From a mainstream news story about the bill:
A bill being discussed would legalize millions of illegal immigrants, tighten border security and mandate that employers verify they are hiring legal workers.
The bill includes conservative-backed initiatives such as the worker verification program to prevent illegal immigrants from getting jobs, and a new point system to prioritize skills and education over family in deciding who can immigrate in the future.
Liberals decry the point scheme as unfair to families and are vehemently opposed to a guest worker program that would let laborers come to the US for temporary stints without a guarantee they would be able to stay and eventually gain citizenship.
But it also includes a long-sought liberal priority — granting legal status to the nation's estimated 12 million illegal immigrants. Conservatives view that as an unacceptable amnesty program.
Although I am an immigrant from the United States, I don't follow immigration issues to the US closely, if at all, so I don't have a clear opinion on it.
The US adopting an immigration system like Canada's presupposes that the countries have the same population and labour issues. Canada needs the population and the professional work force. Does the US? As far as I know, it does not - but again, I haven't studied the issues.
My concerns about immigrants in the United States are pretty simple. I want to see all workers, whether or not they have legal documentation, treated humanely. I want families to be able to stay together, and persecuted people to find refuge.
The National Organization for Women (NOW) calls for meaningful immigration reform that includes these principles:
- a legalization program that will allow undocumented immigrants living in the US to apply for residency,
- enforcement of existing federal labour laws for all workers, including domestic workers, most of whom are female,
- improvements in the family reunification program
- adequate health care for all children, including US-born children of undocumented immigrants,
- family-planning health care coverage for all immigrant women regardless of legal and economic status, and
- adoption of the provision of the WISH Act which provides safe harbor and safety-net benefits to immigrant victims of sexual and domestic violence.
In New York, a huge, mostly legal immigrant population comprise a huge percentage of the small business owners and nonprofessional labour force. The enormous influx of legal immigrants in the last 25 years, who have come to the US via family sponsorship, has revitalized New York's economy, and transformed the outer boroughs that were decimated by the white flight of the 1950s and 60s.
The segment of the Brian Lehrer show linked above includes immigration experts explaining the proposed point system in the US immigration bill, and how Canada's system works.
My understanding is that Canada has completely different immigration needs. While Canada encourages a skilled immigration force from all over the world, the pressing issues are how to help that population succeed once they are here. The shorthand anecdote for these issues is the doctor who is driving a taxi while the city he lives in suffers from an acute shortage of doctors.
Minister of Immigration and Citizenship Mike Colle has announced a pilot program to address the key problems that undermine the success of Canada's immigration policy:
...long delays in processing applications; the disconnect between the qualifications of immigrants and their success in the labour market; and the concentration of immigrant settlement in major urban centres like the GTA that combine high living costs with often limited employment opportunities.
With an aging population and a low birth rate, increases in the labour force increasingly depend upon Canada's ability to attract highly qualified immigrants. In competition with Australia, the United States and European Union countries, Canada's global immigration strategy uses a point system to recruit highly educated, skilled and experienced immigrants who can readily find employment and contribute to economic growth.
However, numerous studies point to the same troubling conclusion: Canada is losing its status as a destination of choice as delays in the processing of applications and growing awareness of difficulties finding employment related to their education, skills and work experience deter highly qualified immigrants.
Currently, applicants for admission to Canada as independent class or economic immigrants – 60 per cent of all immigrants – face an 18- to 30-month processing time. The waiting list is more than 800,000. Once admitted, based on existing trends, slightly more than 50 per cent of the projected 141,000-158,000 economic-class immigrants in 2007 will settle in Ontario, the overwhelming majority in the GTA.
After a brief period of adjustment, many economic immigrants find employment and fulfill their expectations, but despite high levels of education, skill and work experience, the majority face a high risk of unemployment, underemployment and poverty.
The cost of processing delays and unsuccessful settlement is high, both for the immigrant and their dependants and the Ontario economy due to the underutilization of their skills and expertise at a time of emerging labour shortages.
Ontario's new provincial nomination program will enable employers in the health, education, manufacturing and construction sectors to recruit employees for jobs in 20 occupations, matching job vacancies with the qualifications of prospective immigrants. Citizenship and Immigration Canada will fast-track the admission of nominated immigrants and their families and the program will allocate 50 per cent of nominations to communities outside of the GTA to encourage more balanced immigrant settlement throughout the province and contribute to regional economic development.
[From an Op-Ed in the Star by Ryerson University professor Arthur Ross]
That Canada sees itself in competition with other countries to attract immigrants, and is trying to help immigrants thrive and contribute to Canada, strikes me as a pretty basic difference between the two countries' attitudes toward immigration.