Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Immigration: right or privilege?

Well, we're sort of in the downtime between the Kentucky and Oregon primaries. Hillary got a 35 point win in Kentucky, pretty much as expected. Hopefully Obama will win big in Oregon. Anyway, time for some Canadian political commentary.

There was some recent controversy here in Canada over some proposed immigration reforms. We have some 900,000 people who are waiting to get their immigration forms processed, and the way it worked previously was that those applications were processed one at a time, without respect to the details of each particular applicant. What the Conservatives proposed was for the government to have the authority to set caps on applications based on various criteria, and faster processing for individuals whose skills are in high demand, among other reforms, with the primary intention of clearing this massive waitlist and making the immigration bureaucracy more efficient in general.

Simple enough, right? Wrong. From Macleans:

The current political storm over Ottawa's proposed immigration changes can be rather difficult to comprehend. The federal Liberals claim the Harper government is giving itself "exorbitant powers" and plans to "cap" immigration, even though Ottawa has always put an upper limit on visas. Even more puzzling is NDP critic Olivia Chow. She told the Ottawa Citizen: "My fear is they will choose immigrants who they think are 'good for Canada.' "

The bill ended up getting passed. But these remarks are typical of the debate over immigration in this country. I am not philosophically opposed to immigration or multi-culturalism. I agree that Canada needs immigration to sustain its economic growth. And I agree that immigrants give Canada a cultural depth and sophistication that it would not possess otherwise.

But the attitudes on display during this controversy really disgusted me. Many were talking as if our government was under some obligation to get all these people into Canada, and it was a terrible and mean thing to do to discriminate based on talent or other qualifications. As Chow put it, they will choose immigrants who they think are "good for Canada". Well excuse me, isn't that how they SHOULD be choosing immigrants? Canada is not under any obligation to allow people from all over the world to come and live here, especially if they have nothing to offer us. Being allowed to live and work here is a privilege, not a right. And we damn well better discriminate.

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