It is a hot election topic, and not just in Canada. Donald Trump expects to ride it to victory in 2020. It led to Angela Merkel’s decision not to seek another term as Chancellor of Germany. It fueled Brexit.
But does anyone really understand immigration?
It is a political hot potato in Canada’s fall election. Really though there are three separate issues that voters have lumped in their minds and labelled “immigration.”
The first is refugees. For Canadians this is a thorny issue. It isn’t that we don’t want to help those in need. But many people question the legitimacy of refugee claims here in the light of international law.
Someone arriving at our border claiming to be a refugee has probably passed through a safe country to get to Canada. Under international law, that is where they should have made their asylum claim. We might be a more attractive destination than whatever country they came from (apparently even the thousands coming from the United States), but we expect our laws to be respected by those who want to become part of our society.
We take very few refugees in a year, about ten per cent of immigrants in total. Some years there are exceptions, as the doors are opened a little wider to help with a humanitarian crisis, but for the most part the numbers are reasonable and manageable.
Of more concern, though also not as large a number as many people think, are illegal immigrants. These became a thorny political issue when the last government appeared to be encouraging illegal immigration as the U.S. was tightening its borders.
Canada’s immigration system is built on the rule of law. It doesn’t help a potential immigrant’s case if they ignore those laws just because they want to live here.
I sympathize – Canada may be the best place in the world to live (as long as you like cold) but there is an immigration process to follow. We can’t take in everyone who wants to come to the country. Unless that is we want to change what this country is – which is something we haven’t had a debate about.
There is resentment towards illegal migrants, and not just from those born here. Those who have followed the rules and gone through the proper procedures can be very harsh in their assessment of queue jumpers.
Lastly, we have immigration. People who do the paperwork and apply to come to Canada. This is much less a political football – all parties are agreed Canada needs immigrants. As was evident in Monday night’s leader’s debate, those who want to be the next Prime Minister differ as to how many immigrants we should take in each year, but all support the concept of immigration.
Living in Germany for the past couple of years I have been able to see first-hand how large numbers of immigrants can impact a country. There have been successes and failures as Germany has struggled to absorb its new citizens, It will be years before we know how well the recent wave of refugees adapt to German society and we can see how well the experiment of taking in millions of people in a short time works out.
Wherever you live, how do you feel about immigration? Are you willing to open your country’s borders to whomever wants to come and live there? Are any restrictions on immigration justified? And if not, how do you handle an influx of people who may not be familiar with your language or culture?