Tuesday, March 21, 2006

Deported To Oporto

The Toronto Star is upset that the federal government would let such a trivial matter as immigration law get in the way of bringing thousands of Portuguese construction labourers into the country:

Illegal workers in Toronto's underground economy are being deported as the new Conservative government abandons a Liberal amnesty plan, immigration lawyers and consultants say.

Some families who have been in Canada five years or more are being given less than two weeks to pack up and leave.

Toronto's Portuguese community — with up to 15,000 undocumented members, working mainly in the booming construction industry — is especially concerned.

Early last year, then-Immigration Minister Joe Volpe said he would try to find a way to get legal status for undocumented workers.

"They are here already and have proven themselves to be integrated," Volpe said at the time.

Last May, he said he had signed off on a final draft and the plan was set to go to cabinet. But nothing was done during the following six months before the Liberals were defeated.

Obviously shoring up the Portuguese vote in Toronto granting amnesty to an honest group of hard-working migrants wasn't one of the clearly fundamental number one priorities for the previous regime.

And I'm amazed to the Star, of all publications, tacitly approving the practice of hiring illegal migrant workers to drive down wages and keep contractors off the hook for worker's comp claims and other benefits.

"I've seen a larger number of (removal) letters going out to people," Peter Ferreira, president of the Portuguese National Council and a former senior immigration officer, said in an interview. "I've been getting more calls from people who are concerned. They see the writing is on the wall."

Apart from personal hardship for people now firmly entrenched in Canada, the flurry of deportations could devastate the construction industry, Ferreira said. "This group — it's been proven and any union president or employer will say — don't get rid of these people because we need them.

"Imagine expelling thousands of construction workers when the construction industry is desperate for skilled labour ... Consider the contribution made by these people.

"It doesn't make sense. These people are contributing to Canada's well-being and economy."

To ease the shortage, Canada offers one-year temporary work permits for people with construction skills. The annual quota of 500 is never met, Ferreira said. "So we need these (undocumented) people even more."

Mind you, I'd rather have hard-working, culturally compatible Portuguese immigrants in Toronto than Jamaican gangsters and radical Islamic riffraff.

But legally.

In a time when our immigration system has been exposed as a weak link in the national security chain, we can't afford to turn a blind eye to illegal immigrants of any kind, no matter how safe they might be.

1 comment:

Christina said...

Hello Loyalist

This is the sort of debate that we can expect to see more of I'm sure.

Your points about the necessity of having DOCUMENTED workers/immigrants is rightly accepted. And while I have studied immigration policy during my 2 year M.A in Public Administration and International Affairs, this is a case where policy can be problematic in practice. In the present situation, as you pointed out, most of these Portuguese immigrants are fully contributing to the booming construction industry and filling positions with SKILLED labour. I would much prefer to see skilled non-documented individuals contributing to society through legal actions (versus criminal activity); rather than documented, and even Canadian citizens living off the social assistance system with no end in sight, or engaging in illegal criminal activity. Having spent two years studying public policy, I am shocked how policy continues to be formulated with little or no thorough examination of what is occuring in practice, and "on the ground" , so to speak.