Category: Immigration

Who is Local?

“Ahmadi is still months away from getting permanent resident status, putting him in the unlucky group of middle-class British Columbians who have found themselves targeted by a tax purportedly imposed to crack down on rich real estate speculators from overseas”

I’ve never been this hopeless

I would not call Hamed Ahmadi unlucky, he’s a victim of the all too common policy apparatus that confuses residency with visa status. The BC non-resident tax of 15% on properties is supposed to target “foreign” (read Chinese) investors buying in Vancouver with no intentions of living there. I presume there are multiple other ways to determine residency and “localness” for the purpose of determining who lives here and who does not. The BC government, in its haste to demonstrate it was doing something, took the easy route and used visa status as a proxy.

Hamed lives and works in BC, which meets my definition of local. While a speculation tax on non-residents is a reasonable approach, using visa status to determine residency, and providing no sensible exceptions for locals with alternative paper work is lazy and thoughtless policy making, so is not providing exceptions for people with home buying applications already in process. It’s almost as if someone looked at the polls and press and wrote the law in a day.

In many ways, this is personal for me because I lived in the US for 10+ years under various non-permanent visas that left me vulnerable to these poorly designed, thoughtless policy measures. I lived in the same town for 10 years, was very much a local by the time I’d left, with a stable set of friends, family, work, places I shopped in, hiked to, causes I supported, volunteer work I did, and more. So, Hamed’s story could have been mine, and in some smaller ways, was mine for other parts of my life.

“CTV News spoke with BC Liberal cabinet minister Andrew Wilkinson on Wednesday and asked several times for comment on Ahmadi’s situation. Wilkinson responded by repeating a piece of blanket advice for the people impacted. “Those who find themselves affected by the tax should seek legal advice because individual circumstances vary,” Wilkinson said.

This is typical of policy makers who are so removed from the day to day lives of the people whose behaviour they seek to regulate. The casual assumption that regular people can afford professionals who bill at multiple hundreds of dollars an hour speaks more about the types of people these ministers hang out with than anything else. But this sounds familiar too, I needed to consult lawyers multiple times to help me with immigration paper work.

As someone with a high level of institutional trust, and who thinks governments can affect our lives for the better with sound and thoughtful policy interventions, these types of hasty policy making are deeply disappointing. There are multiple other policy measures to make housing more affordable. The CCPA just released a comprehensive document of policies, focusing on the actual problem, the lack of affordable housing. Investment in affordable housing with a focus on cohousing and social housing, and zoning changes that reduce the protections afforded to affluent property owners would go a long way.

Originally posted on Interrobang 04-August-2016

Canadian Citizenship Oath in Court, and Royal Baby!

royalbabyA number of Canadian immigrants want the right to NOT swear allegiance to the Queen (of Canada). Their reasons are varied, they don’t believe in a monarchy, they moved from recently decolonized countries where atrocities were committed in the name of the queen, their religion doesn’t permit it, and more. They have lost their case at every step, and the originator of the case, Charles Roach, passed away recently, but they persist, and it is now going back to court. The globe and mail reports rather breathlessly with a heavy handed dose of editorializing. 

But with a royal baby on the way, and a federal government under Prime Minister Stephen Harper that has dedicated itself to reviving the country’s connection to the monarchy – restoring the word Royal to the Royal Canadian Air Force, among other measures – the dissenters may have their work cut out for them.

Would-be Canadian citizens set to fight oath to Queen – The Globe and Mail.

The hilarity of the Globe and Mail thinking that the unborn Royal Baby(tm) has anything to do with a serious court case should be the topic of a much longer rant on the sorry state of this newspaper. More importantly, this is an interesting and brave protest by the litigants.

Here’s the oath:

I swear (or affirm) that I will be faithful and bear true allegiance to Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II, Queen of Canada, Her Heirs and Successors, and that I will faithfully observe the laws of Canada and fulfil my duties as a Canadian citizen.

The oath is a strange and anachronistic beast that literally puts allegiance to a hereditary, unaccountable set of people who won a birth lottery in front of duty to the country and its laws. It’s completely understandable that some would balk at swearing this oath. Only half of Canadians surveyed in 2012 supported the notion of Canada remaining a monarchy. It seems unfair to ask a set of people to swear to something only half of the country supports. Would the settlers and descendants of settlers who acquired citizenship through birth like their citizenship to be contingent on pledging allegiance to the British (and Canadian) royal family? I don’t understand how it is acceptable to make one group of people swear an oath, while exempting a whole other group of people.

This troubles me: The notion that the grant of citizenship is a one-way privilege, something that immigrants should be so grateful for that they don’t exercise their charter rights to dissent.

“Canadian citizenship is an honour and a privilege,” spokeswoman Sonia Lesage said.

Immigration is a two-way arrangement, one that benefits the people immigrating and the country. Repeated studies show this, so while immigrants are generally happy to become citizens, the country should be equally honoured and privileged that they chose to stay here rather than elsewhere. A country ruled by the descendants of those who colonized by displacing the original inhabitants of this land through force, spreading disease and attempted assimilation should be more humble in its pledges. It is especially troubling to hear this one-sided understanding of who is privileged by immigration coming from a country with this history.

I swore my oath sincerely because for me, the benefits of being a Canadian citizen outweighed my distaste for the monarchy. As a recent immigrant and recent citizen, my desire to stay socially engaged, commitment to acting for change, and being the best family member, partner, friend, coworker and activist matter way more than an anachronistic pledge, and those are the standards I would want to be held to.

Update: An interesting article on how close PM Chretien came to scrapping the oath and making it something more meaningful.

More Update: My partner pointed out in conversation that the citizenship ceremony’s focus and tone were quite the opposite of all this honour and privilege language spouted by the conservative government mouthpiece. Multiple speakers specifically talked about how happy and lucky the country was to have us become citizens,and how much the country would benefit. They also talked about responsibility and civic engagement, which is as it should be. Multiple speakers specifically acknowledged our presence on Lekwungen and Coast Salish homelands.

Chinese coal mines in BC: Missing the forest for the trees

The story of a Chinese company in BC hiring Chinese workers has received a lot of attention. Much of the attention has focused on the company’s decision to game the temporary worker system in order to avoid hiring “Canadian” workers. Many of the objections are made on nationalistic grounds, “OMG, THEY”RE TAKING CANADIAN JOBS”, which then leads down the path of racist anti-Chinese sentiment. This Tyee article (disclaimer: I am a Tyee monthly funder, but obviously have no editorial input!) summarizes the issues involved very well. Recent changes to Canada’s immigration laws make this kind of hiring logical, because it is now okay to pay temporary workers with little/no bargaining power 15% less than you would pay locals. Of course you have to document that there were no qualified locals, but as this particular incident indicates, there’s little/no actual enforcement unless a fuss is made.

I find temporary worker programs to be problematic because they provide no path to citizenship, no permanence for the people who want it, and cause ugly divisions in the community. If you think there are not enough “workers” in your community, open your borders, let them in and pay well, you’d be surprised.

I wanted to highlight two obvious issues that to my mind are as important:

  1. Carbon Bomb. It’s a coal mine! How many people in BC, which preens gloriously on its carbon tax, are aware that coal is BC’s Number One export? What is the point of having a carbon tax for consumers when producers get to make money off that carbon for free? Whether the coal is burned in BC, or in China, it causes the same damage. Whether the coal is used to generate power, or to make steel, it puts out the same amount of carbon dioxide. Whether the mine uses Chinese workers or locals, it produces the same climate changing emissions. So, why instead of making coal producers pay the real costs of their product, are we enabling them to evade carbon taxes, royalties, and save even more money by reducing wages? Also, coal mining is not employment intensive, as countless other people have pointed out. So it’s not really about the jobs either. Kevin Washbrook of StopCoal made this point as well in the Tyee article I linked to earlier.
  2. Does this mine have right to be there? The West Moberley First Nation, part of a Treaty 8 band is opposed to the project on its land. That should be the end of the story. The state of Canada has responsibilities as a settler entity to obtain free, prior and informed consent on development from the people it colonized. The US is a bit more honest in this regard as it regards the colonization as a thing of the past and gives its indigenous peoples little/no rights. Canada’s different, the indigenous here have specific standing because of Canada’s existing colonial links and Canadian governments and courts routinely confirm this standing. The BC government is currently negotiating treaties with many First Nations communities including the West Moberley First Nation.

We’re trying to set up a climate and environment disturbing, cost and tax evading coal mine on land that belongs to someone else using easily exploited temporary workers we can be racist towards.

coal

Want a tougher Canadian Refugee Policy? Read this

Deported to torture – thestar.com

The memories aren’t all good. The country the Benhmudas love is also the country that rejected them as refugees. In 2008, the Canadian government deported the family back to Libya — even though the two youngest boys, Adam and Omar, are Canadian citizens by birth.

For the boys’ father, it meant being deported to torture.

Adel Benhmuda, now 43, says he was detained on arrival at Tripoli’s airport and taken to the notorious Ain Zara prison on the outskirts of the Libyan capital. For a total of six months, during two separate periods of detention, he says he was repeatedly beaten.

Note that the tougher it is for refugees to prove their case, the more likely it is that some will be sent back for further persecution.

I love my erstwhile home state (Not!)

In April, Richardson asked the health and social services departments to determine the number of illegal immigrant clients by counting Spanish surnames.

The county commissioners are meeting with a lawyer to help identify public services that can be denied to illegal immigrants. And in cases where it is not legal to exclude people, they say they may eliminate programs entirely — including federally funded prenatal care for poor women — in an attempt to drive illegal immigrants from the county.

In an interview, Richardson twice referred to illegal immigrants as “wetbacks.” He said that they threaten to turn the United States into a bilingual nation and that he fears they will foment political and social dissent.

newsobserver.com | Beaufort County wants to stem migrant influx

No comment required…

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Indian Workers on Hunger Strike in DC

The video summarizes the issue. Long story short, an American company, Signal International colludes with an Indian contracting company to lure 100s of workers from India with false promises of greencards. The workers proceed to go deep into debt with the contracting company to make this happen. Once in the States, it turns out they’re given H2B guest worker visas (yes, I treat all my guests by making them pay 1000s of bucks a month for sharing a trailer with 25 other people) that are specifically not eligible for green cards except under family quotas. This is bonded labor, American style. No arguments can be made that these workers have it better than in India and they should be grateful.

I am incredibly proud of these workers for finding the courage to strike and take their protests to DC. The Washington Post seems to have dedicated one measly article worth of coverage.

There are many reasons for this exploitation. The dehumanization of third world (including Mexican) workers is a contributing factor, so is the broken immigration system that allows excessively restrictive employment contracts. Most importantly, the U.S department of labor exists solely to make the lives of the companies it regulates easier. It has nothing to do with labor any more.

I am glad they’re protesting for their dignity and broken promises. Wonder what’s stopping the company from firing them for striking, they’re not allowed to strike! That way, they can then notify the aptly named ICE (Immigrations and Customs Enforcement) to have them deported.

N&O: Stop Using the word "illegal"

Colleges await more advice on illegals

newsobserver.com | Colleges await more advice on illegals

The N&O does a global search on every “undocumented” in official statements about immigrants and replaces with “ilegals”. Presumably, they are intelligent enough to know what they are doing and are doing this deliberately. Please write to the author of this particular piece, Kristin Collins at kristin.collins@newsobserver.com to let her know that this is disgusting and has to stop. Here’s some typical text…

I read with increasing dismay, the use of the word “illegals” in your articles to describe people who lack the necessary documentation to live in the United States. A small percentage of their actions can be termed illegal, but they are not “illegal” people. This is the same as saying that every one who drives 36 mph in a 35 mph zone is an illegal. A person may be guilty or charged of illegal acts, that does not make them “illegals”. Note that in the course of a day, an undocumented immigrant may perform  many many legal acts and a so called “legal” American may be breaking the law a dozen times. If the definition of illegal is knowingly breaking a law (whether you get caught or not), all of us are “illegal” in one way or the other.

I fear that your temptation to use one charged word to describe whole groups of real law abiding, tax paying people is lazy at best, and fear mongering and sensationalistic at worst. The N&O does good investigative work and need not sully its good name by stooping to such demagoguery. Please stop. If you want to use one word, use “undocumenteds”. It is more specific and conveys to readers exactly what illegal act these people are charged with.

Roy Cooper: Ignorant of Basic Law

No federal law prohibits North Carolina from admitting illegal immigrants to its colleges and universities, officials with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement said today.The statement from federal officials contradicts a letter sent this week by the office of state Attorney General Roy Cooper.The letter from Cooper’s office advised the state Community College System that federal law bars the admission of illegal immigrants to public colleges and universities, even if they pay out-of-state tuition.The letter said that the Department of Homeland Security, of which ICE is a part, was responsible for enforcing the law and offered to ask the department for further clarification of the law.

newsobserver.com | Feds: College OK for illegal immigrants

So, what kind of person randomly makes up U.S Federal laws about undocumented immigrants (illegal, he calls them) and college? Well, the top lawyer of North Carolina’s government, Attorney General Roy Cooper of course! Glad that he was caught out.

The issue? The hordes (350 or so scattered around the University and Community college system) of undocumented immigrants who pay out-of-state tuition and are admitted on merit to attend colleges in North Carolina. Conservatives want college systems to enforce immigration law. What next, have your papers checked every time you fill gas? The claim has often been made that there are a lot of hidden costs that this out of state tuition does not cover and actually, even out of state tuition paying students are being subsidized. No data has been put forward to back up this claim. Note the hactackularness of this tome by the John Pope institute, which makes a lot of conclusions based on their analysis of census data while not actually sharing any of the analysis/results.

Clearly, undocumented immigrants are not overwhelming the system, or even making a dent. So, this is all about demagoguery and I am glad that Governor Easley has overruled his attorney general and come out against colleges acting as immigration police. Life for one of these students is hard enough as it is, getting past the high admissions standards, affording the steep out-of-state tuition, they don’t need to keep looking over their shoulder every time they go to class.

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Few Details on Immigrants Who Died in U.S. Custody

Mr. Bah’s relatives never saw the internal records labeled “proprietary information — not for distribution” by the Corrections Corporation of America, which runs the New Jersey detention center for the federal government. The documents detail how he was treated by guards and government employees: shackled and pinned to the floor of the medical unit as he moaned and vomited, then left in a disciplinary cell for more than 13 hours, despite repeated notations that he was unresponsive and intermittently foaming at the mouth.

Few Details on Immigrants Who Died in U.S. Custody – New York Times

Life can go wrong very quickly if you’re in the States, brown and immigrant. This man lived there for a decade and had a large network of friends and family, yet, he was “disappeared” by the inhuman prison society that is the U.S correctional system.

Disgusting. Read the whole article. Yet again, no one will suffer any punishment or consequences, least of all, Corrections Corporation of America – “Prison Privatization at its Best”.

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