The U.S. might be about to send us these two immigration and refugee problems

Good insight on the next series of headaches:

Of the many files landing on the next government’s desk following this month’s election, at least two may give it an immigration headache. Both come from decisions made by our neighbour to the south: President Donald Trump’s reversal of his country’s post-Reagan refugee policy and his rewriting of “safe third country” rules. Addressing each will involve a difficult balance of humanitarian principles, foreign policy interests and our relationship with the U.S.

The first headache has to do with Canada’s unexpected surpassing of the United States in resettling the world’s greatest number of refugees. Resettlement is the organized transfer of refugees to countries like Canada, relocating them away from countries like Turkey and Lebanon that often host millions of refugees inside their borders. Canada’s newfound leadership has less to do with our natural benevolence, however, than with an unprecedented reduction in American refugee admissions under the Trump administration. In both Canada and the U.S., resettlement has generally enjoyed support from both conservatives and liberals. Since 1980, America has led the world both in resettling refugees and also in successfully encouraging other countries to increase their refugee intake, trends that continued until 2018. In that year, Canada resettled 28,000 refugees, up from an average of 11,000 annually in the years prior to 2015. By contrast, U.S. admissions dropped to a record low of just 23,000 in 2018, down from a 20-year average of 66,000 and a one-year record high of 96,000 in 2016.

Our Canadian moment, even if it is a moment by default, has global implications as the U.S. announces further cuts to refugee admissions in the coming year. Resettlement has acted as a fiscal and social pressure valve for countries hosting millions of refugees, some of them Canadian friends or allies, like Bangladesh and Turkey. It is also a foreign policy and national security instrument, facilitating the recruitment of translators in war zones and embarrassing strategic foes via the admission of citizens fleeing their countries. Canada must weigh these considerations, as well as humanitarian ones, against rising pressure on Canadian funds and a recent drop in public confidence in Canada’s overall immigration system. Nor do we have the same clout as the Americans in helping redistribute the refugee load more fairly throughout the world, especially now that, following the U.S. lead, more countries are reducing their resettlement programs than are expanding them.

In addition to formal resettlement, Canada faces a growing number of asylum claims. Over 170,000 asylum-seekers have sought protection here since the past federal election, 50,000 of whom crossed the border to do so — either “illegally” or “irregularly” depending on who you talk to. Both the Liberals and Conservatives have promised to staunch the flow of border crossings by renegotiating the Canada-U.S. Safe Third Country Agreement and to return asylum-seekers walking across our southern border to the U.S. for processing. The current agreement applies only to official border crossings, however. A strengthened agreement could apply this arrangement to claimants crossing the border elsewhere, as well. Unfortunately, a strengthened agreement may not be in the cards. In fact, recent changes in U.S. asylum policy may hand the next prime minister a completely suspended agreement, rather than a renegotiated one, which will be bad news both for relations with the U.S. and for an already backed-up Canadian asylum system.

Under a new policy, the Americans will deport asylum-seekers if they passed through another country on their way to the U.S., even if they face a demonstrated risk of torture or persecution in their home country. This violates one of the founding principles of the Safe Third Country Agreement — namely, that countries not return asylum-seekers with credible fears to their home country. It also strengthens the possibility of a successful challenge of the agreement in a current case before the Federal Court of Canada. If the case were to result in the agreement’s suspension, asylum-seekers could make their claims directly at official border crossings without the risk of being turned back to the U.S. This would eliminate the incentive to cross the border to claim protection but it might also invite a correspondingly greater number of claims than before, as prospective claimants would have a more direct route into Canada from the U.S. Canada would not be obligated to approve their claims, but we would have to assess them, further impacting an already backlogged and beleaguered process. It would also risk offending the U.S. by in effect labelling it an unsafe country for refugees. That is not an outcome we want in a time of already tense trade relations.

The potential impact of these changes is hard to overstate. Canada has a proven track record when it comes to processing and integrating refugees. The next federal government may want to leverage our new position as the world’s number one resettlement destination to introduce its own model sponsorship program among like-minded partners on the international stage. It should also consider investing in a more rapid and flexible claim assessment system, one able to respond to large and sometimes unpredictable flows of claimants whatever agreements we do or don’t have with other countries and whatever choice they do or don’t make about re-electing mercurial leaders.

Source: The U.S. might be about to send us these two immigration and refugee problems

Robert Falconer: The open society, Canada’s best response to immigration

Good response to the pulled back op-ed “Ethnic diversity harms a country’s social trust, economic well-being, argues professor.”

The world is experiencing the largest displacement and movement of people of any period since the Second World War.

Canada is not immune to these flows. Almost one in four people living here were born outside Canada, with one million more arriving in the next three years.

We recently passed our neighbour to the south in resettling more refugees than any other country in the world, mostly due to vast reductions in refugee admissions under the Trump Administration, but also in part due to increased resettlement under Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.

Since 2017, approximately 150,000 asylum seekers have claimed protection in Canada, many of whom crossed the border to do so. Under these conditions, questions by Canadians are to be expected.

Some questions will be raised by bad actors. These individuals will not be satisfied by reasonable answers or potential solutions on the issue of immigration or asylum in Canada.

A few of these may stoke fears or unfounded claims about newcomers. Many more Canadians, however, have genuine concerns, worries, or fears about the arrival of newcomers to their communities.

They do not have animosity toward individual immigrants, but they may have concerns regarding border security, the integrity of Canada’s immigration system, or the values and beliefs immigrants bring with them to Canada.

It is this group that policy-makers, academics and journalists should address with open ears, facts, and ideas. Some of these include addressing the following on immigrant integration and social cohesion.

Defining integration is difficult, but some common measures include immigrant official language capability, sense of belonging to Canada, and the adoption of Canadian norms and values. By these measures, Canada is wildly successful at integrating its newcomer population.

The 2016 census showed that approximately 93 per cent of all immigrants in Canada can speak English or French. The census also showed that the majority of immigrants choose to speak English or French in the home.

This high number might surprise some, but it should be noted that official language capability is one of the selection criteria for immigrants seeking to move to Canada.

Official language capability is also one of the citizenship requirements — with the exception of the very old and the very young. Even more fundamentally, there is a workplace advantage that comes with speaking either language.

Official language capability and citizenship requirements may not be relevant if only a few immigrants became citizens, but at approximately 85 per cent Canada has one of the highest naturalizations rates in the world. The United States sits in the mid-40 per cent range.

This means the vast majority of immigrants will, at some point, pass a language test and successfully answer questions on Canadian history, culture and values, culminating in the oath of citizenship to Canada’s Queen, its laws, and the duties associated with citizenship.

Immigrants also tend to show high levels of belonging and civic pride in Canada. Researchers at Statistics Canada found that 93 per cent of newcomers have a strong or very strong sense of belonging to Canada. Some of these (24 per cent) show an affinity only for Canada, while more feel a sense of belonging to Canada and their home country (69 per cent). Only three per cent feel a higher level of attachment to their home country.

When broken down by pride in specific symbols or institutions, such as the Canadian flag, Parliament, or even hockey, immigrants placed greater or equal importance in these than natural born Canadians.

This makes intuitive sense when considering why immigrants choose Canada. Alex Nowrasteh of the Cato Institute has pointed out that most immigrants self-select, meaning that those who are most dissatisfied with Chinese communism, the Ayatollah, or Venezuelan socialism are the most likely to leave, and the least likely to bring those values with them. They choose Canada because they identify with the norms and values that make Canada.

That is not to say there aren’t issues. Canada is struggling to process a backlog of 75,000 plus asylum seekers, many of whom will have less than well-founded claims of persecution. That speaks to a processing issue at the federal level, rather than an issue with immigrant integration in Canada.

A backed-up system is more likely to attract those with unfounded fears of persecution. The solution is not to stigmatize newcomers, but to ensure that our immigration and asylum systems remain “fast, fair and final,” able to process claims in a timelier manner.

For those who are already here, Canada’s best tool for integrating them is open access to our political system and jobs market.

Some have cited Alberto Alesina’s work on fragmentation, the idea that greater population diversity is associated with social strife. This is true in countries with weak democracies and restricted labour markets, where the political and economic systems favour a select few.

Alesina’s subsequent works have shown that diverse populations reap economic benefits and remain relatively cohesive when everyone has a fair shot at becoming an MP or getting a job. Open societies enjoy strong trade relationships with other countries, a diversity in goods and services, and stronger workforces. Under these settings the work of integration takes care of itself, with newcomers and their children identifying with Canada and its values.

In that light, the work of integrating newcomers within the fabric of Canada is less about exclusion, and more about maintaining, celebrating, and safeguarding Canadian institutions, entrepreneurship, and our open society.

Source: Robert Falconer: The open society, Canada’s best response to immigration