Migrant rights networks, advocates and allies in Canada are calling for status for all. And this call is not new. It is time to ask why status for all is essential to mitigate the social inequalities exposed by the pandemic.
Status for All means permanent residence for all temporary migrant workers and their families living in Canada with precarious legal status. Temporary migrant workers include international students, asylum seekers, temporary foreign workers in low-wage occupations and migrants classified as highly skilled in the International mobility program. It also includes without status migrants.
Read more: Coronavirus: Canada stigmatizes, endangers essential migrant workers
As of December 2020, there were over a million temporary migrants in Canada, including international students and low- and high-wage temporary migrant workers. There were also 81,000 or more asylum seekers. But there is no reliable data on the number of people live and work in Canada without permission.
They all have precarious legal status, which makes their vulnerability distinct. All temporary migrants are deportable.
With the pandemic, the pathways to permanent residence (PR) have been disrupted, put on hold, restarted and altered – leaving many migrants in an indefinite temporality.
How did we get here?
Three features of the new system guarantee vulnerability of migrants in the labor market, which continually reproduced conditions that guarantee a permanent pool of people living and working in Canada without status.
First, employer focused selection and probation are at the heart of the new immigration system. The two-step model allows certain categories of foreign workers and international students to apply for PR after meeting work-oriented requirements and gives employers and the provinces a greater role in the selection and retention of migrant workers and immigrants. As a result, employers control the access of many migrant workers to work and public relations.
The financial and political evisceration of refugee status determination is a second component of the system. Concerns about dangerous and “false“Asylum seekers have conducted to changes in the system that restrict access, create backlogs, provide insufficient social assistance and forcing people to choose survival jobs over education and training.
Third, immigration the system reproduces the population without status. Temporary migrants can lose their status as they navigate complex and changing policies and requirements. These can include not being able to afford the fees for tests and license renewals, relationship breakdowns and leaving a job for any reason, such as unpaid wages, sexual harassment. or unsafe working conditions. They are submitted to surveillance and the fear of deportation when they meet almost everyone.
This can make international students, asylum seekers, temporary migrant workers and people without status feel like they are navigating a game of chutes and ladders.
These situations create anxiety and uncertainty. Spending time with temporary status or without status has lasting impacts. It affects the physique and Mental Health, family dynamics and long range Planning.
Life before the pandemic was already uncertain for many, and it made matters worse financially and emotionally. One way to solve this problem is to have the precarious status barrier removed for all.
Renew the call: status for all
One approach is based on the motto “good enough to work, good enough to stay”. It extends the control of the employer because it links the granting of PR to employment criteria. It includes proposals to accelerate the transition to public relations for temporary workers and international students and programs to adjust the status of government pilots.
A government program rewards the “deserving” long-term care workers homes with pending or refused asylum claims with a path to PR. Another program offers a path for food workers with 12 months of temporary non-seasonal work permit experience that meets language requirements and has a non-seasonal job offer. A third will grant RP to up to 500 previously authorized people, but currently without status construction workers in the Greater Toronto Area and their families. And one new program recently announced provide public relations services to over 90,000 essential temporary workers and international graduates.
While these are ways forward, they are not perfect. Employment-based regularization is short-term, strategic and pragmatic. It focuses on migrant workers with higher human capital, but largely leaves out asylum seekers, people without status, young people and non-working family members. The government’s pilot programs are a drop in the bucket. Most migrant workers, asylum seekers, international students and people without status will be excluded.
Status for all human rights, mobility rights and decent work centers – for all temporary migrants with precarious legal status and their families, and not just for workers in certain sectors or professions.
The status for all can contribute to decent work by eliminating temporality and illegalization as a ground for exploitation and harassment and can improve the health and well-being of migrants. Public relations will not remove racism and other systemic barriers, but it is crucial. With greater security and less fear, immigrants with secure status can devote their time and resources to their families and communities.
Post-pandemic immigration policy is a longer conversation that must take into account the global dimensions of migration. We can work for a fair recovery by recognizing the systemic failures of the Canadian immigration system. It starts by reversing the surge in two-stage and two-stage immigration and prioritizing permanent immigration.
Francisco Rico-Martinez, co-director of the FCJ Refugee Center, contributed to this piece.