Regularizing undocumented migrants | The duty


In December 2021, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau asked the Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship, Sean Fraser, to « continue to explore means » to regularize the status of undocumented migrant workers. Ten months later, the minister has still not announced anything.

A little over a week ago, a hundred people demonstrated in Montreal to demand a massive regularization program for these workers.

According to the House of Commons Standing Committee on Citizenship and Immigration, Canada has between 20,000 and 500,000 undocumented migrants. When we see such figures, and such a gap in the evaluations, it is because we do not really know how many of these people there are who subsist in this pitiful but tolerated clandestinity.

Among these workers who preferred to take the key to the fields instead of returning to their countries of origin, there are several specific cases. There are tourist visa holders who have stayed in the country illegally, workers whose work permits have not been renewed, sometimes because of negligent employers or the administrative complexity of the Immigration, Refugee and Citizenship Canada (IRCC), international students at the end of their studies and asylum seekers who have been refused refugee status and are the subject of a deportation notice.

If it is true that hundreds of thousands of workers, even half a million, as some estimate, work in the black market in Canada, the problem cannot continue to be ignored. These workers enjoy no social protection; they do not have access to free health services, nor to protection against industrial accidents, to employment insurance, of course, and to last resort assistance. Their daily life is made up of poorly paid odd jobs. They are dependent on employers who can exploit them. Sometimes they only speak their native language and are thus often confined to their ethnic community, which is however in line with multiculturalist dogma.

In his order to his minister, Justin Trudeau asks him to build on existing pilot programs. For two years in Toronto, there has been such a pilot project in the construction industry. It is very limited: the program aims to regularize only 500 workers, and it seems that this modest objective has not even been achieved. Last year, IRCC abolished one of the conditions that stood in the way: having the most minimal knowledge of one of the official languages, in this case English of course. Ottawa grants permanent residency to immigrants who speak neither official language. It is not an impediment.

The phenomenon of undocumented workers is a consequence of the immigration regime that has imposed itself in recent years. The vast majority of immigration candidates no longer apply from abroad: they are already in the country as temporary workers, students and asylum seekers.

These foreigners are confronted with the double language of the federal authorities: on the one hand, they are told that the preferred way to be admitted as an immigrant is to be already in Canada thanks to a temporary status, on the other hand, requires them to commit to leaving the country once their contracts or studies are completed.

In the case of asylum seekers passing through Roxham Road, it can take years before their fate is decided by the authorities. In the meantime, many of them have been able to find stable employment, learn the common language, and even start a family. In short, they integrated.

The disadvantage of regularization is that it concedes an advantage to people who break the rules to the detriment of those who comply. It is better to enter via Roxham Road than to take the regular route and pass the border posts.

The other issue is the dysfunctional state of IRCC, which is currently unable to properly assume its responsibilities. For example, asylum seekers arriving in Quebec now wait ten months before Ottawa formalizes their request for refugee status, a step that allows them to obtain a work permit. Forced to do nothing, they are reduced to receiving help as a last resort.

Faced with federal negligence, the Legault government has a duty to exercise all the powers at its disposal, particularly with regard to work and study permits, in order to remedy the aberrations of a failing system. But in the long term, it is the whole of the work that he will have to review.

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