Immigrants Back Regularization for Undocumented People

Regularization is not about rewarding lawbreakers; it’s about rectifying systemic failings that leave many people vulnerable and uncertain.

THE HILL TIMES ARTICLE BY
DEBBIE DOUGLAS, AMY GO, SAMINA SAMI, SAMYA HASAN

As leaders of immigrant and diaspora organizations across Canada, we want to address recent statements from Immigration Minister Marc Miller about the supposed lack of consensus on the regularization of undocumented people. This hesitancy ignores the moral and economic imperatives at stake. Canada has a responsibility to offer protection and stability to those who have long contributed to our society from the shadows. Contrary to concerns expressed by some about “queue jumping,” many Canadians—especially within immigrant communities—support regularization. Here’s why.

A MATTER OF JUSTICE AND SOLIDARITY

Many immigrants—like other Canadian citizens—personally know non-status people. Undocumented people are our friends, partners, neighbours, family, and coworkers. They care for our children, build our homes, and deliver our food. Their lack of status makes them vulnerable to exploitation, from unfair wages to denial of health care.

Many have fled war, persecution, or severe economic hardship, only to face a precarious existence due to barriers to legal status. Immigrant communities overwhelmingly support regularization because we understand these hardships, and empathize with those trapped by the unforgiving web of the immigration system.

UNDERSTANDING THE PATH TO BECOMING UNDOCUMENTED

It’s crucial to dispel the myth that undocumented immigrants are “queue jumpers.” Becoming undocumented is not a choice but often a consequence of an opaque and unfair immigration system. Many arrived legally as refugees or migrant workers, but faced insurmountable obstacles in renewing their status or obtaining permanent residency.

Immigrants know—through personal experience or those of our parents and grandparents—that access to permanent residency is fraught with high fees, long waits, and complex requirements that many cannot meet. Thousands fall through the cracks not because they are trying to subvert the system, but because the system fails to provide fair options. When immigrants see undocumented people, they know it could be them. Regularization is not about rewarding lawbreakers; it’s about rectifying systemic failings that leave many vulnerable and uncertain.

REGULARIZATION: A PATHWAY, NOT A SHORTCUT

The idea that regularizing undocumented people amounts to “jumping the queue” is a misconception. Regularization does not mean granting immediate permanent residency without scrutiny. It means allowing individuals to apply for permanent resident status, subject to the same assessments as any other applicant. This would place them in the queue where they belong, acknowledging their long-term contributions and connections to Canada.

Regularization programs can ensure fairness and integrity, offering a transparent process where individuals must meet specific criteria, such as proving residence in Canada. This is not about creating shortcuts but about integrating those already part of our communities into the legal framework, enabling them to contribute more fully to society.

ECONOMIC AND SOCIAL BENEFITS

Regularizing undocumented immigrants is not just a humanitarian gesture; it’s an economic boon. These individuals are already contributing significantly to our economy, often in sectors facing severe shortages. By bringing them out of the shadows, we can enhance their wages, productivity, purchasing power, and tax contributions. According to research done on France applied to Canada, regularization would grow the economy by more than $28-billion, and as Miller said, that’s more than the economic growth from multiple oil and gas pipelines. This growth will fund public infrastructure and services, which will result in improving the working and living conditions of all Canadians including recent immigrants.

Regularization promotes social cohesion and stability, and reduces exploitative labour practices. When people live without fear of deportation, they are more likely to invest in their communities, seek education for their children, and pursue opportunities. This leads to stronger, more integrated communities where everyone has a stake in our collective success. Undocumented people already live here, regularization is about including them in the family of rights.

THE TIME IS NOW

Canada has welcomed diverse communities of newcomers over the years. This has strengthened us. We cannot let fears and misconceptions dictate policies that leave hundreds of thousands in a perpetual state of limbo and fear. The decision to regularize undocumented immigrants aligns with our values of fairness, compassion, and inclusivity. The time for change is now. Immigrants are ready to support this initiative.

Debbie Douglas is executive director of OCASI – Ontario Council of Agencies Serving Immigrants. Amy Go is president of Chinese Canadian National Council for Social Justice. Samina Sami is executive director of COSTI Immigrant Services. Samya Hasan is executive director of Council of Agencies Serving South Asians. This is the shared opinion of multiple immigrant groups we are in touch with in the country.

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