OTTAWA–Many of the so-called DREAMers, some 700,000 young immigrants facing potential expulsion under U.S. President Donald Trump, would qualify to immigrate to Canada, according to a briefing note obtained by the Star.
The note, prepared for Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, suggests that “many” of the DREAMers would be able to find a home in Canada under federal and provincial immigration programs.
The cohort of young immigrants was protected under the Obama-era Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, which the Trump administration announced they will phase out.
They now remain in legal limbo, as court challenges against their deportation proceed and the U.S. Congress remains unable to craft a legislative solution.
“While some DACA recipients may attempt to enter Canada as asylum seekers, many could qualify under the various immigration program streams,” reads the briefing note, prepared September 2017.
Article Continued Below
“DACA recipients who have attained advanced education and are employed in in-demand occupations may apply for permanent residency through express entry,” the note continued.
“While Canada’s long-standing immigration priority has been for high-skilled workers, there are limited pathways to permanent residency for lower-skilled workers (such as the provincial nominee program).”
Any advice Trudeau received about the situation has been completely censored from the documents, which were obtained under access to information law.
The immigration issue has once again gripped the United States, with the Trump administration facing widespread outrage over a policy of separating children from parents as they attempt to illegally enter the United States.
On Wednesday, Trump reversed the policy. But it’s unclear how — or if — the more than 2,300 children currently held in U.S. detention centres will be reunited with their parents.
The DREAMers — named for the failed Obama-era Development, Relief and Education for Alien Minors (DREAM) Act — represent an older cohort who came to the U.S. as undocumented children. They were seen by the Obama administration as not personally responsible for their illegal entry because they were brought to the U.S. by their parents.
DREAMers were between the ages of 15 and 36 as of September 2017, when U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced the administration would phase out the program. While the DREAMers were facing a deadline of March 2018, a San Francisco court granted a nationwide injunction while their fate is decided by the courts.
Article Continued Below
Trudeau’s briefing note pointed to “various U.S. studies (that) have shown that DACA has had a positive impact on educational attainment and employment.” Roughly 60 per cent of DACA recipients own their own home, have a higher rate of enrollment in higher education than other U.S. workers of the same age, and 16 per cent have either completed some college or have a bachelor’s degree.
But the majority of DACA recipients are employed in low-skill occupations, putting them at a disadvantage in Canada’s federal economic immigration streams.
The Star asked Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Minister Ahmed Hussen’s if Canada had the capacity to accept DREAMers facing deportation. In a statement, a spokesperson for Hussen’s office said the government remains committed to a “thoughtful and responsible approach to immigration.”
“We won’t speculate on any possible future trends, but we continuously monitor conditions and developments in other countries to inform our planning,” wrote Mathieu Genest in an email.
Conservative immigration critic Michelle Rempel said the Canadian government can’t look at one particular cohort or group, but needs to take a holistic approach to the immigration system.
“You can’t look at this issue in isolation, right? There’s a huge demand for entry into Canada, and certainly many experts talk about immigration to bolster the Canadian economy over time as well as the expectation and the duty that Canada has to be an active participant in humanitarian immigration,” Rempel told the Star on Monday.
“The broader question is how do we do that? That’s why you can’t look at the demands of one particular cohort without placing it into the context of looking at what are Canada’s larger objectives when it comes to immigration. That’s really my concern, that the Liberal government has not really thought that through.”
Georgette Morris, a doctoral student studying immigration issues at the University of Ottawa, said Canada does have some capacity to offer the DREAMers a safe haven.
Morris said because many DREAMers have language requirements and can easily integrate to Canadian society, they make for desirable candidates.
“I do feel that there is some room or some space for accommodation to be made,” Morris said.
“There are quite a few things that the country has to consider in terms of balancing priorities and various other concerns, but I do think to some degree there is an opportunity there.”
With files from the Washington Post