Category Archives: Uncategorized

Schumer: ‘Illegal Immigration Will Be a Thing of the Past’

by Matthew Boyle11 Jun 2013

After the U.S. Senate voted to pass the motion to proceed to floor debate on the “Gang of Eight” immigration bill, Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY) claimed that this bill would solve illegal immigration and secure the border.

“Illegal immigration will be a thing of the past,” Schumer said on the Senate floor, celebrating the passage of the motion to proceed.

Schumer complained in an impassioned and lengthy speech on the Senate floor that opponents saying the bill does not have border security “is not fair.” Schumer said giving billions of dollars to the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) will lead to increased border security, even if illegal immigrants are given amnesty first. He promised that assurances of future border security measures would be maintained.

Nonetheless, Schumer admitted the bill “is not perfect.” He pleaded with other senators, “If you have a better idea” on how to secure the border “tell us.” Though Sens. John Cornyn (R-TX) and Rand Paul (R-KY) have offered outlines of amendments that would improve the border security provisions in the bill, Schumer did not say he would support them.

Schumer said the Gang of Eight would not compromise by conditioning the path to citizenship on “factors that may not ever happen” like border security. He complained that border security should not be used as a “bargaining chip.”

And while Schumer claims the bill fixes enforcement issues, he also dismissed border security as not a pressing concern.

“We don’t have a problem whereby these people [illegal immigrants] are besieging us with terrorist acts,” Schumer said.

Schumer also said he has been to the border with other Gang of Eight senators and said, “it’s huge.”

Canadian Immigration: Family Reunification for the Rich and the Lucky

No One Is Illegal – Toronto responds to the May 2013 changes to the Parent and Grandparent Program for Sponsorship

Last week, under the guise of “re-opening” family reunification, Immigration Minister Jason Kenney revealed significant changes to the Parent and Grandparent sponsorship program, once again making it harder for families to be reunited in Canada. With more exclusive conditions, only the wealthy or the lucky ones who make the first-come-first-served cut-off will be reunited with families, leaving behind the thousands who have been waiting for the past 10 years.

In 2011, Minister Kenney imposed a two-year freeze on immigration applications from parents and grandparents, shutting out the 165,000 people who had applied under the program many of whom had been waiting over eight years. Under the new restrictions, most of these families will remain shut out.

There is no compassion in the details. Starting Jan. 1, 2014, only 5,000 new applications will be accepted per year. This means the vast majority of immigrants will be unable to re-join their families.

Sponsors must prove minimum incomes that are 30% higher than before ($55,000 per household) and promise to be financially responsible for their loved ones for 20 years, rather than the current 10. Children, who used to be eligible for sponsorship as long as they were still in school, will now be excluded if over the age of 18, many of whom may still be dependent on their families’ support.

The “Super Visa” for parents and grandparents established after the fixture is now a permanent fixture. This is essentially a new temporary work program. The lucky holders of the Super Visa will be permitted to make multiple entries over a 10 year period, and remain in Canada for 2 years at a time but can’t stay permanently. Parents and grandparents who arrive here on this visa will be unable to get public healthcare and must access private insurance. Their sponsoring children must also meet a minimum income requirement. Add the costs of shuttling parents, grandparents and children back and forth between countries, and its clear this program is only meant for the wealthy.

Do not be fooled by the advertised “generosity” and “humanitarianism” of the Canadian immigration system. We have seen more than a 25% reduction to refugee acceptances, and the 73% drop in the number of permanent residents receiving Canadian citizenship since the conservatives came to power. There has been a dramatic shift from permanent residency to permanent temporariness. Hundreds of thousands of temporary migrant workers, many of whom are people of colour, fill the most precarious of jobs, pay millions into the social system, and yet they are unable to access essential health care, social assistance, employment insurance, and worker protection. Even if they get immigration status, they will be unlikely to bring over their families. Kenney is telling these people – those who grow our food, take care of our kids, clean our dishes, and form the basis of our economy – that they can work here but aren’t good enough to stay or be with their families.

Under this immigration system of increased temporariness, we will be seeing more and more immigrants – including children making the difficult decision to stay in Canada after the immigration system arbitrarily denies them more permits. Many of them will face detention, and deportation. It is not that our families are stealing Canadian resources; rather Canada is stealing immigration status and their humanity.

We demand an end to an immigration system that criminalizes refugees, imprisons immigrants, exploits migrant workers, punishes poor and people of colour, tears families apart, and prevents families from reuniting. Our communities are not fooled by the rhetoric of Jason Kenney, nor we will we be kept apart from our loved ones. We demand the immediate establishment of a non-discriminatory, non-punitive, full and comprehensive immigrant regularization system.

Freedom to move, freedom to stay, freedom to return.

Freedom to reunite! No One Is Illegal!

City to Explore “Access Without Fear” Policy for Undocumented Residents

Toronto will consider becoming a sanctuary city.

FEBRUARY 22, 2013 AT 9:45 AM – From the Torontoist


130221 Solidarity City 01

Members of the Solidarity City Network show support for undocumented workers at city council. Photo courtesy of Solidarity City Network.

Toronto City Council has decided, after a fraught debate yesterday, to learn how it can remove barriers undocumented workers face when trying to access municipal services, and become what’s sometimes called a “sanctuary city.”

By a vote of 37-3, they’ve asked staff to compile a set of recommendations that would “ensur[e] access to services without fear to immigrants without full status or without full status documents.” If councillors endorse that report when they get it later this year, they will be formally deciding that residents should have access to municipal services regardless of their immigration status. Council also voted to ask the federal government to create a regularization program for people without status.

In practice, most municipal programs and services already guarantee undocumented residents access without having to disclose their immigration status. You can, for instance, obtain a library card by showing proof of name and address—a utility bill counts—and access many other services without being asked for documentation. However, the City has no formal policy to protect undocumented residents, which means that right now many Torontonians without status refrain from using services available to them—food banks, police services, schools, shelters, recreation services—because they fear that when they hit those formal points of contact with the government they’ll risk detention or deportation by federal border officials.

In their background report on the issue [PDF] City staff cited research showing that undocumented residents “suffer from high levels of anxiety, depression, chronic stress, and stress related physical illnesses.” Parents fear sending their children to school, and those who need medical or public health services endanger themselves to remain underground.

Dozens of members of the Solidarity City Network, a collective of residents advocating for regularization of undocumented people, celebrated the decision inside the council chambers. “I think it’s a great show of what community organizing can do,” said Tzazna Miranda, a spokesperson from the network. “The only way we’re going to get changes is if our communities are standing strong and keep councillors to what they promised today.”

Councillor Joe Mihevc (Ward 21, St. Paul’s) called the sanctuary city decision “a historic moment.” During the debate, many councillors from across the political spectrum gave emotional speeches, citing their own families’ immigration stories and arguing that Toronto is a city shaped by the strength of its immigrant communities—and that, importantly, except for First Nations residents we all were immigrants at one point.

Mihevc suggested the vote makes protections for undocumented residents official City policy, though things aren’t quite that far along—council will still need to vote to accept the recommendations once they’ve been presented. Those recommendations will include more specific guidelines for increasing access, and a plan for training front-line City workers to ensure access policies are publicized and followed.

Poor staff training can blunt efforts to make services accessible to all residents. A 2010 study conducted by Social Planning Toronto revealed that even though provincial rules guarantee access to education regardless of status, Toronto Catholic District School Board staff regularly asked for documentation or denied admission to residents they thought were undocumented.

Councillor Denzil Minnan-Wong (Ward 34, Don Valley East) is one of the most vocal opponents of the sanctuary city policy. Yesterday he condemned “illegal immigrants” for failing to maintain legal status and proposed that council assist the federal government in removing undocumented people from the city. “They should be removed, we should not encourage them, we should not help them, we should not facilitate them,” Minnan-Wong said during debate. “They are an insult to every immigrant who played by the rules to get into this country.”

Any municipal access without fear policies will still have to respect existing provincial and federal laws. For example, people without status are restricted from accessing provincial welfare and disability support programs, as well as federal employment insurance benefits (even when these are administered by the City).

undocumented worker rates

Data from Citizenship and Immigration Canada, 2012, as presented in a report by the City of Toronto.

People in Toronto usually become undocumented after entering the country legally, then staying when their temporary work permits or student visas expire. The federal government has steadily increased the nation’s supply of temporary migrants in recent years, and they now arrive to Toronto in greater numbers than permanent residents do. Other residents become undocumented by remaining in Canada after they fail to achieve refugee status. Governments cannot keep reliable statistics on individuals living without documentation: City staff say the number of undocumented Torontonians could be as low as 20,000 and as high as 500,000.

One thought

by Dwight Gordon

Greetings, I’m constantly hearing people rant on about immigrants here, particularly the racialized ones. Whether it is about them supposedly bringing their untidiness, their rudeness, or catering to their own kind, or making cities like Toronto more dangerous. I heard a comment about how immigrants here must assimilate. But assimilate into what ? Is that referring to the white Anglo-Saxon Protestant way of life? And if so, does that mean that the aboriginal people don’t mean much? I’m Canadian of Jamaican parentage. So many people see me as being Jamaican just because I talk about Jamaica. I once had to tell a man three times that I was born in Canada. Yet he was quick to remember issues about me that could put me in a negative light. Mere coincidence ? In the meantime, I’ve been told to go back to the country where I supposedly came from. Another person had a hard time believing I was born here because of my black complexion. I keep hearing people rant on about Jamaicans, and blacks, making regions like Toronto more dangerous. So am I supposed to believe that in every case when a person is quick to see me as being from Jamaica, it’s an honest mistake ? In the meantime, Rob Ford interestingly made a comment a long time ago, saying that the Chinese work like dogs and that they’re taking over. And a man who was a company executive who was supposed to become some kind of federal commissioner, had to change his mind when he said something around the line of Jamaicans being a threat to Toronto’s safety. Some federal cabinet ministers ranted on saying that this executive was willing to work for just $1.00. I could swear one of those ranters was the current immigration minister. Thank you


Dwight Gordon — I am a Canadian of Jamaican descent from Toronto, living in Scarborough particularly.  I’m very active in the black and Jamaican communities, and I also participate in causes dealing with racialized communities, poverty, health and disabilities. As I became a teenager, I got some very eye-opening lessons of the problems in society and the world we live in. And the eye-opening lessons never did stop. Me being black of Jamaican heritage definitely indirectly contributed to those lessons. Hence, my activism. Thank you

Obama ‘encouraged’ by signs of progress on Senate immigration reform

Senators plan to unveil bill as early as next week but conservatives are wary of citizenship for undocumented migrants, Monday 1 April 2013

Marco Rubio has given the Republican response speech

Over the weekend, Marco Rubio took a markedly less upbeat position than his fellow members of the ‘gang of eight’. Photograph: Jason Reed/Reuters


The Obama administration said on Monday that it was encouraged by signs of progress towards a comprehensive package of immigration reforms that would extend a route to citizenship to the country’s 11 million undocumented migrants.

As cross-party negotiations enter their crucial final stages ahead of the unveiling of an immigration bill in the US Senate as early as next week, the White House is pressing senior congressional leaders to forge ahead with a robust bill that would provide a clear pathway to citizenship. President Obama’s spokesman said that “we are encouraged by the continuing signs of progress”, though he refused to be drawn on the details of the package that are still being thrashed out.

The most politically charged aspect of the draft bill is likely to be the precise terms of a pathway to citizenship for the 11 million. One of Obama’s core principles contained in his blueprint for immigration reform was that undocumented immigrants should be granted a real chance of becoming full US citizens.

But this is seen as a red rag to many Republicans, who interpret it as a form of amnesty that rewards illegal behaviour. Advocates of the reform, including the four Republican and four Democratic senators who make up the bipartisan – dubbed the “gang of eight” – who are framing the legislation, are all too aware that conservative anxieties have to be assuaged if the bill is to have any chance of achieving congressional approval.

That sensitivity helps explain the wobble over the weekend shown by Marco Rubio, the Tea Party-backed senator from Florida and a possible Republican hopeful in 2016. He took a markedly less upbeat position than his fellow members of the Senate group, stressing that the final terms of the bill had yet to be agreed and that it should not be rushed.

Rubio’s ambiguous stance, carefully pitched to address the scepticism of many Republicans while keeping one foot in the reformist camp, was applauded by leading conservatives on Monday. Jeff Sessions, a senior member of the senate judiciary committee from Alabama, said Rubio had underlined that “never again can Congress pass a far-reaching proposal only for the American people to find out what’s in it later. What we need, and must have, is a full and thorough national discussion over every component of this bill.”

Carney said that White House staffers were engaged with the group of eight senators over drafting the legislation and denied that Obama was keeping in the background to avoid giving Republican opponents of the bill a target. But he refused to answer questions about how difficult the president was willing to make the pathway to citizenship in order to overcome conservative resistance to reform.

Details of the proposals that have been floated in the media include a possible minimum wait time for citizenship for any currently undocumented immigrant that could extend to as long as 13 years. Though individuals would be allowed to “come out of the shadows” relatively quickly and easily, by registering for a work permit, the prolonged delay in processing their claims for full citizenship, combined with possibly steep fines for the illegality of their previous status, could dissuade many from even embarking down the citizenship road.

Groups campaigning for a comprehensive deal that will extend to most if not all of the 11 million undocumented individuals are fearful that if that too many concessions are granted to the Republicans in these last few days of negotiations, then the resulting bill will fail to repair the current broken immigration system. Fred Tsao, policy director of the Illinois Coalition for Immigrant and Refugee Rights, said that many people had already been in the US for many years.

“We hope that there will be a path to citizenship that will be welcoming for the vast majority of individuals who need it. If the gang of eight don’t craft something that is accessible, then a substantial number of people won’t be eligible and they’ll continue to be vulnerable to family separation and exploitation, and is that what we really want in America today?”

Creative Action at Ministry of Labour: Make ‘em pay to work!

Join us as we charge Ontario Ministry of Labour employees fees to go to work. Strange? Not at all. Migrant workers have to pay thousands of dollars to work in Ontario, and its legal. If recruiters can make a quick buck off migrant workers, we can make a quick buck off the people who allow it. All you need is suit and a tie. Show up bright and early on March 22nd, around 7:30 or so in the morning.

Please fill out this form so we can send you all the details (its the shortest job application you’ll ever do):

Still unsure? Don’t worry. Recruiters aren’t licensed in Ontario, so anyone can do it! What’s even better is that recruiters can’t be held liable for what happens at work. So if these Ministry of Labour employees boss turns on them, its no skin off your back.

By our guessestimation (its pretty hard to get the facts) at least half off Ontario’s 120,000 migrant workers are paying between $3,000 and $10,000 to unscrupulous recruiters*. That’s could be as high as 1.2 billion dollars a year. Imagine how much more money could be made by the rich if we started charging the non-migrant workers too. Its an untapped opportunity and we need to take matters in to our own hands.

With few real ways to get into Canada permanently, migrants are forced to pay recruiters to come to Canada on a temporary basis. To do so, entire families get into debt. Here. they pay in to E.I., and CPP, but face insurmountable barriers . Health and safety protections are non-existent. Documents are seized and bosses are often abusive. All of this is allowed by provincial and federal laws. We won’t be treating the Ministry of Labour employees that badly.

** This is the first of many actions, if you can’t make it to this one, please sign up at to hear about future ones**

March 22nd is the three-year anniversary of the passing of the Employment Protections for Foreign National Act (Live-In Caregivers & Others) aka EPFNA. EPFNA banned recruiters fees and seizure of documents from live-in caregivers but left out seasonal agricultural workers, and those in the temporary foreign worker low skilled program. Not only that, EPFNA has not been fully implemented to adequately support live-in caregivers and requires key amendments to ensure that it actually works.

* Two-thirds of caregivers in a survey by Caregivers Action Centre who arrived after EPFNA was enforced paid fees, averaging $3275. Filipino workers that MWAC organizations come in to contact with report paying a base fees of $5,000 while Thai workers report paying a base fees of $10,000. | |


Tensions mount on Mali-Burkina Faso border as cattle farmers vie for land

Malian farmers and livestock, forced south by conflict, put pressure on land and water resources in the borderlands

MDG : Mali : pastoralist Peul leads goats on the road to Massina, near Mopti

A Malian shepherd leads goats on the road to Massina, near Mopti, 2013. Photograph: AFP/AFP/Getty Images

The movement of hundreds of thousands of cattle from Mali is threatening peace across the border in Burkina Faso, where tensions are mounting as Malian refugee pastoralists come head to head with local agricultural farmers.

“They don’t even say hello, they don’t ask but they just take things,” said Hamidou Tamboura from Djibo, near the site of the refugees.

“They are hot blooded, and when their animals come on your land you cannot chase them away, as they receive protection from international organisations. We share the same vegetation and the water resources, but they get extra support.”

Nomadic tribes have crossed the porous borders of these large territories for centuries in search of pastures to graze their cattle, a phenomenon known as transhumance.

Farmers from Niger normally go to the Gao region in Mali between December and February for a special herb called bourgou. However, the security situation has prevented them accessing the region, and they remain stuck in Burkina Faso.

Meanwhile, cattle farmers from Mali, who are not usually part of the transhumance, are being forced south to Burkina Faso by the conflict, putting additional pressure on the same land occupied by the nomadic tribes from Niger. Many are afraid to return.

“Even though the Islamists have been defeated, we still cannot go back. The Malian army are killing the civilian population and many are being accused of sympathising with the Islamists,” said Idoual Ag-Bala, a refugee from Gao.

“We know there is not enough food and water for the animals in Burkina Faso. We’re hopeful for peace. As soon as there is peace we will go back.”

According to the UN high commissioner for refugees (UNHCR), about 47,000 refugees have crossed the border since Islamists took control of northern Mali in early 2012, some of them bringing their livestock with them.

Latest figures from Oxfam (pdf) estimate that between 100,000 and 200,000 animals have entered Burkina Faso, Mauritania and Niger. In one camp in Burkina Faso there are three animals for every person, said the report.

The large influx of animals has put considerable pressure on both land and water resources still recovering from the shock of the 2011 drought and the resulting Sahel crisis in 2012.

A May 2012 report by Réseau Billital Maroobé (pdf), a network of pastoral farmers across Africa, had already warned of the potential challenges posed by increasing refugee numbers.

“There is a big risk that we will run out of food and water. We need an early warning system so we can see where shortages might arise,” said Boubacar Cissé, director of Conseil Régional des Unions du Sahel (Crus), a farmer’s organisation that works in the Sahel region of Burkina Faso.

“The Ecowas [Economic Community of West African States] countries know that this needs a regional response. The Burkina Faso government said they will try and mobilise food for the cattle,” he said. “At the same time, we need to raise the awareness of the security forces in Mali so that they can distinguish between farmers and rebels.”

Crus has started to put out “antennas” around the region to monitor the migration of pastoralists, but little else has been done from the Ecowas side. “It’s almost like we need a UNHCR for cows,” said one aid worker.

Twitter’s dangerous lack of transparency on terrorism

While Twitter applauds its own transparency, it seemingly deletes accounts ad hoc over an increasingly amorphous policy


On January 24, 2012, Twitter shut down al-Shabaab’s old account, HSMPress, after the group tweeted photographs of a French commando they had killed and threatened to execute Kenyan hostages. Given al-Shabaab’s history of violence, many saw the suspension as a justified move against the spread of terrorist propaganda. But to al-Shabaab, it was censorship, plain and simple.

“Freedom of speech is but a meaningless rhetoric,” they tweeted. “So long @HSMPress! You might be gone, but your legacy lives on.”

Twitter has long promoted itself as an advocate of free speech, even when that speech is hateful. The social media network has refused to suspend the accounts of other violent groups – including the TalibanHezbollah, and the al-Qaeda affiliate Jabhat al-Nusra – despite numerous requests from government officials and activist organisations to do so. In January 2012, when Twitter announced they would selectively block tweets on a country by country basis, they extolled their transparency, noting that all censorship requests would be documented on the website Chilling Effects.

The suspension of al-Shabaab would seem to contradict Twitter’s policy on free speech. But Twitter has never made it clear what that policy is. After deleting al-Shabaab’s account, Twitter refused to comment on the reason for the suspension or on whether similar action would be taken against other terrorist groups. When I asked a Twitter representative via email to explain their policy, he would not answer, telling me only that they “don’t comment on individual accounts for privacy and security reasons”.

In the absence of a clear explanation, analysts have offered their own. Some speculated that al-Shabaab’s account violated Twitter terms of service, which prohibit specific threats of violence. Others suggested it violated US law against providing material support to individuals labelled Specially Designated Global Terrorists, a designation which applies to al-Shabaab but not to groups like the Taliban.

An ambiguous policy
But both these points proved moot when an unrepentant al-Shabaab rejoined the network a week later and resumed its crusade. Further confounding the issue was the fact that al-Shabaab’s Arabic and Somali-language accounts had remained open while their English-language account was closed, despite their similar content. Twitter’s policy on terrorists is not only inconsistent, it lacks transparency – going against the very values the social media network claims to support.

Whether or not Twitter should censor terrorist groups is a matter of debate, and there are strong legal and moral arguments for both sides. But it is impossible to have a debate when Twitter refuses to come clean about its own actions. “Twitter’s policy on extremists comes off like one guy who knows nothing about the subject clicking around at random looking for trouble,” tweeted terrorism analyst JM Berger, who observed that the network embraces a similarly scattershot approach to the suspension of white supremacist groups.

As a private company, Twitter reserves the right to set its own standards for censorship. But as a key platform for a diverse array of political players, it should be open about its rationale. The ambiguous nature of Twitter’s suspension policy opens it up to abuse by those seeking to silence an opponent. As it turns out, merely mentioning that a Twitter account is associated with terrorism can ostensibly get it shut down.

On January 31, one week after Twitter suspended al-Shabaab, I tweeted that the Islamic Jihad Union – a violent militant organisation originally from Uzbekistan – had joined Twitter. The IJU’s account consisted mainly of Uzbek-language tweets and links to its website, Unlike al-Shabaab, there were no threats or graphic imagery. But within five minutes of my tweet, the account was suspended.

A few hours later, I noticed that the IJU had a second account, and I tweeted about it. Again, within minutes, the second account was suspended. When this happened the first time, I was hesitant to believe it had to do with me, but such a coincidence seemed unlikely to happen twice. For whatever reason, the fact that I announced the existence of the group – which had been on Twitter for over a month before it was removed that day – seemed to trigger its suspension.

Unless a Twitter employee managed to read and analyse the content of an Uzbek-language account in the few minutes between when I tweeted about it and when they shut it down – a highly improbable scenario – then they censored the account based on my tweets. Ostensibly I could have identified any Uzbek account as being a member of the IJU, and the same censorship could have occurred.

Censorship based on hearsay leaves users vulnerable to attack. Many repressive regimes accuse critics of being terrorists in order to silence them, and it is easy to imagine governments employing this tactic on Twitter in order to suspend an account. The consequences are particularly ominous for users speaking less common languages. By privileging both English-language terrorist accounts (like al-Shabaab’s) and English-language depictions of terrorist accounts (like mine), Twitter reveals a Western bias that could skew perception of non-Western politics, leading to the unjust suspension of innocent parties.

On February 1, the Islamic Jihad Union rejoined Twitter with a new account, where they resumed tweeting about the oppression of Muslims and entreating readers to join the struggle. Their new account has remained open, as has al-Shabaab’s. Perhaps this marks a shift in policy, or perhaps it is a reaction to the negative publicity both suspensions generated. Since Twitter refuses to clarify its actions, it is impossible to say.

Opaque transparency

The presence of terrorists on Twitter raises questions about freedom of speech, national security, international law, and corporate power. Who decides if a person is a terrorist? If an account is suspended, should that suspension be based on content or affiliation? What is the policy towards official accounts of authoritarian states – like North Korea – that spread propaganda and murder civilians? What about those of countries like the United States engaged in wars many find inhumane and unjust? When Twitter blocks tweets on a country by country basis, how should they respond to terrorists who profess allegiance to no nation? How should governments reconcile Twitter’s role as a purveyor of terrorist threats with its utility for gathering intelligence?

These issues are important – particularly since, as terrorism experts Aaron Y Zelins and Will McCants have noted, in-depth research on how terrorist groups operate on social media has barely been conducted. But we will not be able to address them unless Twitter is open about its policies. Censorship that goes undocumented goes unchallenged. At the moment, Twitter representatives refuse to talk, although they continue to release updates applauding their transparency.

“We believe the open exchange of information can have a positive global impact,” they write. “To that end, it is vital for us to be transparent about requests to Twitter from governments and rights holders.” How refreshing it would be if the social media network held itself to the same standards.

Sarah Kendzior is an anthropologist who recently received her PhD from Washington University in St Louis.