Qadeer: Student immigration visas are a money-making business

More and more articles on the questionable practices and policies with respect to international students. Given the public and private interests at play, hard to see any major reform being possible:

Both Canada and the U.S. have a paradoxical history of immigration. They depend on immigrants to people Indigenous lands and fuel economic growth but simultaneously discriminate against new arrivals by treating them as racially and ethnically inferior. Civil rights and human rights movements, as well as economic imperatives, have helped reduce overt discrimination, but treating immigrants unequally always courses just below the surface.

In the 21st century, immigration has been turned into a money-making business in Canada. It has been put on sale, though the rhetoric remains of economic growth and humanitarian interests. The use of immigration as a source of financial gain has permeated into business, the labour force, housing and now education.

Canadian colleges and universities are increasingly dependent on international student fees as a major source of tuition revenue. A Statistic Canada study prior to COVID shows that in 2017-18, almost 24 per cent of new enrolments in universities were by international students. In colleges, it was slightly more than 16 per cent.

In eight years, the enrolment of international students in universities has nearly doubled. At the college level, it’s about tripled. The revenue from international student fees in universities and degree-granting colleges was $12.7 billion in 2019-20. According to Global Affairs Canada, international students spent $22.3 billion in 2018 on tuition, accommodation and discretionary expenditures. China is the leading source of international students in universities while India dominates college enrolees.

In Ontario, with about 280,000 international students, the situation has been alarming enough to come to the notice of the provincial auditor general, whose 2021 audit report observed that Ontario colleges were more and more reliant on tuition revenue from international students – 68 per cent of fee revenue for colleges. Should enrolment drop for any reason, these institutions would be in a precarious position.

The Globe and Mail has published several investigative reportsabout the malpractices and consequences of what it calls the “international student recruiting machine.” An industry of recruiting students abroad has coalesced. It includes immigrant and educational consultants (sometimes working on commission for private colleges), tuition centres to help potential students cram to qualify for the English test and post-secondary admission offices.

The Globe reports that in Indian Punjab, billboards advertise “study in Canada,” and notices are posted on electric poles advertising “settle abroad.” An international student can work for up to 20 hours a week and they can earn even more by working off the books.

This opens the possibility to turn college study into an investment toward the Canadian immigrant visa and a route for earning money. This lure has drawn thousands from Punjab alone. Many families borrow money or sell properties to pursue the dream of riches in Canada.

The prospect of an immigration visa as an incentive to send children to study in Canada has not drawn only the fortune-seekers. It also motivates many well-off families in China, India and other countries to send their youth to Canadian universities and colleges as a way of establishing a foothold in Canada for opportunities, security and freedom.

Undoubtedly, many international students come with genuine educational motives but are being tarred by the practices of those primarily using enrolment as a route to immigration. The associated malfeasance is corrupting the educational system, and is also blighting local housing situations and promoting dubious business practices.

Cutbacks in provincial funding over many years drove universities and colleges to rely on international students’ high fees to fill the financial shortfall. The international students coming to seek employment and settlement in Canada work long hours and have little time, energy and motivation to meet the educational requirements. Though tutored to qualify for the language test, many do not have the proficiency in English or French to keep up with the demands of classwork. The outcome of these conflicting pressures is that the educational standards are being compromised. Occasional letters to the editors, social media postings and teachers privately point out that academic compromises are made in classes, where a large number of students are linguistically and academically unprepared.

The student immigrants are themselves often victims. The City of Brampton in Ontario is a prime exhibit of these complex issues. International students from Punjab converge there because it has a large Punjabi population. Scores of students live together in squalid illegal basements. In 2019, the city registered 1,600 complaints of illegal secondary units. The callers to Punjabi radio programmes often bring up problems of crowded neighbourhoods and the financial ruination of families in villages across Punjab.

International students often find that the well-paying work they were promised by recruiters does not exist. They struggle at schools and are often entreating their not-so-well-off families back home to send them money to live. Businesses come to rely on them as cheap labour. Mental health problems affect many. The Globe quotes the director of the Lotus Funeral Home in Toronto as saying he handles four to five international students’ deaths – suspected to be suicides or overdoses – every month.

The student visa channel and its misuses are widespread. The Indian family that recently froze to death illegally crossing from Manitoba to the U.S. had entered Canada on a student visa. The president of the Indian Association of Manitoba has characterized international student recruitment as full of “rampant fraud and exploitation.” In December 2020, the Quebec government barred 10 private colleges from issuing admission certificates for such visas.

The federal and provincial governments are ignoring the misuse of student visas for immigration. The Ontario government had a cavalier response to the auditor general’s observations, saying, “Ontarians should be proud that local colleges attract students from all over the world.”

Both levels of government need to detach immigration eligibility from enrolment in Canadian colleges and universities. The graduates of these programmes maybe should get extra points for their Canadian education, but they should be put in line with the applicants for immigration from their homelands. Also, the non-educational employment of international students should be more strictly monitored.

Most importantly, these governments should appropriately fund educational institutions, reducing their dependence on international student fees.

A good society in Canada will not be built if those coming to settle here experience it as a land of illegal and immoral practices. Canadian governments should prioritize social development as much as economic growth.

Source: Student immigration visas are a money-making business

Immigration policy requires a rethink

Good thoughtful discussion of some of the bigger picture immigration issues by Mohammad Qadeer:

Immigration has evolved into a defining issue of national politics in most western countries, dividing liberals from populists and globalists from nationalists. Policy in this area is increasingly intertwined with border security, foreign relations, economics, trade and social integration. Governments can no longer simply tweak the criteria for the number, type and national origins of the persons they intend to admit as immigrants.

Today immigration must be seen in an international context, and nations must aim to balance the interests of both sending and receiving countries. Policies governing the two streams of immigration — refugees and voluntary immigrants — need re-examination.

Recent refugee crises have already shifted the parameters of immigration policy, notably in response to the global trends and international events of the past decades. The long wars in Afghanistan and the Middle East, the turmoil and climatic catastrophes of Central and Western Africa, the crime and oppression of Honduras, Guatemala and recently Venezuela have displaced millions. The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees estimates that the number of forcibly displaced persons in 2017 was 68.5 million. This number is increasing year by year.

Though most refugees seek shelter in neighbouring countries, the dramatic arrival of boatloads of asylum seekers on European shores and the “caravans” of Central Americans heading to the US southern border have triggered populist reactions in these countries, arousing anti-immigration sentiments and roiling national politics. Canada has not been immune from these sentiments, despite its reputation as an immigrant-welcoming country. The Conservative Party is demanding that asylum seekers who cross the border outside the official points of entry be barred.

Countries have moral, legal and international obligations to fairly adjudicate asylum claims in order to protect persecuted and endangered people whose life or security is in jeopardy. There is also a humanitarian imperative to take in persons in extraordinary distress. Yet these obligations have political underpinnings. Usually liberal and socialist groups favour accommodating refugees, and some even advocate for open borders, whereas nationalists and right-wing conservatives demand secure borders and limits on asylum seekers.

These political divisions have sharpened in recent years, and the political parties opposing refugees have made major gains in most countries. Angela Merkel, the German chancellor, has paid for her acceptance of a million refugees by her party’s losses in state elections. Italy has elected a government that has barred rescue ships from entering ports. President Trump is adamant about building a wall on the southern border.

Neither barring nor opening up entry into Western countries can solve the overall problem of asylum seekers. It has to be addressed at the source. Many countries are riven by rebellions, terrorism, ethnic and religious violence, poor governance, climatic disasters and poverty. On top of these internal disorders, foreign interventions and invasions (as in Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria, Libya, Somalia) are turning millions into refugees. These events that cause people to leave their homes have to be dealt with by the concerted but non-military efforts of major powers in the interest of global order.

A consensus is emerging that refugees should be protected in and near their homelands. The recently negotiated Global Compact for Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration, while holding refugees and migrants to be entitled to universal human rights, commits its signatories to create conducive conditions “for people to lead, peaceful, productive and sustainable lives in their own country” (objective 2, paragraph 18).

A UN body should be ready to temporarily administer a part or the whole of a country where the government fails to protect its people. For this purpose, the Trusteeship Council, initially formed to administer territories in transition from colonialism to independence, could be revived in a new role. It may set up international rule temporarily to establish order and safety and help people stay in their homeland or nearby.

But a stable social order in a Southern country should not be disturbed even if its government is less than democratic, except if it is carrying out ethnic or religious genocide. The lesson of the Western military interventions in the Middle East and Africa is that they tend to turn into unending wars, producing refugees.

The second stream of immigrants is of those selected by Western countries for their skills, professional talents and entrepreneurship. The US admits about 1.1 to 1.3 million permanent residents per year. Canada, with a population less than one-tenth as large, takes in more than 300,000 immigrants and another 300,000 or so temporary workers per year. The UN’s Population Division estimates that in 2017, 258 million persons were international migrants, apart from millions of expatriate workers. In 2017, Gallup estimated that worldwide 700 million would like to migrate. Obviously not everybody is packed to move, but potentially there are millions aspiring to migrate.

Legal immigration has its own policy challenges. It creates a brain and talent drain in sending countries; in the short run, remittances bring a financial infusion and benefit individual migrants, but in the long run, out-migration takes away people who could have contributed to the prosperity and stability of those societies. The vicious cycle of the brain drain is that as the more qualified and enterprising people leave, more aspire to follow them, draining away prospective nation builders. A stable world order in which all countries may prosper requires that the development needs of the sending countries should be balanced against the demand for immigration in the receiving countries.

Within Western countries, the aging and potentially shrinking population is driving the demand for migrant workers. The economic and demographic interests of these countries are the pull factor for immigration, but the resulting dilution of their social, cultural and ethnic composition of nations arouses resistance. Canada, for example, may be a more prosperous country with a majority of its population foreign-born, but it will be a different country. A new entrant in Canadian politics, the People’s Party of Canada, led by Maxime Bernier, demands that immigration should not “forcibly change the cultural character and social fabric of Canada.” Balancing the conflicting demands is a political challenge that will not go away.

Advancing technologies are introducing a new consideration. Automation and artificial intelligence are expected to make 40 percent of jobs free of human labour. Is it desirable for countries to bring large numbers of immigrants into a volatile job market, where job security may be scarce and human labour not in high demand?

In a world of global trade, the movement of people cannot be restricted. What may become necessary are new forms of citizenship and different sets of residents’ rights. In the policies of the near future, immigration may no longer be viewed as the transfer of a population stock from one country to another; the new model may be one of migrants circulating among countries, with associated rights of settlement and movement. Such an approach to immigration may change the idea of nationhood itself.

Source: Immigration policy requires a rethink

Immigration policy requires a rethink

Thoughtful discussion of some of the big picture immigration issues by Mohammad Qadeer:

Immigration has evolved into a defining issue of national politics in most western countries, dividing liberals from populists and globalists from nationalists. Policy in this area is increasingly intertwined with border security, foreign relations, economics, trade and social integration. Governments can no longer simply tweak the criteria for the number, type and national origins of the persons they intend to admit as immigrants.

Today immigration must be seen in an international context, and nations must aim to balance the interests of both sending and receiving countries. Policies governing the two streams of immigration — refugees and voluntary immigrants — need re-examination.

Recent refugee crises have already shifted the parameters of immigration policy, notably in response to the global trends and international events of the past decades. The long wars in Afghanistan and the Middle East, the turmoil and climatic catastrophes of Central and Western Africa, the crime and oppression of Honduras, Guatemala and recently Venezuela have displaced millions. The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees estimates that the number of forcibly displaced persons in 2017 was 68.5 million. This number is increasing year by year.

Though most refugees seek shelter in neighbouring countries, the dramatic arrival of boatloads of asylum seekers on European shores and the “caravans” of Central Americans heading to the US southern border have triggered populist reactions in these countries, arousing anti-immigration sentiments and roiling national politics. Canada has not been immune from these sentiments, despite its reputation as an immigrant-welcoming country. The Conservative Party is demanding that asylum seekers who cross the border outside the official points of entry be barred.

Countries have moral, legal and international obligations to fairly adjudicate asylum claims in order to protect persecuted and endangered people whose life or security is in jeopardy. There is also a humanitarian imperative to take in persons in extraordinary distress. Yet these obligations have political underpinnings. Usually liberal and socialist groups favour accommodating refugees, and some even advocate for open borders, whereas nationalists and right-wing conservatives demand secure borders and limits on asylum seekers.

These political divisions have sharpened in recent years, and the political parties opposing refugees have made major gains in most countries. Angela Merkel, the German chancellor, has paid for her acceptance of a million refugees by her party’s losses in state elections. Italy has elected a government that has barred rescue ships from entering ports. President Trump is adamant about building a wall on the southern border.

Neither barring nor opening up entry into Western countries can solve the overall problem of asylum seekers. It has to be addressed at the source. Many countries are riven by rebellions, terrorism, ethnic and religious violence, poor governance, climatic disasters and poverty. On top of these internal disorders, foreign interventions and invasions (as in Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria, Libya, Somalia) are turning millions into refugees. These events that cause people to leave their homes have to be dealt with by the concerted but non-military efforts of major powers in the interest of global order.

A consensus is emerging that refugees should be protected in and near their homelands. The recently negotiated Global Compact for Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration, while holding refugees and migrants to be entitled to universal human rights, commits its signatories to create conducive conditions “for people to lead, peaceful, productive and sustainable lives in their own country” (objective 2, paragraph 18).

A UN body should be ready to temporarily administer a part or the whole of a country where the government fails to protect its people. For this purpose, the Trusteeship Council, initially formed to administer territories in transition from colonialism to independence, could be revived in a new role. It may set up international rule temporarily to establish order and safety and help people stay in their homeland or nearby.

But a stable social order in a Southern country should not be disturbed even if its government is less than democratic, except if it is carrying out ethnic or religious genocide. The lesson of the Western military interventions in the Middle East and Africa is that they tend to turn into unending wars, producing refugees.

The second stream of immigrants is of those selected by Western countries for their skills, professional talents and entrepreneurship. The US admits about 1.1 to 1.3 million permanent residents per year. Canada, with a population less than one-tenth as large, takes in more than 300,000 immigrants and another 300,000 or so temporary workers per year. The UN’s Population Division estimates that in 2017, 258 million persons were international migrants, apart from millions of expatriate workers. In 2017, Gallup estimated that worldwide 700 million would like to migrate. Obviously not everybody is packed to move, but potentially there are millions aspiring to migrate.

Legal immigration has its own policy challenges. It creates a brain and talent drain in sending countries; in the short run, remittances bring a financial infusion and benefit individual migrants, but in the long run, out-migration takes away people who could have contributed to the prosperity and stability of those societies. The vicious cycle of the brain drain is that as the more qualified and enterprising people leave, more aspire to follow them, draining away prospective nation builders. A stable world order in which all countries may prosper requires that the development needs of the sending countries should be balanced against the demand for immigration in the receiving countries.

Within Western countries, the aging and potentially shrinking population is driving the demand for migrant workers. The economic and demographic interests of these countries are the pull factor for immigration, but the resulting dilution of their social, cultural and ethnic composition of nations arouses resistance. Canada, for example, may be a more prosperous country with a majority of its population foreign-born, but it will be a different country. A new entrant in Canadian politics, the People’s Party of Canada, led by Maxime Bernier, demands that immigration should not “forcibly change the cultural character and social fabric of Canada.” Balancing the conflicting demands is a political challenge that will not go away.

Advancing technologies are introducing a new consideration. Automation and artificial intelligence are expected to make 40 percent of jobs free of human labour. Is it desirable for countries to bring large numbers of immigrants into a volatile job market, where job security may be scarce and human labour not in high demand?

In a world of global trade, the movement of people cannot be restricted. What may become necessary are new forms of citizenship and different sets of residents’ rights. In the policies of the near future, immigration may no longer be viewed as the transfer of a population stock from one country to another; the new model may be one of migrants circulating among countries, with associated rights of settlement and movement. Such an approach to immigration may change the idea of nationhood itself.

Source: Immigration policy requires a rethink