Canada 1, U.S. 0

This longish posting compares Canadian and American immigration policies. It is useful to read because immigration reform here will most likely make our system look more like Canada’s.

Michael Cuenco wrote in American Affairs Spring 2021 issue, “Immigration and Citizenship: The Canadian Model and the American Dream.” He captures in a few words Canada’s “middle class” immigration system and criticizes flaw in the American system. He would like the U.S. system not to mirror the Canadian system but to be much more capable – better application of governmental powers of administration. Cuenco says that the U.S. should adopt Canada’s workforce-oriented point system, but I think Cuenco’s main concern is not the workforce issue so much as the “archaic anti-system” nature of American immigration. (For a summary of Canada’s system, posted in 2017, go here. Here and here is my analysis of how a point system would affect American immigration, posted in 2007.)

Cuenco praises the “Canadian government bureaucracy that is entrusted with administering the points system; helping to enforce the SIN Code of Practice (Canada’s version of mandatory E-Verify); overseeing the flow of temporary foreign workers; among countless other mundane but crucial administrative tasks that go into the operation of the most highly reputed immigration system in the world. (Trump’s advisers should have known this since they repeatedly claimed Canada as a model.”

“Canada’s immigration system fosters a greater degree of social and economic coherence.” Cuenco, who lives in Canada, says this is due to Canada focusing most of its immigration flow on the “global middle class.” Its point system favors the English/French fluent, “skilled, educated, financially secure, upwardly mobile, entrepreneurial, and so forth, drawn from the ranks of the globalized middle classes of many nations.”

“The consistency of immigrant economic habits and outcomes across multiple ethnic backgrounds, and their convergence around the middle-class ethos, suggest that the philosophy animating Canadian immigration is not so much multiculturalism but what might rather be called “globalized Calvinism.” Consequently, instead of describing the kind of society that this system produces as a multicultural “mosaic,” a better way to think of Canada’s social template might be something along the lines of a multiracial “confederation of the middle classes.”

The global middle class has grown significantly in the past two decades. (Go here).

“The United States now has less of an immigration system and more of an intentionally anarchic “anti-system” in place.”

Politically moderate people in the U.S. almost always place employer verification of the legal work status of employees as an essential element in immigration reform. In the U.S., employers are not required to verify legal status through e-Verify. The Trump administration made no effort to make e-Verify use mandatory. In Canada, employers are subjected to much stricter verification rules tied to the Social Insurance Number (SIN).

Cuenco recounts how the 1986 reform act legalized several million persons. “The one policy that might conceivably make the provisions of the 1986 law more enforceable and render the system as a whole more coherent is national mandatory E-Verify, and this was of course opposed by Donald Trump and his administration…. The “Canadian example suggests that universal employment verification is probably the single most effective way to enforce immigration laws, more so than either a border wall or arbitrary ICE raids.”

“As for the wall, it would never be built, nor was that ever the plan. As with so much else in the Trump era, the purpose was purely symbolic and rhetorical…. Near the end of Trump’s term, the Houston Chronicle would report that “Barrack Obama’s ICE arrested and deported more than twice as many people during his first term in office.”.”

To reform the “anarchic anti-system”, four policy objectives “should concern any progressive administration: (1) accounting for the legal status of the existing unauthorized population; (2) establishing an enforceable standard of labor market security through employment verification; (3) transitioning to a high-skills immigration system; and (4) stemming migrant flows at the southern border by taking a regional approach to addressing the causes of outmigration.”

“As of this writing, the Biden administration has most vigorously pursued the first and fourth of these through its proposed U.S. Citizenship Act, while it has downplayed the second and effectively disregarded the third.” (I disagree with Cuenco on 3; see my posting on the Biden proposal here.)

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