims accounted for 56 percent of all claims in 2019, and for 81 percent April to October 2020. 

International students (study permit holders have declined from an average of 35,000 per month in 2019 (with summer seasonal peaks) to 27,000 April to October 2020, with some variation among countries of origin (citizenship) year to date as well as by province of destination.

UK races to deport asylum seekers ahead of Brexit

Of note:

Scores of vulnerable asylum seekers, including suspected victims of trafficking, are scheduled to be deported this week as the home secretary Priti Patel ramps up removal operations ahead of Brexit.

Three flights this week, two to Germany and one to France, with possible transfers to Austria, Poland, Spain and Lithuania, are planned amid opposition from campaigners who say they have evidence that cases are being “rushed” through to avoid Patel’s own published policy on identifying trafficking victims.

The development comes days after Patel branded those calling for last week’s deportation flight to Jamaica to be stopped as “do-gooding celebrities”, a label that prompted victims of the Windrush scandal to describe the home secretary as “deeply insulting and patronising”.

Source: UK races to deport asylum seekers ahead of Brexit

Canada has turned back 4,400 asylum seekers in 5 years

Of note. A bit less than the 55,000 or so that crossed the border:

Canada has turned away at least 4,400 asylum seekers at the U.S. border since 2016 — including some who were hoping to find refuge here at the height of the global pandemic — according to newly released government figures.

Nearly half of those trying to enter Canada over that five-year period made the attempt in the year after U.S. President Donald Trump took office, according to figures released in response to a parliamentary request from NDP MP Jenny Kwan.

Under the Safe Third Country Agreement (STCA), which has been in effect since 2004, Canada and the U.S. consider each other to be “safe countries” for refugees and require them to make their claims in the country they arrive in first.

The agreement has long faced criticism and legal challenges from refugee advocacy groups, who say the agreement is an inhumane way to limit the number of people Canada accepts as refugees. They say the U.S. is not a safe country for all refugees and that the dangers they face have increased under the Trump administration.

The federal government is appealing a Federal Court ruling earlier this year that found the STCA infringed Charter rights.

The figures provided to Kwan show there was a spike in the number of asylum seekers turned back at the border after Trump was elected in 2016 and took office in 2017.

In 2016 there were 742 people turned back at the border. That figure jumped to 1,992 in 2017. There were 744 denied entry in 2018 and 663 in 2019.

Between Jan. 1 and Sept. 23 this year — a period which captures the height of the first wave of COVID-19 — 259 people were turned back at the border.

‘Even more precarious’

Kwan called that “really disturbing.”

“In the face of a pandemic, things are even more precarious for people who need to get to safety and Canada actually did not hesitate to turn people back,” she said.Kwan said the Trump administration imposed detention and deportation policies that violated international human rights and provoked widespread fear among refugees. By turning away asylum seekers, Canada is “complicit” in the violation of their rights, she said.

Kwan said Canada should immediately suspend the STCA and work to negotiate a new agreement with U.S. president-elect Joe Biden that addresses human rights issues. But she said the “aggressive and intense” detention policies could linger.

“I think even with the Biden administration, that policy may still continue to exist, and even if the Biden administration wants to make changes, it’s not going to happen overnight,” she said.

Mary-Liz Power, a spokesperson for Public Safety Minister Bill Blair, said the government appealed the Federal Court ruling because it believes there were errors in key findings of fact and law.

She said the decision mistakenly suggests that all asylum claimants who are ineligible under the STCA and turned back to the U.S. are automatically detained as a penalty. She also noted that the U.S. remains a party to the UN Refugee Convention.

Refugee pact ‘fair, compassionate’: Blair spokesperson

“The STCA, which has served Canada well for 16 years, ensures that those whose lives are in danger are able to claim asylum at the very first opportunity in a safe country,” she said.

“We are in continuous discussions with the U.S. government on issues related to our shared border. We believe that the STCA remains a comprehensive vehicle for the fair, compassionate and orderly handling of asylum claims in our two countries.”

As for the spike in numbers in 2017, Power said that 2017-2018 recorded the highest number of globally displaced individuals since the Second World War.

Justin Mohammed, human rights law and policy campaigner for Amnesty International Canada, said a number of factors could have driven that sharp increase, including global patterns and Trump’s policies.

He said Canada should be fulfilling its international obligations under international refugee law at all times — even during a pandemic, when safety concerns are heightened.

Mohammed pointed to exemptions made for students, family reunification and other immigration classes that allow people to arrive in Canada despite travel restrictions.

“Why are refugees being excluded from that? They’re able to quarantine or be required to have a quarantine plan just like anyone else … so why is there not the ability to be able to provide protection?” he said.

Partial picture

Janet Dench, executive director of the Canadian Council for Refugees, said the 2020 figures represent only a partial picture of the people turned back to the U.S. because of added restrictions after the border closed March 20.

At that time, refugee claimants were denied entry on public health grounds whether they arrived at an official point of entry or at another crossing — such as Roxham Road in Quebec — where the STCA does not normally apply.

Despite assurances the Canadian government says it received from the U.S. that refugee claimants directed back would not be subject to enforcement such as detention or removal, Dench said refugee advocates in Canada know of at least two people who were detained in the U.S. after being directed back.

Conservative immigration critic Raquel Dancho said the Liberal record on administering the refugee and asylum system was one of “mismanagement, years-long backlogs and failure,” even before the pandemic.

“Conservatives have long been calling on the government to close illegal border crossings and work with their American counterparts to close the longstanding loopholes in the Safe Third Country Agreement so that refugee and asylum seekers have a fair, compassionate and effective pathway to come to Canada,” she said in a statement.

Source: Canada has turned back 4,400 asylum seekers in 5 years

La situation des demandeurs d’asile en période de COVID-19

Of note:

La pandémie de COVID-19 a mis au grand jour la question des demandeurs d’asile, qui sollicitent une protection à titre de réfugiés au Québec ou ailleurs au pays. Bien qu’ils fassent partie des gens les plus vulnérables, ils ont été les plus touchés par la décision gouvernementale de fermer les frontières.

Nous sommes conscients du fait que le gouvernement canadien, comme tant d’autres gouvernements, s’est retrouvée devant un important dilemme : assurer la santé et la sécurité de sa population ou remplir ses obligations internationales comme pays signataire de la Convention de 1951 relative au statut des réfugiés. Une de ces obligations est de respecter le principe de non-refoulement des demandeurs d’asile, selon l’article 33, qui stipule :

Aucun des États contractants n’expulsera ou ne refoulera, de quelque manière que ce soit, un réfugié sur les frontières des territoires où sa vie ou sa liberté serait menacée en raison de sa race, de sa religion, de sa nationalité, de son appartenance à un certain groupe social ou de ses opinions politiques.

La fermeture de la frontière canado-américaine a entraîné le refoulement de centaines de personnes à notre frontière, des personnes qui avaient frappé à la porte du Canada afin d’y solliciter la protection en tant que réfugiés. Impossible donc de se présenter à un poste de contrôle, ni même de tenter un passage irrégulier au Québec par le « fameux » chemin Roxham. Or, qui dit « refoulement aux États-Unis » dit « détention » avec des prisonniers de droit commun et des criminels de tout acabit. Une situation qui implique aussi la séparation des familles, la détention d’enfants et le risque d’expulsion vers le pays d’origine des réfugiés, où ils étaient persécutés. Autant de conséquences néfastes de la fermeture de la frontière avec les États-Unis en période de COVID-19 !

Malgré l’appel de plusieurs groupes et organismes œuvrant dans le domaine de la défense des réfugiés, rien n’a réellement été fait pour amener le gouvernement fédéral à respecter ses obligations internationales envers les demandeurs d’asile. Il y a bien eu la décision de permettre à des individus de solliciter l’asile à un poste de contrôle terrestre à la condition, entre autres, que des membres de leur famille habitent déjà au Canada, ou d’accepter la demande de mineurs non accompagnés, en vertu du décret du gouvernement adopté le 22 avril 2020, mais cela ne touche pas la très grande majorité des demandeurs d’asile, qui sont actuellement refoulés vers les États-Unis.

Une autre conséquence majeure de la COVID-19 est la fermeture, en mars 2020, du tribunal chargé d’entendre les requêtes des demandeurs d’asile au pays, la Commission de l’immigration et du statut de réfugié (CISR). Toutes les audiences devant la Section de la protection des réfugiés (SPR) ont été annulées. À Montréal, les audiences ont repris seulement le 3 août et se déroulent au ralenti. Cette fermeture occasionnera de longs délais de traitement qui s’ajouteront aux retards déjà accumulés avant la pandémie. À cet égard, soulignons que le Règlement sur l’immigration et la protection des réfugiés prévoit qu’un demandeur d’asile doit être entendu par le tribunal dans un délai maximum de 60 jours suivant le dépôt de sa demande auprès des autorités compétentes. Or, avant la COVID-19, il n’était pas exceptionnel que certains demandeurs d’asile doivent attendre plus de 20 mois avant de pouvoir être entendus par le tribunal. La CISR précise sur son site Web que le temps d’attente prévu avant qu’une demande d’asile ne soit instruite par la Section de la protection des réfugiés est « d’environ 22 mois à compter de la date à laquelle le cas est déféré ». On peut facilement imaginer que ces délais vont maintenant exploser, ce qui occasionnera très certainement de l’incertitude et un stress supplémentaire pour les demandeurs d’asile en attente d’être fixés sur leur sort.

La pandémie nous a fait réaliser que plusieurs demandeurs d’asile occupent dans le système de santé un emploi dit « essentiel » pour combattre la COVID-19, principalement comme préposées aux bénéficiaires. Des gens qui, malgré leur statut incertain au Canada, ont accepté de mettre leur santé en péril afin de sauver celle des autres ― et qu’on appelle maintenant nos « anges gardiens ». Des gens qui n’ont pas hésité à aller au front, malgré le danger.

Des groupes de pression s’étaient formés afin de demander au gouvernement qu’il régularise le statut de ces demandeurs d’asile. Dans l’état actuel des choses, il m’apparaît tout à fait logique de garder ces gens en poste. Pour ce faire, leur accorder le statut de résident permanent est la voie appropriée pour éviter leur expulsion du Canada et, par le fait même, conserver cette main-d’œuvre si précieuse en période de pandémie.

Le 14 août dernier, le gouvernement fédéral, en collaboration avec les gouvernements provinciaux, a répondu favorablement à cet appel. Les demandeurs d’asile qui ont offert des soins directs aux patients ― préposé(e)s aux bénéficiaires, infirmiers et infirmières, aides-soignants et aides en service ― pourront soumettre une demande de résidence permanente par le biais d’un programme de régularisation. Par contre, certains types d’emplois ne sont pas inclus dans ce programme, notamment ceux des agents de sécurité et du personnel du service d’entretien, même si ces emplois sont occupés dans un centre hospitalier, dans un CHSLD ou dans une résidence privée pour personnes âgées.

De plus, nombre de demandeurs d’asile occupent un emploi qui a été classé comme « essentiel » par le gouvernement du Québec au début de la pandémie. On n’a qu’à penser aux employés d’épicerie, aux commis des stations-service et des pharmacies, aux livreurs d’aliments, aux cuisiniers ou aux employés de services de garde. Devrait-on régulariser aussi le statut de ces personnes ? Que dire à la mère de famille qui a perdu son emploi comme femme de chambre à cause de la COVID-19 ou au père de famille qui a perdu son emploi de serveur en raison de la pandémie ? Ces demandeurs d’asile qui se retrouvent dans une situation de vulnérabilité accrue, ne devrait-on pas les inclure dans le programme ?

Il ne faut pas oublier non plus que de nombreuses personnes qui ne sont pas des demandeurs d’asile mais qui sont en attente d’un statut au Canada (demandes humanitaires, réunification familiale) ont elles aussi occupé un emploi jugé essentiel comme préposé(e)s aux bénéficiaires. Ces personnes ne devraient-elles pas bénéficier du programme de régularisation ?

Ce programme n’est donc pas parfait ; cependant, il reconnaît le travail des « anges gardiens » de première ligne. C’est tout de même mieux que rien. Il permettra aussi aux demandeurs d’asile admissibles d’inclure dans leur demande de résidence permanente leur conjoint et leurs enfants qui se trouvent à l’extérieur du Canada.

À mon avis, le plus important, c’est de s’assurer que ceux et celles qui ont droit à ce programme de régularisation de leur statut y auront accès rapidement et que leurs dossiers seront traités dans des délais raisonnables. Il serait absurde que ces personnes doivent patienter pendant trois à cinq ans avant d’être fixées sur leur sort.

Source: La situation des demandeurs d’asile en période de COVID-19