How do recent immigration stories in the US resonate in Canada? Daily, one to three news stories about immigration from the New York Times are sent to me by e-mail. Most deal with the US but some with Europe and other countries. They all tell a common tale of immigration issues being high on the policy agenda for national and lower levels of government. Each country has a particular configuration of policy issues but what occurs in one place tends to have a counterpart elsewhere. Below I examine how the proposed US legislation known as the Dream Act, which was not passed in 2010, relates to immigration issues in Canada.
The Dream Act proposed to give official recognition to the children of illegal immigrants in the US, providing they serve for a time in the US military or attend a college program for two years. The benefits to the US would be military recruitment at a time when more volunteers are needed, and the attraction of educated persons to the work force, who in addition to their skills would not require language training and thus be employable at once.
How do these issues appear in Canada? First, Canada is not looking to expand its military with immigrants or others. The country has been willing to live under the defense umbrella of the US since the end of WW2 and continues to do so. It is in Canada’s interest for the US to have a well equipped and staffed military. Second, Canada seeks to attract economic migrants, that is those who will contribute directly to the economy and not be a burden on it. Temporary foreign workers and students constitute particular migrant categories, and there is now provision for them to apply for permanent resident status from within Canada. This is not the same as regularizing the status of illegal immigrants but aims to attract people who have the desired skills.
A further aspect of the Dream Act is that it would be of particular benefit to the Hispanic community in the US. By opposing it, the Republican party has alienated this community especially in Texas, other parts of the US south-west and in other locations where Hispanics are concentrated. Election outcomes are likely to be influenced by the failure to pass this legislation.
While Canada has no equivalent of the Dream Act, it has communities in Montreal, Toronto and Vancouver where ethnic support can affect political outcomes. It is the inevitable consequence of receiving immigrants from different parts of the world that they will gather in certain locations and then enjoy political influence which will alter the political status quo. In the case of illegal immigrants to Canada, their presence is strongly opposed by those who have arrived recently through the regular screening process.
Almost all stories about immigration in other parts of the world can be used to illustrate how similar situations play out in Canada.