A Nations of Immigrants with a Dumb Immigration Policy

Canada is much friendlier than the United States with regard to immigration.

A blogger for The Economist notes that Canada is much friendlier than the United States with regard to immigration.

AS A matter of national policy, Canada actively solicits immigrants and has done so for years. The public supports this and the default political assumption is in support of continued immigration. According to a recent poll, only a third of Canadians believe immigration is more of a problem than an opportunity, far fewer than any other country included in the survey. Rather, Canadians are concerned about “brain waste” and ensuring that foreign credentials are appropriately recognised and rewarded in the job market? Being an immigrant is also no barrier to being a proper Canadian; in parliamentary elections earlier this month, 11% of the people elected were not native. This warm embrace isn’t just a liberal abstraction; 20% of Canadians are foreign-born.

It’s well-known that Canada is an outlier among immigrant nations, but it is nonetheless interesting to consider in reference to the ongoing and heated debate about immigration in the United States. Why is Canadian public opinion so different from views in United States?

At a conference yesterday, Jeffrey Reitz, a sociologist at the University of Toronto, cited two big explanations for the difference. The first was that Canadians are convinced of the positive economic benefits of immigration—to the extent that towns under economic duress are especially keen to promote immigration, because they believe immigrants will create jobs. Even unemployed Canadians will stoutly insist that immigrants do not take work away from the native born. This makes sense, as most immigrants to Canada are authorised under a “points” system tied to their credentials and employment potential. About half of Canadian immigrants have bachelor’s degrees. They may have a higher unemployment rate than native-born workers, Mr Reitz said, and they benefit from programmes and services created specially for immigrants, such as language training. But the preponderance of evidence suggests that Canada’s immigrants, being high-skilled, are net contributors.

Mr Reitz’s second explanation was that Canadians see multiculturalism as an important component of national identity. In one public opinion poll, Mr Reitz said, multiculturalism was deemed less important than national health care but more important than the flag, the Mounties, and hockey. Irene Bloemraad, a sociologist at the University of California at Berkeley, picked up this theme. There wasn’t such a thing as a purely Canadian passport, she said, until 1947. Canada was, psychosocially, very much a part of the British commonwealth until quite recently. When it came time to create a distinctively Canadian identity, the country included a large and vocal Francophone minority (as well as a considerable number of first peoples). The necessity of bilingualism contributed to a broader public commitment to multiculturalism, which persists today.

The next paragraph deals with the most obvious rejoinder in rather amusing fashion:

Other factors allow Canada to be more inviting. The country has little reason to worry about illegal immigration. Like the United States, it shares a long southern border with a country suffering from high levels of crime, unemployment and income inequality. But there aren’t millions of Americans yearning to get into Canada. To put it another way, the United States’s buffer zone from the eager masses is a shallow river. Canada’s is the United States. That reduces unauthorised migration to Canada and eases public anxiety about it. Canada also has a smaller population and lower birth rate than the United States—it needs immigrants for population growth. [emphasis mine]

American resistance to immigration mostly comes in the form of resentment over flows from Mexico and Central America, not Sweden. It’s notable, too, that the United States has nine times Canada’s population (307 million vs. 33.7 million) in roughly the same territory. And we grant American citizenship to over a million people a year through the process of naturalization–so it’s not like we’re averse to immigrants by nature.

What is true, however, is that we go about the process strangely as compared to the Canadians and most other developed countries. We place a very high priority on family connections and a very low priority on skills. Some of the best and brightest from around the world come here for college and graduate school and then face major obstacles and staying here and contributing their skills to our society. Not only does a student visa not automatically confer the right to full-time employment but American firms have to justify hiring them through an elaborate process requiring certification that no Americans are available for the job. That’s just crazy.

FILED UNDER: General
James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.

Comments

  1. superdestroyer says:

    Most citizens of the United States would never be allowed to immigrate to Canada under their point system. Yet, Mexico wants the ability for all of its citizens to freely immigrate to the U.S.

    Comparing Canda and the U.S. is a horrible idea. The U.S. already has a massive third world population in the form of ghetto dwelling blacks and Hispanics. It does not need more.

  2. Southern Hoosier says:

    We place a very high priority on family connections and a very low priority on skills.

    Quite true. One anchor baby is born here and the whole family gets to come. Many of the illegal immigrants coming from the south are indignant people who not only don’t speak English, but don’t speak Spanish.

    I wonder how many of the immigrants arriving in Canada actually stay there and not move south to the United States? Remember Ahmed Ressam (Arabic: احمد رسام‎; also Benni Noris or the Millennium Bomber? He came through Canada to the United States

    Multiculturalism? How’s that working out with Quebec? Wasn’t it just a few years ago that Canada almost split in two?

    The presence of Muslims in Canada threatens the country’s freedoms and democracy, and only if immigration from Islamic countries is suspended can the cultural deterioration of the country be stopped, controversial Dutch politician Geert Wilders told a packed house Monday night in Toronto.

    http://goo.gl/TmYFa

  3. george says:

    I wonder how many of the immigrants arriving in Canada actually stay there and not move south to the United States?

    According to stats Canada, about 35% of immigrants to Canada leave within 20 years, though many of those return to their original country rather than going to the US (ie make their money in Canada, and then retire ‘back home’). Immigrants from developing countries are more likely to leave Canada than immigrants from Europe or Japan … presumably because immigrants from developed countries who wanted to go to the US would have gone directly there.

    Canada is mainly made up of immigrants – most Canadians are from families only a couple of generations in Canada – if most immigrants left Canada would have a population of a few million instead of 35 million.

  4. george says:

    And living in Canada (dual citizen), the main reason given for immigration is economic – all the parties (left wing to right wing) are for immigration because the calculation has always been that in the long run its good for the economy. Multi-culturalism isn’t really seen as a major reason for immigration, its just something they tack on the end after the economic case has been made.

  5. steve says:

    The courts have consistently held that families can still be deported even if their is an anchor baby present. The concept is not valid. What does happen is that once families immigrate here, priority is given to relatives, regardless of skill level. We should be granting a lot more work visas and making it easier to keep skilled immigrants.

    As to the larger issue, I just recently passed over hiring a very good candidate because he had a H1-B visa who had complications because he had been temporarily out of work due to illness. After talking with our lawyer, and realizing that I was running up lawyer fees, I just moved on to another candidate since it was easier.

    Steve

  6. Jib says:

    I think you missing the biggest difference between Canada and US immigration. Canada’s is legal, ours is mostly illegal. Illegal immigration sets up a second class labor group, it is a way to move jobs overseas that can not be physically moved. Just import a cheap third world labor force.

    Yes there are the racist and the nut jobs who oppose all immigrates but they are not the majority. What is causing most of the grief is when people lose their jobs to lower paid illegal immigrates and everyone knows it is illegal but no one does a damn thing about it. If it happened to you, it would drive you nuts too. Do that for 15 years and guess what, you get a large number of people pissed off at illegal immigrates.

    We need to dramatically increase the number of legal immigrates and we need to punish employers who hire illegal immigrates. The govt knows where they are, the can track them by the bogus and duplicate social security numbers. Did you know it is illegal for the SS admin to report that info to anyone. Congress at the behest of the companies who employ illegal immigrates made passed that law.

  7. DC Loser says:

    Multiculturalism? How’s that working out with Quebec? Wasn’t it just a few years ago that Canada almost split in two?

    That was almost 20 years ago that the PQ had their last serious shot at secession. How did the Bloc Quebecois do in the recent election? Not well at all. Francophone secession is not high on the list of serious problems in Canada. Most French Canadians support being part of a bi-lingual Canada. From my visits to Canada the last few years, I can see that multiculturalism is very much alive and well in cities like Toronto, Ottawa, Montreal, Vancouver, and Calgary. Canadians understand their immigration policy has added much needed population and talent to their otherwise sparsely populated country.

  8. Southern Hoosier says:

    Jib says: Saturday, May 21, 2011 at 11:45
    Canada’s is legal, ours is mostly illegal.

    After 2000, immigration to the United States numbered approximately 1,000,000 per year.

    In the first half of the decade, an average of 850,000 people a year entered the United States without authorization

    Yes there are the racist and the nut jobs who oppose all immigrates but they are not the majority

    I wish we were in the majority, then we could stop this madness.
    http://goo.gl/Ucs68

  9. Southern Hoosier says:

    DC Loser says: Saturday, May 21, 2011 at 11:56
    Canadians understand their immigration policy has added much needed population and talent to their otherwise sparsely populated country.

    But how much of your land is uninhabitable?

  10. Ha ha, the US is to Canada what Mexico is to the US, with it’s crime, unemployment, income inequality, etc. More simple-minded anti-Americanism if you ask me, and I want to emphasize simple minded. As an exercise, compare and contrast who is emigrating from Mexico to the US and who is emigrating, or claims to be emigrating, from the US to Canada.

  11. Dave Schuler says:

    Flash! Two countries with different circumstances have different immigration policies. Whodathunkit?

  12. george says:

    But how much of your land is uninhabitable?

    Probably about 50%, depending upon the standard. It works out to slightly less than the population of California in a habitable region about ten times that of California. It tends to be cold though, and a lot of folks might call that uninhabitable, in the same way that Minnesota is.

    Russia has pretty close to the same conditions, and has five times Canada’s population in roughly twice the area.

  13. george says:

    BTW, something like 80% of Canada’s population lives in cities/suburbs/towns (same as the US), so habitable doesn’t really mean much in the normal sense – you can put a city almost anywhere so long as you have energy, water and food … and Canada has more than enough of all of those.

  14. James Joyner says:

    @charles austin: “Ha ha, the US is to Canada what Mexico is to the US, with it’s crime, unemployment, income inequality, etc. More simple-minded anti-Americanism if you ask me”

    I took it as a joke. While Canadians have some issues with its big brother to the south, they don’t think of us as a Third World country.

  15. Have a nice G.A. says:

    Canada sucks!!!

  16. Southern Hoosier says:

    george says: Saturday, May 21, 2011 at 12:56
    you can put a city almost anywhere so long as you have energy, water and food …

    And jobs.

  17. george says:

    And jobs.

    Actually given energy, water and food, jobs tend to take care of themselves. Okay, this is a simplification, but assuming availability of the normal natural resources, education and so on (again not a problem in Canada), its pretty accurate.

    A lot of Canadian cities started with almost nothing but those elements a century ago … Calgary, Edmonton, Saskatoon for example, and are doing pretty well now.

  18. Southern Hoosier says:

    george says: Saturday, May 21, 2011 at 14:29
    Actually given energy, water and food, jobs tend to take care of themselves.

    You are right. So what happened to Detroit?

  19. ken says:

    Canada is what the US could have been if we’d not burdened ourselves with the South.

  20. Wiley Stoner says:

    Immigration is somewhat different from those who cross our borders illegally. Many try to blur the difference by leaving out one word ILLEGAL.

  21. superdestroyer says:

    Ken,

    How would Detroit and Cleveland be better off is Florida and Texas were not part of the Union.

    Or are you arguing that the U.S. would be better off without all of the blacks that live in the South.

  22. Have a nice G.A. says:

    “Canada is like a loft apartment over a really great party.” Robin Williams.

  23. Southern Hoosier says:

    Or are you arguing that the U.S. would be better off without all of the blacks that live in the South.

    LOL

  24. ken says:

    Looking at the overall history of the US one can see that the South has always retarded our progress. Southern cultural, dominated by conservative whites, has always resisted change and has had to be reluctantly pulled along with much effort by the rest of the nation. It has always been, and remains to this day, a net drain on our wealth.

    If we weren’t held back by having to deal with the problems created by southern culture we could have been more like Canada.

  25. tom p says:

    Ha ha, the US is to Canada what Mexico is to the US, with it’s crime, unemployment, income inequality, etc. More simple-minded anti-Americanism if you ask me, and I want to emphasize simple minded. As an exercise, compare and contrast who is emigrating from Mexico to the US and who is emigrating, or claims to be emigrating, from the US to Canada.

    Charles, I took it as a joke. While Canadians have some issues with its big brother to the south, they don’t think of us as a Third World country.

    James, have you ever talked to a Canadian? Because I can gaurantee that that is exactly what they think of us. They have health care for all…. We???? Not so much.

    Seriously James, you need to get out of the country.

    PS:Charles:

    Ha ha, the US is to Canada what Mexico is to the US, with it’s crime, unemployment, income inequality, etc.

    Charles, your sarcasm is inerringly (sp?) accurate.

  26. Southern Hoosier says:

    ken says: Saturday, May 21, 2011 at 18:00

    If we weren’t held back by having to deal with the problems created by southern culture we could have been more like Canada.

    Canada is a federal state that is governed as a parliamentary democracy and a constitutional monarchy with Queen Elizabeth II as its head of state.

    Good point, if it wasn’t for the Southern States, we would be “a parliamentary democracy and a constitutional monarchy with Queen Elizabeth II as its head of state.”

  27. george says:

    James, have you ever talked to a Canadian? Because I can gaurantee that that is exactly what they think of us. They have health care for all…. We???? Not so much.

    You know, living in Canada for over a decade, I’ve never heard anyone call the US a third world country. A lot of Canadians don’t think much of American health care, but so long as it doesn’t come to Canada they’re pretty much indifferent about what health care system the US has.

    Most Canadians actually like America – not everything about America, just as most Americans don’t like everything about Canada, and of course most Canadians prefer Canada to the US just as most Americans prefer the US to Canada – but they see the US as a friendly place they like to visit (and many do holiday or at least shop in the US).

  28. superdestroyer says:

    Ken,

    How has the culture of Atlanta, Nashville, or Houston managed to adversely affect Detroit, Cleveland, and Buffalo. The South was basically irrelevant until the invention of air conditioning. Once air conditioning was wide spread, there was little reason to have heavy industry in Buffalo, Detroit, or Cleveland.

    If