New tool could point immigrants to spot in Canada where they’re most likely to succeed

A neat example of algorithms to assist immigrants assess their prospects although human factors such as presence of family members and community-specific food shopping and the like may be more determinate. But good that IRCC is exploring this approach. More sophisticated that the work I was involved in to develop the Canadian Index for Measuring Integration. Some good comments by Harald Bauder and Dan Hiebert:

Where should a newcomer with a background in banking settle in Canada?

What about an immigrant who’s an oil-production engineer?

Or a filmmaker?

Most newcomers flock to major Canadian cities. In doing so, some could be missing out better opportunities elsewhere.

A two-year-old research project between the federal government and Stanford University’s Immigration Policy Lab is offering hope for a tool that might someday point skilled immigrants toward the community in which they’d most likely flourish and enjoy the greatest economic success.

Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada is eyeing a pilot program to test a matching algorithm that would make recommendations as to where a new immigrant might settle, department spokesperson Remi Lariviere told the Star.

“This type of pilot would allow researchers to see if use of these tools results in real-world benefits for economic immigrants. Testing these expected gains would also allow us to better understand the factors that help immigrants succeed,” he said in an email.

“This research furthers our commitment to evidence-based decision making and enhanced client service — an opportunity to leverage technology and data to benefit newcomers, communities and the country as a whole.”

Dubbed the GeoMatch project, researchers used Canada’s comprehensive historical datasets on immigrants’ background characteristics, economic outcomes and geographic locations to project where an individual skilled immigrant might start a new life.

Machine learning methods were employed to figure out how immigrants’ backgrounds, qualifications and skillsets were related to taxable earnings in different cities, while accounting for local trends, such as population and unemployment over time.

The models were then used to predict how newcomers with similar profiles would fare across possible destinations and what their expected earnings would be. The locations would be ranked based on the person’s unique profile.

“An immigrant’s initial arrival location plays a key role in shaping their economic success. Yet immigrants currently lack access to personalized information that would help them identify optimal destinations,” says a report about the pilot that was recently obtained by the Star.

“Instead, they often rely on availability heuristics, which can lead to the selection of suboptimal landing locations, lower earnings, elevated out-migration rates and concentration in the most well-known locations,” added the study completed last summer after two years of number crunching and sophisticated modelling.

About a quarter of economic immigrants settle in one of Canada’s four largest cities, with 31 per cent of all newcomers alone destined for Toronto.

“If initial settlement patterns concentrate immigrants in a few prominent landing regions, many areas of the country may not experience the economic growth associated with immigration,” the report pointed out. “Undue concentration may impose costs in the form of congestion in local services, housing, and labour markets.”

Researchers sifted through Canada’s longitudinal immigration database and income tax records to identify 203,290 principal applicants who arrived in the country between 2012 and 2017 under the federal skilled worker program, federal skilled trades program and the Canadian Experience Class.

They tracked the individuals’ annual incomes at the end of their first full year in Canada and predicated the modelling of their economic outcomes at a particular location on a long list of predictors: age at arrival, continent of birth, education, family status, gender, intended occupation, skill level, language ability, having studied or worked in Canada, arrival year and immigration category.

Researchers found that many economic immigrants were in what might be considered the wrong place.

For instance, the report says, among economic immigrants who chose to settle in Toronto, the city only ranked around 20th on average out of the 52 selected regions across Canada in terms of maximizing expected income in the year after arrival.

“In other words, the data suggest that for the average economic immigrant who settled in Toronto, there were 19 other (places) where that immigrant had a higher expected income than in Toronto,” it explains, adding that the same trend appeared from coast to coast.

Assuming only 10 per cent of immigrants would follow a recommendation, the models suggested an average gain of $1,100 in expected annual employment income for the 2015 and 2016 skilled immigrant cohort just by settling in a better suited place. That amounted to a gain of $55 million in total income, the report says.

However, researchers also warned against the “compositional effects” such as the concentration of immigrants with a similar profile in one location, which could lower the expected incomes due to saturation. Other issues, such as an individual’s personal abilities or motivation, were also not taken into account.

The use of artificial intelligence to assist immigrant settlement is an interesting idea as it puts expected income and geography as key considerations for settlement, said Ryerson University professor Harald Bauder

“It’s not revolutionizing the immigration system. It’s another tool in our tool box to better match local market conditions with what immigrants can bring to Canada,” says Bauder, director of Ryerson’s graduate program in immigration and settlement studies.

“This mechanism is probably too complex for immigrants themselves to see how a particular location is identified. It just spits out the ranking of locations, then the person wonders how I got this ranking. Is it because of my particular education? My particular country of origin? The information doesn’t seem to be clear or accessible to the end-users.”

New immigrants often gravitate toward a destination where they have family or friends or based on the perceived availability of jobs and personal preferences regarding climate, city size and cultural diversity.

“This tool will help those who are sufficiently detached, do not have family here and are willing to go anywhere,” says Daniel Hiebert, a University of British Columbia professor who specializes in immigration policy.

“People who exercise that kind of rational detachment will simply take that advice and lead to beneficial outcomes.”

But Hiebert has reservations as to how well the modelling can predict the future success of new immigrants when they are basing the advice and recommendations on the data of the past.

“This kind of future thinking is really difficult for these models to predict. There’s too much unknown to have a good sense about the future,” he says. “These models can predict yesterday and maybe sort of today, but they cannot predict tomorrow.”

Source: New tool could point immigrants to spot in Canada where they’re most likely to succeed

Migrant workers have paid their dues and should be given a path to permanent residency

In looking at the issues related to migrant workers, it is important to unpack the different categories of these workers, ranging from the more specialized and higher skilled under the International Mobility Program to the smaller group of lower wage more vulnerable agriculture and related industry workers as shown in the chart below.

So while there is a need for stronger and higher regulation of agriculture workers and other vulnerable groups, including better and safer living conditions, the needs are lower for those coming in under the IMP (about 40 percent of IMP are from Europe and USA, in contrast to TFWP where less than 10 percent are).

Some questions. Does one need to grant permanent residency for what is essentially seasonal work in agriculture, or should the focus be on working and living conditions? If granted permanent residency, would agriculture workers remain in the sector? Do we have data on language fluency as an indicator of ease of integration or surveys that give a sense whether some workers prefer the seasonal nature of the work or not?

Canada has expanded its temporary migration system to bring in a steady supply of exploitable and interchangeable migrant workers who are coerced into accepting low wages and miserable working conditions below standards that Canadians would accept. Now, exposure to COVID-19 has been added to the terms of the bargain.

As scholars, researchers, and teachers of immigration in Canada, we urge our government to adopt long overdue measures to end the vulnerability and exploitation of migrant workers—many of whom are now deemed essential. A litany of studies and reports have long documented the adverse health, human rights, economic, and living conditions experienced by migrant workers, particularly among those in “low-wage positions” and in agriculture.

Contracting COVID-19 is just the latest price these essential workers have paid for sustaining Canada’s economy. Since March 2020, in the agricultural sector alone, more than 1,000 migrant workers have contracted COVID-19, and three workers have died. Migrant workers are also heavily represented in meat-packing plants, and long-term care facilities. Migrant workers do not bring the virus to Canada; the virus infects them here, because the system fails to ensure that workers live and work in safe environments.

Canada’s economy has hundreds of thousands of permanent jobs that depend on temporary migrant workers—harvesting crops, caring for children and the elderly, working in construction and meat packing, and a host of jobs across the service sector. Yet, the numbers of “temporary” migrant workers have skyrocketed—driven, unchecked, by employer demand, while governments and sectors spend little resources on protecting the health and safety of migrant workers. And, the system remains unchallenged, in part because workers do not have universal protection of collective bargaining rights, and employers vote; migrant workers do not.

Under numerous temporary worker program streams, Canada has annually rendered some 300,000 migrants a permanent underclass. Most come from the global south. Many are required to leave families behind, and must leave Canada when their visas expire. As a racialized workforce, their precarious position in the country is a marker of systemic racism. Despite their essential contributions to the Canadian economy, most have no direct pathway to permanent residency.

Migrant workers understandably fear retribution if they complain, try to improve their working conditions, seek health care, or attempt labour organizing. For doing so, precarious migrant workers can face abuse, termination of employment, loss of earnings and future employment, loss of status, and deportation.

Now is the perfect time to rectify this wrong. Canadians recognize, as never before, the essential contribution immigrants and migrant workers make to this country. Further, Canada will fall far short of its annual immigration targets due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Canada aimed to admit 340,000 immigrants this year as permanent residents. Only about half that number will actually arrive. Future intake will also lag.

Canada needs permanent resident immigrants to address the challenges of its socio-demographic realities. Low birth rates, an aging population, and rural depopulation mean long-term skills shortages and labour market gaps across the country. Continuing to fill these gaps through temporary intake programs hurts not only migrant workers but also deprives hundreds of smaller communities of revitalization from the immigration advantage of permanent settlement.

It is a popular misconception that Canada does migrant workers a favour by allowing them to work hard, for little money, in hazardous and degrading conditions. The truth is that we are in their debt. We can no longer continue treating this work as essential and the people who do it as dispensable.

Migrant workers have paid their dues to Canada. It’s time for Canada to reciprocate by offering them permanent residency.

Dr. Harald Bauder is a professor and director of the Immigration Settlement and Studies Program, Ryerson University. Dr. Jenna Hennebry is an associate professor, International Migration Research Centre, Balsillie School of International Affairs, Wilfrid Laurier University. Audrey Macklin is a professor, Faculty of Law, University of Toronto. Dr. Myer Siemiatycki, is a professor emeritus and past founding director, Immigration Settlement and Studies Program, Ryerson University.

Source: Migrant workers have paid their dues and should be given a path to permanent residency

It’s Time For Canada To Truly Open Its Borders

Provocative though piece by Harald Bauder of Ryerson.

Important part of the conversation as the distinctions between the various classes are less clear cut than they might appear (e.g., about half the economic class are family members). However, unclear how this approach would a) be managed and b) would enjoy any broader public support (IMO, not):

Between Jan. 1 and April 30, 7,600 asylum seekers crossed irregularly from the U.S. into Canada and were apprehended by the RCMP.

Theseborder crossings are often blamed on a tweet by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau from January 2017 in reaction to U.S. President Donald Trump’s travel ban: “To those fleeing persecution, terror & war, Canadians will welcome you.”

I suggest that Trudeau’s well-intended tweet did not go far enough. He should have presented an open-borders vision to counter xenophobic rhetoric, anti-immigrant panic and suspicion emanating from south of the border and discourage similar sentiments from gaining momentum in Canada.

An open-borders policy entails that all people regardless of citizenship, origin, wealth or skills are permitted to enter Canada, and no one would need to cross the border irregularly. Criminals, however, could still be stopped for smuggling or trafficking.

This open-borders scenario may be dismissed as absurd. But so was gender equality 100 years ago. Even though we still have a long way to go to achieve equality between women, men and LGTBQ+ people, today many Canadians are proud that the bold vision of equality has guided their political path.

By embracing an open-border vision, Canada could reassert itself as a world leader of forward-looking migration policies.

Unfortunately, Canada is losing this opportunity.

Rather than embracing the 7,600 asylum seekers who arrived in Canada in the first four months of this year, Immigration Minister Ahmed Hussen respondedthat “we do not appreciate or welcome irregular migration” and that there is “no free ticket to Canada.” The Liberal government wants to spend an additional $173 million to prevent unauthorized border crossing — a figure that conservatives say is not enough.

What if Hussen had instead announced that we appreciate and welcome all migration, and are working on dismantling immigration barriers?

As a political aspiration, the open-borders vision does not mean that border controls must immediately be abolished. Our welfare, health care, education and other public service systems are not set up to cope with free migration. As borders are gradually opened, we would need to find ways to ensure that health care and other social services are paid for, that everyone is making equitable contributions, and that our labour and educational standards are protected. By the same token, open borders would mean that foreign seasonal agricultural workers could stay and actually redeem the employment insurance and other contributions they are making.

The case can be made from across the political spectrum.

What speaks especially for open borders as a political aspiration is that the case can be made from across the political spectrum.

Political liberals argue that denying people entry into a country based on the citizenship they acquired at birth is akin to feudal privilege. Modern democracies reject such birth privilege. If borders were open, then a person born in a country with unfavourable conditions could move to a country where conditions are more favourable. Free cross-border mobility should be a fundamental liberty. Liberal thinkers like Phillip Cole pursue such arguments.

Free-market supporters would agree. Distorting the free mobility of labour across national borders causes economic inefficiencies. By eliminating this source of market distortion, open borders would reduce international wage differentials and improve the economic efficiency of national and global economies. None other than Ronald Reagan suggested during the 1980 U.S. presidential primary debate to “open the border both ways” between the U.S. and Mexico so that workers can enter the U.S. and pay taxes there.

Critics of market capitalism, such as British author and activist Teresa Hayter, also support open borders. They argue that borders are an instrument of oppression. Border restrictions apply predominantly to poor and low-skill workers, creating what Karl Marx once called a “labour reserve army” that can be exploited in low-wage countries, such as Mexico or Bangladesh, where wages and labour standards are low. Open borders would eliminate this source of exploitation.

The list of positions supporting open borders goes on: open border would be a way to end a form of global apartheid; cross-border mobility would disproportionately benefit women; remittances would help distribute the benefits of open borders to the global south; and even conservative Christianvoices advocate for open borders.

From a practical viewpoint, open borders would prevent thousands of deaths every year globally. At last count, the International Organization for Migrationrecorded more than 1,400 migrant fatalities worldwide in 2018 alone — almost 800 lives were lost in the Mediterranean Sea and 113 along the U.S.-Mexico border. And these numbers keep rising. Borders have become deadly because states are keeping migrants from crossing them. Opening them would stop the deaths.

Borders are already largely open to information and the environment. Over the last 40 years, we have also relinquished much control over the cross-border movement of money, goods and services through international trade agreements. Open borders for people are the logical next step. Regressing to mid-20th Century nationalism — as Donald Trump apparently seeks to achieve — is a path many Canadians reject.

Because the case for open borders can be made from various ideological and practical positions, it serves as a powerful political vision to counter the closed-border rhetoric steeped in fear and intolerance. With so much xenophobic rhetoric, anti-migrant panic and suspicion on the rise in many parts of the world, we need this bold vision more than ever.

Source: It’s Time For Canada To Truly Open Its Borders

Let’s Give Cities A Greater Role In Managing Migration | Harald Bauder

Worth reflecting upon:

National migration policies play an important part in ordering our society based on origin and status. Canadian temporary foreign workers and international mobility programs have resulted in more than 350,000 foreign workers living in Canada in 2014, often without the same economic rights and entitlements that Canadian citizens take for granted — including the right to stay.

Cities have a different approach to migration. They are not in the business of controlling who crosses and settles within their boundaries, or ordering their communities based on where residents are coming from. Rather, their role is to be inclusive and provide access to resources and services for all residents.

Granted, some city administrations are eager to enforce national migration policies and actively participate in the border regime. Research by my colleague at York University, Liette Gilbert, shows how smaller towns such as Hérouxville, Quebec, and Hazleton, Pennsylvania, have introduced measures that erode the rights of migrants and control their presence.

Many other cities, however, resist exclusionary national policies and border regimes. For example, by declaring themselves sanctuary cities, Toronto and Hamilton have recognized that the residents who are denied status by national policies are nevertheless members of their communities. In this way, dozens of sanctuary cities throughout North America are seeking to build inclusive urban communities in which all residents can equally participate — independent of the order which border regimes impose.

In a globalized world, nation states are increasingly failing to cope with the human need for security and desire to migrate.

Urban communities are also highly responsive to global developments and the need for people to migrate for work and opportunity, and to escape from war and oppression. Take Lifeline Syria as an example: this initiative was spearheaded by civic leaders of Greater Toronto to mobilize fellow residents to sponsor Syrian refugee families and help these families settle in their communities. While the federal government is an important partner in this initiative, it is the urban community that has demonstrated leadership.

Cities are demanding a greater role in managing migration and are asserting their independence from national migration policies that disenfranchise large portions of their residents.

In a globalized world, nation states are increasingly failing to cope with the human need for security and desire to migrate. As cities fill this void, they must maintain their inclusive approach and resist being absorbed into the deadly border regime.

Source: Let’s Give Cities A Greater Role In Managing Migration | Harald Bauder

Shaping the future of Canada’s immigration system

A number of opinions on the issues set out in the current immigration consultations (see earlier Collacott: Immigration ‘conversation” is public relations exerciseIRCC Discussion guide on immigration: What about citizenship?).

In addition to my comments below, views of Debbie Douglas (faster processing of family reunification), Harald Bauder (more funding for settlement, pathways from temporary to permanent residency), Jeff Reitz (greater efforts on employment) and the Conference Board (increased immigration levels, spread across the country):

Having inherited an immigration system plagued with backlogs and heavy-handed enforcement, the Liberal government says it’s keen to hear what you think needs to be done about Canada’s immigration future.

Since the beginning of the summer, Immigration Minister John McCallum and his parliamentary secretary, Arif Virani, have held more than two dozen roundtable meetings across Canada with settlement services organizations, businesses and community groups to get their thoughts.

Although the meetings are by invitation only — more are coming in August — the public can submit ideas by email to the minister. Since early July, more than 2,500 online submissions have been received. Submissions end Aug. 5.

“Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada will be reviewing the feedback from Canadians to help guide decisions on how many people we will welcome in the coming years and the future of immigration in Canada,” said a department spokesperson.

While the final report won’t be ready till at least the fall, the Star interviewed a group of immigration experts to weigh in on the national dialogue by identifying gaps in the system and offering solutions.

Meaningful and accessible citizenship:

Andrew Griffith, a former director general at the immigration department, said Canada largely has its immigration policies and programs right, but an independent review by a royal commission would be helpful.

He said the consultation questions are biased towards economic class immigrants and miss out on important areas such as citizenship.

“Most immigrants choose to become citizens as part of their integration into Canadian society. If we believe in immigration integration, we should support political integration, in addition to economic, social and cultural,” said Griffith.

“The main instrument for doing so is citizenship, given that allows for full participation in the political process.”

Canada’s naturalization rate has been declining, from the peak of 93.3 per cent for immigrants who came before 1971, to just 36.7 per cent among those who arrived between 2006 and 2007.

Griffith said Ottawa must set targets for naturalization as a benchmark, to assess whether its policies strike the right balance in making citizenship accessible and meaningful.

Officials must also regularly review citizenship requirements to ensure that different ethnic groups and immigration classes (economic, family and refugees) have comparable outcomes. Reducing the hefty application fee from the current $530 would make citizenship more financially accessible.

Source: Shaping the future of Canada’s immigration system | Toronto Star

The Hill Times has the political reaction to the (trial balloon?) of differential immigration fees:

The federal government is seeking public feedback on letting some immigration applicants pay more for faster processing.

That idea is one of many put forward in an online consultation document the government is asking members of the public to fill out as it gears up for an overhaul of the immigration processing system.

The NDP’s immigration critic and a pair of Liberal and NDP MPs say bringing in a two-tiered Canadian immigration system is out of the question.

“I wouldn’t support it,” said NDP immigration critic Jenny Kwan (Vancouver East, B.C.). “By doing that, effectively you’re saying you can buy your way into the system and bypass everybody.”

“They’re absolutely creating a two-tiered system if that were to proceed,” she said.

However, Liberal MP Peter Fonseca (Mississauga East-Cooksville, Ont.) and a Toronto immigration lawyer say such a system could help to improve immigration processing.

The issue is one close to MPs’ hearts as much of their constituency work is tied up in helping constituents with immigration questions, including application processing.

Many MPs have two staffers in their riding offices and at least one attends to constituents’ immigration needs. The most common complaints of constituents about immigration issues are related to long delays in the processing times of applications for family reunification, refugees, spousal sponsorship, temporary foreign workers, visitor visas, and Canadian citizenship applications.

Immigration reform