Deep Inequalities in our Treatment of Migrant Workers – Inequalities in our immigration system

27,000 migrants were invited to apply for permanent residency (PR) through the Express Entry system in March 2021. That’s a 440% increase from the previous round. Some of our members and friends can hope to qualify for PR now. Clearly, our calls for full and permanent immigration status are being heard. But this is not a simple good news story.

Canada’s Express Entry system assigns points for age, language, education, work experience and more. While the points required for this latest invitation are the lowest ever, migrants in these large numbers were invited to apply for permanent residency in the ‘Canadian Experience Class’ (CEC). To qualify for CEC, applicants must, among other requirements, have 12 months of high waged work in Canada in managerial or technical jobs. Migrants in low waged work are not allowed to apply. 

Farm workers, care workers, those working in food processing, retail, delivery, warehouse, cleaning, construction, and workers in all those other jobs Canadians have come to call ‘essential’, are deemed “low-skilled” by the immigration system. 

Few avenues exist for them to get rights and permanent residence under current rules. The ‘pathways to status’ for low-waged farm workers and care workers require high language and education scores that effectively shut them out. 

Meanwhile, the government has increased detentions and deportations. 2020 saw the highest number of deportations since 2015. Undocumented migrants are supposed to be able to apply to stay through a ‘Humanitarian and Compassionate’ application. But those applications are being denied at record high rates right now.  

The truth is this: Canadian immigration policy has always discriminated based on race, class and disability. Poor and working class racialized migrants continue to be denied stability, security and equality because the immigration system keeps them temporary or undocumented. 

Clearly the government can easily grant people PR, but chooses to cherry-pick and discriminate instead. The federal government is scrambling to meet its immigration targets by granting status to some, while deporting and denying others. This is a divide and conquer strategy that pits “deserving” migrants against “undeserving” migrants. But permanent status is not a gift for the deserving – it is about equality. It is a means to access healthcare, education, labour protections, family reunification and other basic rights. And all of us
deserve the same rights. 

Full and permanent immigration status for ALL. We are all essential. Sign and share: 

Background Info
COVID-19 has exposed deep inequalities in our society. Those most impacted have received the least support.

Migrants, refugees and undocumented people have lost work and wages during the pandemic crisis but many have been shut out of emergency income supports. Those already without wages have been abandoned. They cannot pay rent, have faced starvation, lost life savings and are sacrificing essential health care.

Others have been forced to keep working in dangerous conditions. Migrant workers on farms, in greenhouses and meat and food processing plants have been hit with massive COVID-19 outbreaks. Three migrant farm workers have already died: Juan López Chaparro, Bonifacio Eugenio Romero and Rogelio Muñoz Santos. Migrant domestic workers remain trapped in the homes of their employers, facing greater surveillance, abuse and violence. Migrant students, working in low-wage jobs in warehouses and as delivery drivers, have had their tuition fees hiked to subsidize Canadian universities and colleges.

Now, as businesses reopen, those without work have little choice but to accept unsafe jobs. But conditions are the same as before — low wages and minimal labour protections. Hard-fought gains in access to healthcare remain precarious and limited. Rent hasn’t been paid and evictions are on the horizon. With mounting debt, many are facing greater exploitation but have no way to defend themselves.

An unjust immigration system is responsible. At least one in twenty-three people (over 1.6 million people) are without permanent resident status. Migrants are punished for for leaving bad employers, doing sex work, or getting sick. Access to services varies by immigration permit and is virtually non-existent for those who have been forced out of status. Lack of permanent resident status makes it difficult, and often impossible, for migrants to speak up for their rights or access services, including those they may be eligible for, because of a well-founded fear of reprisals, termination, eviction and deportation. Migrants, refugees, and undocumented people want to take care of their families and be active members of their communities. But federal immigration rules tip the
scales against them.

We call for a single-tier immigration system, where everyone in the country has the same rights. All migrants, refugees and undocumented people in the country must be regularized and given full immigration status now without exception. All migrants arriving in the future must do so with full and permanent immigration status.

Full immigration status for all is necessary for global justice. COVID-19 has ravaged communities around the world, deepening economic and political crises that are being exploited by governments. Yet, Canada has closed its borders to refugees and families remain separated. Canada must support migrants and refugees here, reunite families, and ensure that no one is forced to leave their homes.

There is a global anti-racist resurgence that is sweeping the country. Violence against, and exclusion of Black communities in particular is being challenged head on. Temporary and precarious migration is racism – it excludes racialized communities from equal rights and protections. Full immigration status for all is necessary for racial justice.

Many migrants are engaged in essential work, ensuring that families and communities are cared for. Yet the majority of this work is low-waged, and the majority of those who do it are racialized and women migrants. This work is necessary not just during a public health crisis, but to transition our economies away from the impending climate catastrophe. Bad employers use immigration status as a tool to divide and pit workers against each other – citizens against non-citizens – to keep wages low and profits high. Full immigration status for all is an essential step towards eliminating inequalities in the workplace and necessary for a transition to a just and sustainable economy of care.

We are all essential. We all deserve full immigration status.

Recovery from COVID-19 calls for a rethinking of the ways in which our communities and our economy is organized. Prime Minister Trudeau: Full Immigration Status for All is just, fair, necessary and urgent. The time is now.

400 organizations with over 8 million members have signed the petition at   Every year the agri-food big business lobby, funded by the Canadian government, organizes Canadian Agriculture Day to celebrate “Canadian agriculture and food and the people who produce it”. But the celebrations leave out the racialized migrant agricultural workers without whom none of us could eat.

This year, the lobby day is on February 23, primarily on Twitter & Instagram using the hashtag #CdnAgDay. So migrant farm workers across Canada, as well as throughout Mexico and the Caribbean, are taking over the hashtag with their message: WE FEED YOU. 

Show your support for migrant food and farm workers by posting online on February 23rd with pictures of food and forks, using #CdnAgDay + MigrantsFeedUs + #StatusforAll. Let’s reveal the truth about who feeds us and join in migrant farm workers’ fight for equal rights and justice. Follow all day on February 23 at @MWACCanadaand @MigrantWorkersAlliance. Get more ideas at     

Together we will win!
Migrant Rights Network

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