Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Immigration Must Serve the Public Interest, Not Monopoly Right

- Peggy Morton - May 28, 2014

The demand that the temporary foreign workers program be abolished is gaining strength across Canada, while the Harper dictatorship is desperately doing damage control to save its program of international worker trafficking. At the same time, Immigration Minister Chris Alexander is quietly revamping the entire immigration system, and will introduce "Express Entry" in 2015. These changes are part of the destruction of the public authority and privatization of immigration to strengthen monopoly right over all decisions regarding immigration.

Significant changes have already been made to the immigration system for refugees and family reunification. Since coming to power, the Harper government has steadily reduced the number of refugees entering Canada and refused to uphold its duty to refugees from war, especially the victims of U.S.-NATO aggression in which Canada has been an active participant. The Harper government has introduced terms like illegal migrants to try and sow racism and division amongst the people, slashed health care coverage for refugee claimants and stepped by deportations of people whose claims are rejected.

Effective January 2014, the number of parents and grandparents of Canadian citizens and permanent residents who can immigrate to Canada has been cut to 5,000 people a year. At the time this quotas was established there were 185,000 applications on the waiting list. The vast majority of families will not be able to bring parents and grandparents as permanent residents and citizens, but only to visit by obtaining a "super visa". A "super visa" allows parents and grandparents to visit Canada for up to two years at a time, and is valid for ten years. Visa holders cannot access medicare and must first show proof of purchase of private health insurance before entering Canada.

Minister of Immigration Chris Alexander is now finishing the work begun by Jason Kenney to revamp the immigration system for economic immigrants. According to Alexander, "Express Entry will lead to a faster and more flexible economic immigration system that will address Canada's economic and labour market needs."

Historically, all applications for permanent residency have been processed, although there were long waiting lists. As of January 1, 2015 this will no longer be the case. Instead people wishing to immigrate to Canada as economic immigrants will file an expression of interest on line through the Express Entry program. Applicants will then be ranked according to a selection grid made up of six factors - proficiency in English and/or French, education, occupation, work experience, age and ‘ability to prosper in Canada'. This information will be made available to employers on-line who can make selections from the list. Only those selected by an employer or nominated in a provincial nominee program, which should be called employer nominee programs, will be "invited" to become a permanent resident. Those "expressing interest" who are not selected will be removed from the Express Entry list after a period of time. No information is provided as to whether they can "express interest" a second time.

Federal programs under which people can be selected include the Federal Skilled Worker Program, the Federal Skilled Trades Program, and the Canadian Experience Class. The first three programs together have a quota of 38,000 applications for 2014, not including the spouses and dependent children of successful applicants who may also apply for permanent resident status. Live-In Caregivers will also be eligible to apply for permanent residency after two years or 3,900 hours of work in Canada as a live-in caregiver. Quebec selects its own immigrants and is not part of these streams.

The Harper government has frivolously referred to this new system as "speed dating" to match employers and workers. Alexander brazenly declares that the system is designed to serve the owners of capital. The destruction of any semblance of a public authority which exercises authority over immigration is presented as a matter of "efficiency." What this means is a system to "efficiently" create a vulnerable sector of workers in order to implement Harper's low wage agenda and attack the rights of all. The same bogus claims about labour shortages based on fraudulent statistics used to justify the temporary foreign workers program are also used to permit employers to declare such a labour shortage.

Provincial Nominee Programs

Provincial Nominee Programs (PNPs) will likely be greatly expanded under the new system. PNPs differ from province to province, but they are mainly employer driven. Employers use these programs to sponsor temporary foreign workers, giving employers enormous power over vulnerable temporary foreign workers. Intimidation, violation of employment standards, refusal to pay the wages agreed to, illegal deduction of broker fees and countless other examples of illegal actions by employers are the logical consequence of putting this power in the hands of employers and privatization of immigration.

An example recently brought to light by CBC quoted an email from labour trafficker Mercan Group giving advice to employers. "We believe a simple reminder to the workers will reverse the effects of the Canadian influence," it says. Mercan advised employers to let temporary foreign workers who are demanding their rights know that "since you are supporting them for the [Saskatchewan Immigrant Nominee Program], you can choose to withdraw your support. An employer choosing to withdraw their support is not punishing their workers, rather, showing them they (the employers) has the right to support them or not." This "path to immigration" must be abolished together as an affront to the rights which belong to people as human beings and workers.

The working class has a right to a say in the decision-making process concerning immigration. The exclusion of the working class in favour of monopoly right to decide causes profound harm and is an affront to the rights of all. It must not be permitted.

All workers in Canada have rights as the producers of all value and providers of all services that Canadians need. All people have rights by virtue of being human. Immigration policy must serve nation-building in Canada, not the narrow interests of the monopolies. The organized working class movement has the duty and social responsibility to exercise its right of a say and control over the decision-making process on all issues including all aspects of immigration and its relation to the dialectic of the labour market.

Not only must the temporary foreign worker program be abolished at once, but employers must not be permitted to further strengthen their dictate over all decision-making so as to push their low-wage, anti-worker agenda.

Immigration must be renewed under control of a public authority to serve the public interest. Employers must recognize both the rights of Canadian workers to a livelihood and security and the rights of immigrant workers as soon as they take up residence or employment. For this to come into being, the organized working class must fight for the political power of a say and control over the decision-making process regarding immigration.

For Your Information
The Express Entry Immigration System

Canada's Citizenship and Immigration Minister Chris Alexander announced on April 4, 2014 that Canada's active recruitment model for economic immigration will officially be called "Express Entry." Set to launch in January 2015, Alexander called "Express Entry" "a major step forward in the transformation of Canada's immigration system into one that is fast, flexible and focused on meeting Canada's economic and labour needs."

Alexander also stated that the government does not want to "pick the winners" but instead is putting decision-making in the hands of employers. It promises quick processing, while the monopolies continue to claim an acute labour shortage in which they need people "yesterday."

Anyone applying to immigrate from outside Canada before entering Canada will only have the option of applying under the Express Entry Program. "Express Entry" candidates who receive a valid job offer or nomination under a Provincial Nominee Program (PNP) will be "invited" to apply for permanent residency.

Under new regulations, economic immigrants can be admitted through three federal programs, the Federal Skilled Worker Program, Federal Skilled Trades Program and the Canadian Experience Class. The Federal Skilled Workers Program includes 50 occupations such as managers, IT analysts, software engineers, accountants, doctors, nurses and other health care professionals, investment brokers and others in the financial sector, etc. with a quota of 25,500 including 500 PhD graduates. There is a sub-cap of 1,000 applications for each occupation. The quota does not include those who have a confirmed valid job offer.

Federal Skilled Trades Program: 5,000 applications a year will be accepted, for the 90 skilled trades rated NOC Skill level B. Only 100 applications will be accepted in each trade. The major sub-groups include industrial, electrical and construction trades; maintenance and equipment operation trades; supervisors and technical occupations in national resources, agriculture and related production; processing, manufacturing and utilities supervisors and central control operators; skilled food services workers (chefs, cooks, butchers and bakers.)

Canadian Experience Class: 8,000 applications will be accepted with a limit of 200 applications for each National Occupational Classification (NOC) B occupation. These are occupations which usually require college education or apprenticeship training. Applicants must already have skilled work experience in Canada.

The Federal Immigrant Investor and Entrepreneur Programs remain on hold. These programs have been rife with fraud and scandal.

On average about 250,000 people immigrate to Canada every year. In 2012, 160,000 people came to Canada as economic immigrants (62 per cent), 60,000 in the family class (25 per cent) and 23,000 (9 per cent) as refugees. Others not included in these categories totaled 3.5 per cent.