US Congress Reincarnates Discrimination Against American Citizens Because of Who They Marry

Sigh…:

In 1907, Congress passed a law that punished US citizen women for marrying “foreigners.” In March of 1931, Congress rejected this discrimination. But in March of 2020, Congress reincarnated it by passing a law that punishes both US citizen men and women who are married to non-citizens. The March 2020 CARES Act was designed to help support American families during the coronavirus crisis by providing payment through the Internal Revenue Service (IRS). But it punishes US citizens because they have non-citizen spouses, even when they have correctly filed income tax forms. This gives new life to the legally rejected historical animosity against US citizens who married non-citizens. This reversion conflicts with modern law that recognizes the agency and authority of married women and men, respects an individual’s choice about marriage, and supports a fundamental right to family. Further, it undermines American citizens’ statutory right to request that their non-citizen spouses live with them in the United States.

The CARES Act denies stimulus checks to US citizens who have filed their income tax forms with their social security numbers and the Individual Taxpayer Identification Numbers (ITIN) of their non-citizen spouses. Other citizens who filed their joint family tax returns for 2018 and or 2019 are eligible to receive desperately needed aid to support their families during the coronavirus crisis.

The CARES Act reverts back to the prior century’s hostility to citizens, particularly women, who married non-citizens. In 1915, the US Supreme Court in Mackenzie v. Hare upheld the constitutionality of the 1907 law that resulted in the involuntary loss of a woman’s US citizenship if she married a “foreigner.” Ethel Mackenzie was a life-long resident of California married to a British citizen living with her in California. She lost her citizenship because of her marriage when she attempted to fulfill another civic responsibility: voting. The 1907 law was grounded in the concept of coverture that removed a married women’s rights on the premise that she was subordinate to and controlled by her “foreign” husband. In 1931, Congress rejected punishment against citizens married to non-citizens by passing a law that prevented the loss of citizenship through marriage to a “foreigner.” Married women, as well as men, were then legally respected as persons with agency and authority in their choice of spouses and family life.

Further, in 1965, Congress established family unity as a predominant basis for migration. The legislation rejected prior discriminatory criteria based on nationality, race, and gender. It afforded a statutory right to US citizens wishing to live in the US with their non-citizen immediate relatives, including spouses. The right to family unity as a spouse belongs to the US citizen. The citizen must file a petition for her spouse, and only if that petition is approved may the non-citizen spouse apply for permanent residency that then allows application for a social security number. But this already lengthy process was subject to delays by the Trump administration before the coronavirus crisis and has now been blocked by the United States Citizen and Immigration Services’ (USCIS) processing suspensions.

The Migration Policy Institute states that over 1.2 million citizens are married to non-citizens who are not yet permanent residents. The Department of Homeland Security reported that in 2018 about 268,000 spouses of US citizens became permanent residents. The six female and male US citizen plaintiffs in a lawsuit challenging this CARES Act provision have been married to their non-citizen spouses between two and six years. Additionally, each family has between one and five US citizen children.

Denying US citizens needed support in the face of a crisis because they file taxes with a spouse’s ITIN number undermines their right to marriage and family. This is especially harsh when the USCIS’s reaction to the coronavirus crisis prevents citizens from moving forward in the process to obtain their spouses’ legal residencies and social security numbers.

The CARES Act reverts to an irrational hostility against Americans married to “foreigners.” It discriminates against male and female citizens even though they have made an extra effort to correctly file income taxes. Non-citizens without social security numbers are required to file and pay taxes by applying for individual taxpayer identification numbers. Citizens and their spouses who went through the trouble of obtaining an ITIN number to file taxes were doing their best to meet their civic responsibility.

It makes no sense to punish anyone for trying to correctly file income taxes. But the CARES legislation is egregious as it reestablishes an irrational antagonism to “the foreign” that historically harmed Americans because of their choice of marriage.  Such a premise was rightfully rejected almost 90 years ago. It should not have been reincarnated now.

Source: Congress Reincarnates Discrimination Against American Citizens Because of Who They Marry

Child marriage ‘legal and ongoing’ in Canada, researcher finds

Not clear whether the definition used is the UN one (under 18) or the Canadian federal Civil Marriage Act of 16, although likely the latter. An average of 188 per year:

Ontario, Alberta and Quebec have licensed the most child marriages in the last 18 years, said professor Alissa Koski, who researches the practice in Canada

Since 2017, Canada’s government under Justin Trudeau’s Liberals has conducted foreign policy with an explicitly “feminist” approach, especially as it relates to sexual and reproductive health rights.

Part of that has involved trying to eradicate child marriage overseas. Canada is a leader and key funder of United Nations efforts to end child marriage, which is regarded as a revealing measure of a country’s development.

But there is a curious blind spot.

“There’s been absolutely no reflection on the fact that it remains legal in Canada,” said Alissa Koski, who researches child marriage in Canada as an assistant professor at McGill University’s Department of Epidemiology, Biostatistics and Occupational Health.

The bizarre result is that Canada legally permits the very practices it condemns and combats in the developing world.

Child marriage in Canada “is legal and ongoing,” Koski concludes, and not as a rare legal quirk in niche communities of religious extremists, as media coverage often suggests.

Provinces have, in fact, issued marriage licences for 3,382 children over the last 18 years, according to Koski’s presentation to the Congress of the Humanities and Social Sciences in Vancouver.

In absolute numbers, Ontario sanctioned the most child marriages with 1,353 since 2000, then Alberta with 791, Quebec with 590 and British Columbia with 429. She adds that her results likely “underestimate the true extent of the practice.”

It has happened in every region, Koski said. The vast majority are girls; and compared to boys, girls marry at younger ages and to substantially older spouses.

The rate is highest in Alberta, at five girls per 10,000, and one boy as measured by data from the year 2016, or three children total per 10,000.

Her discovery that Canada has approved at least 3,382 child marriages since 2000 is based on data from vital statistics offices, which indicates the marriage happened in Canada, but otherwise offers limited information. Further work with census data might offer a clearer picture of demographics, although with the added caveat that it will include marriages that happened in other countries before the person came to Canada.

In the United States, the rate of child marriage is about 6.2 children per 1000, higher in girls than boys (6.8 vs 5.7), lower among white people, higher among Indigenous and Chinese, and ranging from less than four children per 1,000 in Maine, Rhode Island and Wyoming, to as much as 10 per 1,000 in West Virginia, Hawaii and North Dakota, according to Koski’s previous studies of child marriage in America.

Her doctoral research was on child marriage in sub-Saharan Africa and India, which fits with the common imagination of the phenomenon as “something that happens elsewhere,” as Koski put it.

For example, her separate research on Canadian media coverage of the issue shows it is almost entirely about Canada’s efforts to eradicate child marriage abroad. The few exceptions are focused on specific religious minorities, primarily the fundamentalist Mormons in Bountiful, B.C., and the fundamentalist Jewish sect Lev Tahor, first in Ste-Agathe-Des-Monts, Que., later in Chatham, Ont.

Canada’s federal Civil Marriage Act sets the minimum age for marriage at 16. Provinces, which administer the licensing, require parental consent for people younger than 18.

But the United Nations, and Canada through its participation in its various programs and documents, regards child marriage as marriage of a child, which is to say someone younger than 18.

The reasons are well known. The proportion of girls who marry before 18 is used as a quantifiable measure of a country’s development progress, Koski said, and it is widely considered a violation of human rights. Research in the US has shown higher mental illness and substance abuse in women who married as girls.

“Child marriage is associated with poor health and economic outcomes, particularly for girls,” she said.

Koski said there seems to be a general political reluctance to raise the age to 18, part of which involves concerns over infringing on religious freedom.

Source: Child marriage ‘legal and ongoing’ in Canada, researcher finds

A man ‘cannot do that to a woman’: Why polygamy in Canadian Muslim community could be another #MeToo moment

Good investigative reporting and alarming that some Canadian imams will perform marriage ceremonies with second wives:

Zaib’s life began to unravel with an unexpected phone call from her husband in early 2018.

He told her he had married a second wife, an announcement that took the Toronto woman by surprise.

“I went into shock mode. I was in a state of denial, saying no, no, this can’t be happening. I started getting the symptoms of anxiety, depression and crying spells,” Zaib told CBC’s The Fifth Estate.

Zaib, whose last name CBC has agreed to withhold, said she got so sick her doctor recommended an extended leave of absence from work.

Zaib and other Canadian Muslim women in a similar predicament believe this could be their own #MeToo moment, an opportunity to speak out and demand an end to the practice of polygamy in Canada’s Muslim community.

“All the other women are quiet, not saying anything. Maybe if I say a thing or two, that will bring attention to this issue because this is the law and men are breaking it right, left and centre and nobody’s saying anything to them,” said Zaib.

She feels there should be accountability on the part of men.

“A man should know he cannot do that to a woman — you use her and then decide you’re going to have another fresh woman and you just leave her on the side like that.”

Determination to move on

Zaib’s husband tried to reassure her that he had no intention of abandoning her or their three adult children. Zaib said he told her: “I am going to still provide for you, take care of you and the kids. You can continue living the way you’re living and it’s just going to be one extended family.”

As the weeks went by, Zaib said she became increasingly convinced that her 26-year marriage was over. She was 19 when her parents arranged her marriage to her husband, who is 20 years her senior.

Looking back at her marriage, Zaib said she was happy. “Whatever was my destiny I got it.”

Zaib was born in Pakistan and her husband was born in India, but after their marriage in Saudi Arabia, they moved to Canada in the mid-1990s.

Zaib, who speaks multiple languages, found work as a translator in Toronto. But as employment opportunities for her husband dried up in Canada, he went to the United States in search of work and was away from the family for weeks at a time.

After she spent two months trying to figure out what to do with her life, Zaib’s husband returned to Toronto for a scheduled visit.

Realizing that Zaib was unwilling to accept his decision, he suggested they seek the counsel of their local imam. Zaib said the imam listened to both of them, but then told her husband that although Islamic law allowed polygamy, plural marriages are banned in Canada.

CBC reached out to Zaib’s husband, who is not being named to protect his wife’s identity, but did not receive a response.

In 2011, the B.C. Supreme Court upheld the section of the Criminal Code that prohibits polygamy as constitutional and ruled that the harm against women and children from polygamy far outweighs concerns over protecting religious freedom.

‘Unfair to women’

The Canadian Council of Imams, which represents the majority of imams in Canada, has declared that polygamous marriages, permitted according to the Qur’an, are nevertheless not valid because they are a violation of Canadian law.

The majority of Muslim jurists say a Muslim man is permitted to take up to four wives, but only if he can treat them all fairly and with justice.

In some Middle Eastern countries, polygamy is regulated and the second, third or fourth wife, has legal rights. But that’s not the case in Canada, says Imam Hamid Slimi of the Sayeda Khadija Centre in Mississauga, Ont.

“The way polygamy is practised today is unfair to women,” Slimi said.

Imam Hamid Slimi of the Sayeda Khadija Centre in Mississauga, Ont., has preached openly against the practice of polygamy in Canada. (CBC)

In a recent sermon at his centre, Slimi told his congregation that polygamy “was permitted for a certain time and within a certain context in the past, hundreds of years ago, but here in Canada, it’s not allowed and 95 or 99 per cent of women don’t agree with this and I am talking about Muslim women.”

Although Slimi was head of the Canadian Council of Imams for more than a decade and has preached openly against the practice of polygamy in Canada, he admits that it continues.

It continues in part because an imam is not required to solemnize a marriage in the Islamic faith. Anyone with a basic requisite knowledge of the Qur’an and the prophetic traditions can officiate a nikah — or marriage — ceremony.

But Slimi insists that all nikahs or marriages, whether conducted by an imam or not, should be registered with the authorities to ensure that they comply with the law.

Zaib’s not alone

Over the last several months, a team at the The Fifth Estate talked to nearly a dozen women from the Greater Toronto Area, which has an extremely diverse population of more than half a million Muslims.

According to Statistics Canada, there are more than one million Muslims in Canada, but when it comes to polygamous marriages in the community, it is impossible to quantify because these marriages are most likely never registered.

The women The Fifth Estate spoke with are or were wives of Sunni imams and prominent community leaders and all share a common story to that of Zaib.

“I thought this doesn’t happen in Canada. It’s illegal and maybe there are some consequences, but to my surprise, when I went into the situation, I have a friend, I spoke with her and found out she’s getting a divorce because her husband [has] a second wife,” said Zaib.

The first wives who shared their story with CBC did so on condition that their identities not be revealed to protect themselves and their children from a potential backlash within the Muslim community.

When we were married, my husband told me his religious teacher said it was permissible for a man to lie to his wife about taking a second wife if the intention is to keep her happy and to keep the peace. – Alima

After 18 years of marriage and three children, Alima, not her real name, demanded her husband grant her a divorce after he confessed last summer that he had done a nikah to another woman. At the time, Alima found out the second wife was pregnant with her husband’s child.

“When we were married,” Alima said, “my husband told me his religious teacher said it was permissible for a man to lie to his wife about taking a second wife if the intention is to keep her happy and to keep the peace.”

After their divorce, Alima said, “I had to work on keeping my faith, otherwise, I may have lost it completely.”

Another woman, Kareema, a friend of Alima, is also struggling to keep her faith having experienced a similar ordeal. Kareema, not her real name, converted to Islam and got married to her husband in Toronto in 2000. After giving birth to the youngest of three children in 2016, Kareema said, her husband began having an affair.

“A prominent imam in Toronto advised him to marry (nikah) the woman to avoid commiting the sin of adultery,” said Kareema. “Instead of correcting the wrong that my husband was doing, the imam compounded it with another wrong.”

Kareema said she confronted the second wife and when her husband found out, he assaulted her. “It took two years for me to leave him.”

Kareema said the #MeToo movement has awakened her and Alima and although they wish to speak up, they remain afraid for their safety and the security of their children.

According to court records obtained by the The Fifth Estate, another prominent Toronto imam attacked his wife and sent her to hospital after she confronted him on his “secret nikah” to another woman. After years of marriage and two children, her marriage to him recently ended in a divorce.

‘I see nothing wrong with it’

Issa is a convert to Islam and a chef in Toronto who says he is open to the idea of taking a second wife, although he is well aware it is an offence punishable in Canada with up to a maximum of five years in prison.

“I see nothing wrong with it. It’s part of our religion. That’s why I am open to it and I accept it.”

Issa, who asked to be identified by his Muslim name, said when he married his wife in an Islamic ceremony, they agreed not to register their marriage, a legal requirement in Canada.

Issa mistakenly believes that when he eventually takes a second wife he cannot be accused of breaking the law since none of his marriages would be registered with the authorities.

When asked what his wife thinks of his decision, he said, “My wife’s a woman, so you know, most of the times women don’t like it, but she accepts it. She understands that this is our religion. This is what Allah has allowed for us, so she definitely accepts it.”

Finding second wives

It is not that difficult for men like Issa to find second wives. Several Muslim matrimonial websites have sprung up worldwide catering to men seeking polygamous relationships and to women who are open to such arrangements.

A producer with The Fifth Estate registered himself on two websites and was soon communicating with women who were interested in being a second wife.

One of the women who expressed an interest in a polygamous marriage was Haleemah, a Toronto-area resident and a convert to Islam.

Haleemah is single and divorced with two adult children. She said she would accept a polygamous marriage but with conditions.

“I have had Muslims ask me in the past, ‘Would you like to be a second wife?’ and I would say if I was in a polygamist marriage and the first wife was accepting of this, I would welcome her and help her in any way I can because I’ve been through raising a family,” she said.

Asked whether the illegality of polygamy was a concern for her, she said while she was aware it was illegal, “in some situations, I think some imams are willing to help.”

Some imans known to help men find second wives

Many of the women who told The Fifth Estate their husbands had taken second wives pointed out a number of imams in Ontario who are known to assist Muslim women like Haleemah in finding husbands who are already married, and who help match men like Issa to aspiring second wives.

The Fifth Estate wanted to put the rumours that were circulating in Toronto about some imams to the test and sent a married Muslim man undercover.

Of the six imams who were approached, two declined to perform a nikah ceremony for a married man. Two congratulated the undercover for his decision to take a second wife and recommended other Ontario imams whom they said would perform the nikah.

Two imams agreed to perform the nikah ceremony for the married undercover. One said it would cost $450 and suggested three locations in Toronto where the ceremony could take place.

The second imam, Aly Hindy, serves as the imam at the Salaheddin mosque in the east end of Toronto. He charges a standard fee of $200 for a nikah ceremony, regardless of whether it is a first, second or third marriage. He offered to supply the two male witnesses required by Islamic law.

After showing the undercover a copy of the marriage certificate he would receive, Hindy provided his own interpretation of Canadian law.

“We have no problem with the government because we are not going to register. If you register, then it is illegal, because you are already married.”

‘Let them sue me’

In an interview with The Fifth Estate, CBC’s Habiba Nosheen showed Hindy the undercover video of him agreeing to conduct a second marriage for a man who was already married and asked him for his reaction.

“So? Sue me. Let them sue me. We follow the law because we’re not registering a second marriage,” he said.

When asked to explain why he endorses the practice of polygamy in violation of Canadian law, he insisted the law should be changed.

When pressed for an explanation, Hindy described it as a “garbage law,” and said “eventually we’re going to recognize that there’s not enough men for each woman.”

“Many women will not be able to get married because there are not enough men because men die in wars, children die early and there are more boys than girls. Plus you also lose some number of men to homosexual marriages.”

Nosheen suggested the law will not change because people chose not to respect it, to which Hindy said, “OK, the law cannot be enforced.”

Enforcing the law

Toronto lawyer Sabha Hazai, who sits on the board of the Canadian Council of Muslim Women,  is spearheading a project aimed at educating Muslim women on their legal rights when getting married. She said the current law lacks teeth.

“It’s up to the lawmakers and it’s up to the courts now. How do they want to address polygamy? Are they going to start looking at enforcing the law? Are there going to be criminal prosecutions?

“Are there going to be convictions? Can you call the police and say: ‘My husband’s in a second marriage, please charge him for it?’ ”

The law has never been tested in respect to the practice of polygamy among Canadian Muslims.

When asked for his reaction to imams who perform polygamous marriages, Slimi was unequivocal.

“What upsets me is if we want to be part of Canada and call ourselves Canadian Muslims, we have to be part of this society.”

Polygamy, he said, “was permissible and it’s permissible in other countries, but it’s illegal here. The issue is not because I have a choice, I don’t have a choice.”

For women like Zaib, there is no compromise on the issue of polygamy in Canada.

“I’m going to be living the rest of my life with a burden and I know myself, I thought the best way, just let him go live his life and I’ll figure out my own life.”

Source: A man ‘cannot do that to a woman’: Why polygamy in Canadian Muslim community could be another #MeToo moment

A New Troubling Trend for International Students Coming to Canada

Anecdote-based but incentive structures are there. Hard to devise cost effective detection and enforcement strategies. Surprisingly, Flora has no specific proposals to curb such abuse:

The desire to emigrate has increased so much among the Punjabi community in India that people are doing everything they can to leave their country and reach foreign shores — even employing such extreme methods as using human traffickers, or wilfully violating immigration laws.

But in recent years, a new trend is emerging. It’s very simple: If a person can’t come to Canada on his own or as an international student, they still come to Canada at the price of an international student’s expense.

This was a big surprise to me. I was waiting on my Brampton street for the school bus to drop off my daughter, when a group of young women walked by.

“Oh study is so expensive here,” said one. Another girl said, “Maybe for you, but I’m not even paying a dime!”

The other girls were surprised. “How is that?” asked the first girl.

As the girl explained, there was a family in India whose son badly wanted to emigrate to Canada. They did everything, but no luck. But this girl was a bright student and easily qualified for a student visa.

“So we made the deal,” she explained. “They pay all my expenses, from airline fare to the college fees, books… right down to my boarding and lodging, and all my living expenses in Canada. In return, we’ll get the boy to Canada by proving that we are married.”

Our people are nothing if not creative. But the simplicity of the scheme took my breath away.

According to Canadian law, if an international student is married, they can bring their spouse over and the spouse can acquire a work permit for the duration of the student’s period of study.  So the young man’s side takes on the financial burden, while the young woman gets her “husband” across and completes her four-year degree.

Assuming the age of the fiance is about 18 to 22 years at the time they arrive, over the next four or five years they become permanent residents. After that they get divorced, at around the age of 23-26 years. They then find their original life partners and settle their life in Canada. Both sides part ways happily and go their separate ways. A good business transaction indeed.

In recent years, the Punjabi community has already made itself famous for fake marriages. Such fake marriages have not completely stopped, but the system has been tightened up.

According to the Canadian Bureau of International Education, in Canada in 2016, there were 353,000 international students in Canada. Among this tally, 34% were from China and 14%  from India. From 2008 to 2015, the number of international students coming to Canada also increased 92%. Data from a 2010 government report tells us that international students brought almost $8 billion of tuition fees into the economy and spurred the creation of 81,000 new jobs.

These figures show Canada needs international students. But it is also true that there is no need for unnecessary attempts to follow the wrong path. Will the Liberal government pay attention to this spurious trend?

One more fallout of such creativity is that the immigration department is unable to tell the difference between true and false marriages. Consequently, genuine cases are affected.

The rise in fake marriages has many Punjabi community organizations concerned about this issue enough to pressure the federal government to make changes in immigration laws to prevent such fraud.

At the end of the day, it’s not the system that’s the problem, it’s us who misuse it by hook or by crook, to fulfill our dreams. And it needs to stop.

via GUEST COLUMN: A new troubling trend for international students coming to Canada | Toronto Sun

International students in B.C. could be in fake marriage schemes: Douglas Todd

The ingenuity of persons wanting to come to Canada knows no bounds. No hard numbers but widespread anecdotes indicate that there is an issue (India sends the second largest number of students to Canada after China: 77,000 in 2016):

The newspaper ads in India are the visible tip of a booming underground industry in fake marriages involving would-be international students.

The prize for the “spouse” whose family buys an instant marriage with a foreign student is back-door access to a full-time job in Canada and a fast-track to citizenship.

The matrimonial ads normally promise that the foreign students’ sham marriage, plus all travel and study expenses, will be paid for by the Indian families who are determined to have their son or daughter emigrate.

The type of Indian student the ads seek is usually a teenage girl, who must have passed an English-language test and therefore be in line to be accepted as an international student.

Media outlets in India, such as the Hindustan Times, report there is a “booming matrimony market for ‘brides’ who can earn the ‘groom’” coveted status as a migrant to a Western country.

Canada is among the most sought-after destinations for Indian foreign students, say migration specialists, because it is the most generous toward foreign students and their spouses. Australia has also been popular, but recently tightened its rules.

Here is a typical recent ad from one Punjabi-language newspaper in India, Ajit:

“Jatt Sikh, boy, 24 years old, 5 feet 10 inches, needs girl with IELTS band 7. Marriage real or fake. Boy’s side will pay all expenses.”

The ad is listed by a high-caste “Jatt” Sikh male, or more likely his parents. It seeks a contractual marriage with a young woman who has scored well (“band 7”) on an international exam called “IELTS,” the International English Language Testing System. Almost three million IELTS exams are conducted each year.

Here is another ad, from the newspaper Jagbani:

“Barbar Sikh, 24, 5 feet 8 inches. Finished Grade 12. Looking for BSc or IELTS pass girl. Boy’s side will pay all expenses to go to Canada.”

In this ad the family of a lower-caste “Barbar Sikh” is seeking to have their son marry an Indian female with a bachelors of science degree, or a passing mark on the IELTS test, so their son can be allowed into Canada as her spouse.

As these kinds of ads illustrate, the parents of the male “spouse” typically offer to cover all expenses for the international student, who often end up attending one of the scores of private colleges in Canada with low to non-existent standards.

B.C. is home to 130,000 international students, the vast majority of whom are in Metro Vancouver, which has the highest concentration of foreign students in Canada.

In exchange for financing the foreign student, the phony spouse gets to live in Canada and legally work up to 40 hours a week, plus receive medical coverage and other benefits. That puts them in a strong position to become permanent residents of Canada.

The foreign-student marriage rackets are gaining attention in newspapers in India.

Indian media are reporting angry fallout when students financed by other families either fail to get into a Western college or university, or try to break up with their spouses of convenience.

Kwantlen Polytechnic University political scientist Shinder Purewal, a former Canadian citizenship court judge, says Punjabi- and Hindi-language newspapers in India run dozens of such ads each week.

“Families are looking for matches to get their sons or daughters abroad. And the most successful route to Canada is through international-student channels. It’s an easy way to get immigration,” said Purewal.

Source: International students in B.C. could be in fake marriage schemes | Vancouver Sun

Liberals repeal Conservative immigrant residency requirement targeting marriage fraud

Balance of risks but tend to share Dench’s view that marriage fraud was blown out of proportion, reflecting a few high profile cases:

The Liberal government is repealing a measure brought in by the Conservatives that required newcomers to live with their sponsoring spouse for two years or face deportation.

The conditional permanent residency status policy, which kicked in October 2012, was designed to clamp down on marriage fraud. But immigrant advocates said it had the effect of trapping some people in violent, abusive relationships.

Scrapping the two-year probation for permanent residency checks off another 2015 Liberal campaign promise, which the government signalled it would pursue last fall.

According to the Privy Council Office website, the cabinet decision was formally taken April 13 and will be published on May 3 in the Canada Gazette, the government’s official newsletter.

A formal government announcement on the change is expected Friday.

Under the Conservative policy, sponsored spouses and partners were given a status of “conditional” permanent residence, and were required to cohabit and remain in a conjugal relationship with their sponsor for two years. If they didn’t, their status could be revoked, leading to deportation.

At the time, former immigration minister Jason Kenney said the change targeted con artists who dupe Canadians into marriage then dump them once they get to Canada. The measure was also designed to deal with “marriages of convenience,” where two persons pretend to be in love for one to gain entry to Canada, often in exchange for money.

Exemptions for abuse

The probation policy allowed for exemptions when there was abuse or neglect by the sponsor, but Janet Dench of the Canadian Council for Refugees said many people didn’t understand the process. They remained trapped in violent relationships, while others who applied for an exception found the ordeal excruciating.

“They often end up getting the exception, but it’s a very difficult process, retraumatizing people who are already broken down by the panic of correspondence and interviews and having to go through everything that they suffered,” she told CBC News.

Dench said reports of fraudulent marriage have been blown out of proportion, and noted there are already provisions in the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act to crack down on people who misrepresent themselves or make false claims.

But Conservative immigration critic Michelle Rempel said the 2012 policy was brought in to address a real problem of marriage fraud, and called the Liberal move to repeal it a “giant step backward.”

“I think it’s the wrong approach,” she said. “I think it erodes public confidence in the integrity of the immigration system and it puts vulnerable persons at greater risk.”

Source: Liberals repeal Conservative immigrant residency requirement targeting marriage fraud – Politics – CBC News

Ashby: Proof of love is not as simple as immigration officials would have it

One of the best pieces of commentary on the CIC bogus marriage training guide (no longer used but no clarity on what the current training tools say):

A Citizenship and Immigration Canada training guide that leaked last week has exposed the inner workings of CIC’s unique perspective on what makes a good marriage.

Apparently, what makes a good marriage is having a lot of money. Money for a diamond ring. (DeBeers must be pleased. Diamonds are forever, which is approximately as long as it takes to obtain a permanent residency card.) Money for a big wedding — more than “small groups of friends.” (That dream elopement with just a handful of friends and family, away from big fat wedding drama? Sorry, lovebirds. Size matters.) Money for a big wedding venue — no restaurants allowed. (Rubber chicken dinners and serviette swans for everyone! It’ll be romantic, just like an annual general meeting!) Money for a honeymoon. And if one of you comes from a country without much money? Well, your marriage might not be valid.

But above all, the CIC is looking for body language (or at least was when the document, dated 2007, was issued.) Like the “body language experts” employed by supermarket tabloids and gossip rags, officials at the CIC believe they can learn the truth about a relationship based on who is smiling, how far apart they stand, and the expressions on their faces. The irony of a group of Canadians judging the citizens of other nations on their ability to emote and show affection is apparently lost on the CIC. Canada is a great country full of wonderful people, all of whom do everything possible to avoid each others’ eyes.

This dependence on photographic evidence is line with the 2014 findings of McMaster University professor Vic Satzewich, believed to be one of only two Canadian researchers in 50 years permitted to investigate CIC’s visa policies up close. Over two years, Satzewich visited 11 of CIC’s overseas visa application sites. From Hong Kong to Colombia, Canadian officials judge marriages by body language, number of guests at a wedding, seeming amount spent on the wedding, and the contents of love letters. His conclusion? That the system was profoundly vulnerable to racist social engineering.

“The system allows racial biases to creep in the selection process. They could use their authority to put it bluntly and crudely, to keep Canada white,” he told the Toronto Star.

This comes at a time when Canada’s rules for family-class immigrants have changed in an attempt to weed out marriage fraud. Marriage fraud is a real problem. But it’s one that’s often associated with conniving “marriage consultants” and “matchmakers,” who fleece both sides of the marriage. It’s akin to human trafficking. Spouses in Canada are promised a loving partner (or just uncomplicated sex), while spouses elsewhere are promised a ticket out of poverty. Both are expected to pay thousands of dollars in consultation fees. Some couples are trying to hack the system, it’s true. But family-class immigrants already make up less than one quarter of Canada’s immigrant population. And now they are regarded with deep suspicion.

Perhaps that suspicion comes from Canada’s history. Between 1663 and 1673, whole sections of Canada were populated by Les Filles du Roi, who closed their eyes and thought of freedom while the men who’d had them imported did their best to increase the tax base of New France. Perhaps the CIC is simply trying to avoid a similar injustice. And it’s important to realize that the CIC does want to protect people, and that it has mandatory acceptance quotas. The concern is how it fills them.

Judging someone else’s marriage isn’t unusual. It’s the favourite sport of mothers-in-law everywhere. But the prevailing truth about marriage is that it, like immigration, is a “black box” process. No one outside it knows what’s going on inside it — and even the people inside it are occasionally mystified. Yearning emails, dirty texts, and smug selfies only tell part of the story. If the CIC really wanted to know about the validity of a marriage, they would ask about who makes the coffee, who does the laundry, who co-ordinates the social plans. Plenty of “real” marriages have depended on far less. And if spouses needed to demonstrate true love in order to share a household, then plenty of us wouldn’t even be here today.

Ashby: Proof of love is not as simple as immigration officials would have it | Ottawa Citizen.

Immigration guide for detecting marriage fraud called ‘racist and offensive’

More on the training guide on marriage fraud (Immigration officers told to pay close attention to Chinese/non-Chinese marriages). The Department’s case would be strengthened if it released the current instructions rather than asserting that these have been changed.

In any case, these revised instructions will likely come out later as I assume somebody or organization as requested the revised instructions under ATIP:

The three-page training guide, titled “Evidence of Relationship,” lists clues officers should look for in assessing a spousal sponsorship application. Ostensible warning signs that it’s a sham marriage include: couples who are not depicted kissing on the lips in their wedding photos; university-educated Chinese nationals who marry non-Chinese; a small wedding reception in a restaurant; a Canadian sponsor who is relatively uneducated, with a low-paying job or on welfare.

Other red flags include couples who don’t take a honeymoon trip, perhaps because they were students or lack the financial resources to do so; no diamond ring; and photos of activities together taken in Niagara Falls, Niagara-on-the-Lake and Toronto.

The training material, obtained under an access to information request and posted online by immigration lawyer Steven Meurrens, has created an uproar on social media among some Canadians and their foreign-born spouses.

“We all thought it was a joke. There’s no way this was real. Then we found out the guide was real and it was like, ‘Oh, my God, this is discriminatory. It’s against the Charter,’” said Saulnier, 37, who met his wife, Juliana, 35, while she was studying English in Toronto in 2011.

“I was born in Canada. This is racist and offensive. I’m just floored that this is accepted as criteria Immigration uses in judging the validity of my relationship,” added the software executive, whose wife is among thousands of foreign spouses waiting for long periods — the current average is 26 months — to be granted permanent residency.

Citizenship and Immigration Canada denied that the training material was racist and insisted all spousal applications from around the world are assessed equally, against exactly the same criteria, regardless of country of origin.

“The specific document you are referencing was an ad hoc document issued to officers nearly five years ago in response to an observed temporary spike in cases of marriages of convenience,” department spokesperson Nancy Caron told the Star.

“The instruction has not been active for more than three years, as the conditions that led to the instruction being issued subsequently changed.”

Immigration guide for detecting marriage fraud called ‘racist and offensive’ | Toronto Star.

Immigration officers told to pay close attention to Chinese/non-Chinese marriages

Interesting release of the red flags or criteria used to assess the possibility of “marriages of convenience.”

While many of the criteria are relatively neutral, CIC is essentially using racial profiling as a key flag:

Chinese nationals who marry non-Chinese Canadians may be among those likely to be flagged by Citizenship and Immigration Canada as being involved in bogus marriages, documents released under Access to Information reveal.

The documents, dated April 2007, form part of a training manual for immigration officers who assess permanent residence applications for foreign spouses or partners who are already in Canada. Access to information records suggest the criteria were still in place as recently as October 2013. No one from Citizenship and Immigration Canada was able to comment Friday on whether the criteria remains in effect.

Canadians who apply to sponsor a spouse or common-law partner must submit several documents, including a marriage certificate, a questionnaire, proof of divorce if either partner was previously married and evidence the applicant lives with the sponsor. Couples may also submit wedding invitations or photos.

AMONG THE RED FLAGS LISTED:

  • Chinese nationals, often university students, marrying non-Chinese;
  • Photos that don’t include parents or family members, but rather small groups of six to 10 friends;
  • An “uneducated” sponsor, with a low-paying job or on welfare;
  • In wedding photos, the couple doesn’t kiss on the lips;
  • Couples who don’t honeymoon, even for a weekend, “usually because of university and/or no money”
  • There are usually no “diamond” rings;
  • A small number of professionally taken wedding photos;
  • Photos of the couple wearing the same clothes in various locations;
  • Photos of activities together are often taken in the Niagara Falls area, Niagara-on-the-Lake and Toronto.

OTHER FACTORS IMMIGRATION OFFICERS WERE ADVISED TO LOOK AT:

  • Previous relationships of the sponsor and the applicant and the length of time between a divorce and a new relationship
  • Whether Chinese surnames are unusual or common ones such as Wang, Huang, Li or Chen;
  • How much the sponsored spouse has to gain from permanent residence and whether they have taken previous steps to obtain it — a failed refugee claim, for example;
  • The length of time the couple has known one another, and whether they met, cohabited and married within six months
  • Whether there is an age gap of 10 years or more between the partners;
  • Whether there are significant differences in the education levels or ethnic backgrounds of the partners.

Vancouver immigration lawyer Steven Meurrens said he was surprised by some of the instructions. Meurrens obtained the document from Citizenship and Immigration Canada, which had previously released it under Access to Information.

“Why Chinese people are singled out I have no idea, and then that they’re training officers to be suspicious of people of lower income and lower education when they get married, I thought that was pretty offensive.”

Immigration officers told to pay close attention to Chinese/non-Chinese marriages.

Couples in limbo demand audit of spousal sponsorship program

More processing delays at CIC, likely caused by more rigorous anti-fraud measures and the management issues related to shifting processing from one centre (Vegreville) to another (Mississauga):

Canadians caught up in Ottawa’s backlog in processing in-country spousal sponsorships are calling for an audit of the troubled program.

Processing times have tripled recently. Thousands of Canadians are now having to wait more than two years to acquire permanent resident status for their foreign spouses already living in Canada. That means living in limbo for the foreign partner, including not being allowed to take a job or access health care coverage.

A national online group called Canada Inland Spousal Sponsorship Petitioners says Citizenship and Immigration Canada (CIC) must immediately establish “service delivery standards,” as recommended by the Office of the Auditor General in a scathing report in 2010.

“As a Canadian who has lived, worked and paid taxes here for 25 years, I just feel like a second-rate citizen,” said Malcolm White of Oshawa, who married wife Anne in 2011. The Birmingham, England, resident joined him here two years later and filed an application for permanent resident status in December 2013.

“There is no transparency or accountability with the system. Canadians’ spouses should have the first priority to live in this country,” White said.

Canadians have the option to sponsor a foreign wife or husband either from abroad or within Canada; many prefer to do it here, so they don’t have to be apart during the processing.

A spousal sponsorship is a two-stage process: the sponsor has to be assessed and approved before the foreign spouse can be screened for medical clearance, background checks and other verification.

Currently, inland applicants must wait 17 months — up from six months in 2013 — for stage one, and eight months longer for stage two.

And, not unexpectedly, some of the examples of couples caught up in these delays, do not fit the profile of marriages of convenience that the anti-fraud measures were intended to counter.

Couples in limbo demand audit of spousal sponsorship program | Toronto Star.