Campus & Community / Magazine Feature

Strategic Issues panel hosts final immigration informational meeting

When it comes to immigration, Canada has an interesting take: the federal government actually has to negotiate with the provincial governments.

As states complain that the U.S. government saddles them with the costs of immigration —
legal and illegal — without giving them a say in policy, Canada’s federal government is required by law to involve its 10 provinces and three territories, says Erin Brouse, consul at the Canadian consulate-general in Los Angeles.

Brouse spoke May 28 at the final informational meeting of the DU’s Strategic Issues Program, providing insight to the Canadian approach to immigration. After hearing from 31 speakers with an array of expertise on immigration, SIP panelists will now retreat into a series of discussion sessions as they hammer out a proposal for policy makers to use as they seek a solution to U.S. immigration problems.

“I feel like I’ve been washed over by a fire hose with information,” panel leader Jim Griesemer said.

Brouse said illegal immigration isn’t a big problem in Canada. Unless an immigrant causes problems or commits a crime, he or she would likely go unnoticed. And when it comes to legal immigration, if there’s a demand for an immigrant’s skills, that person would most likely be admitted to the country to work. The country recruits workers from around the globe: Chinese workers for the oil fields, Caribbean workers for agriculture and workers from all over for engineering, education and health professions.

The one country that sends few immigrants to Canada, she said, is Mexico.

No matter where workers come from, the federal government doesn’t cap the number as long as there is demand. And individual provinces can recruit what they need to serve industry, Brouse said. Not only are workers welcome, but students from foreign country are welcome with fewer restrictions than in the United States, too. And when they’ve finished their education, it’s easier for them to stay in Canada and find work.

Of course, she noted, the U.S. and Canada (with 33 million residents, less than California’s population) are in different situations.

“You’re really trying to stem the flood,” she said. “We’re trying to attract. That’s really a difference.”

But when it comes to stemming that tide, the U.S. is struggling with a system that immigration lawyers on the front lines say is fractured and unworkable.

Phil Alterman and Brad Hendrick, partners in the Denver-based immigration firm Stern, Elkind, Curray & Alterman, offered panelists a look at how current policies work in real life. Helping clients navigate the U.S. immigration is challenging, they said. Agencies are divided and subdivided, strict quotas limit how many immigrants are allowed into the United States by expertise and by country (meaning two equally qualified applicants may get different results when they apply for a work permit) and those who are accused of violating immigration laws face court backlogs of two years or more.

“You’ve heard how the system is broken,” Alterman said. “We’re going to show you how it’s badly broken.”

The Strategic Issues Program panel moves now from the information gathering process into the discussion portion. Members will meet regularly to review the assembled material and look for workable solutions that can be presented to leaders in government and industry at the conclusion of the process. The nonpartisan SIP panel is made up of scholars and business, social and political experts. The goal is to craft a framework for immigration reform that will be presented in early December.

Comments are closed.