How Canada’s Immigration Policy Differs From the United States’

Abogado Aly Canada's Immigration PolicyThe new immigration policy of the 1920s, the Great Depression, and World War II caused there to be a dramatic decrease in immigration to Canada and the United States. After World War II, legislation allowed refugees and displaced persons from the war to immigrate to the United States and Canada. Both countries’ ideologies began to shift more towards egalitarian ideas such as welfare state and multiculturalism which implemented more tolerance towards people of different races and lead the charge against racial discrimination.[1] During the 1960s, the Civil Rights Movement lead to an increasing interest group for racial acceptance which fostered the new immigration policies implemented by the United States and Canada. (Talk about Great Society coalition of Jews, Catholics and Liberals as described in Mills) It was with these policies in which Canada decided to take a different route than that of the United States’.

Whereas Canada’s immigration policy of today is geared towards a completely economical public policy stand point, the United States’ policy makers adhered to a more humanitarian approach. According to Borjas with regards to Canada, “According to Borjas, “the point system attempts to match immigrant skills with labor market needs and reduces the fiscal burden that immigration would place on Canada’s generous system of public assistance”[1]. This is then a clear cut way that Canada is trying to economically find a solution to the immigration debate. According to Borjas with regards to the United States, “At some point in the debate over any social policy, the facts have to be let out of their moral vacuum. And the facts have to be interpreted in the context of a set of beliefs, values, and a vision of what the United States is about”[2]. When talking about the immigration policy in the United States, Borjas describes the U.S. immigration policy as not just done for the quantitative, numeric, economic gains and losses, but there is also a moral context in which the policy adheres to. The United States is known as the land of opportunity and a country of immigrants. The United States is one of the most wealthy countries in our nation, so helping people who are less fortunate than them has become part of the moral fabric in the United States’ immigration debate. According to an article in the Economist, “in the United States, you rarely hear somebody advocate for immigration on the grounds that it adds to the social fabric of the country. When the normative argument arises here, it has a humanitarian dimension. I would posit that in the United States, identity is a right, not a value”[3]. This is the clear distinction between the way in which policy makers in the United States look at immigration and how policy makers in Canada look at immigration. The United States sees immigration to their country as a right to the immigrant whereas Canada looks at immigration as a value to their own country. According to Borjas the United States’ main immigration objective is to maximize the economic well-being of the native-born population[4].  If the United States really wanted to increase the economic efficiency of their immigration policy, wouldn’t they just follow Canada’s point system?  Borjas mentioned in an earlier talk about the immigration of “high-skilled” labor from Russian mathematicians in 1992 that lead to basically a replacement of high skilled US mathematicians for only about 400 Russian mathematicians that ended up comprising of about 10% of the mathematics papers written in the United States at this time. However, Borjas’ conclusion, using a future regression model, was that if the Russians had not come at all, we would have had about the same amount of mathematics papers as we do today. So with the influx of low skilled labor and high skilled labor, these immigrations really have not done much for the economy at this point.


Canadian Immigration Policy vs. US Immigration Policy

Abogado Aly US immigration policy vs. CanadaAfter the Second World War, Canadian immigration policy became a little less race oriented and geared more toward economic profitability. Finally in 1962, Ellen Fairclough, Minister of Citizenship and Immigration basically eliminated racial discrimination by implementing a new Canadian immigration policy. This new immigration policy stated that if an immigrant wanted to come to Canada and was not sponsored, as long as that immigrant proved his educational skill or quality that seemed desirable for Canada, he or she was allowed to immigrate without racial bias. Whereas the United States took a more humanitarian approach to immigration policy reform in the 1960s, Canada’s immigration reform was geared more towards the economic needs of Canada, as evidenced by its point based system.

This point system was implemented in 1967 where there was no quota for the amount of people who could come into Canada. Instead, anyone who wanted to come into Canada had to take a test which tested immigrants on specific qualities that the Canadian government was looking for. These qualities included language proficiency in English and French (which are Canada’s main languages), whether or not they had a job set up in Canada, whether or not they had family members in Canada, their level of education, and the area of Canada to which they wanted to immigrate too. Just like in the United States, this caused there to be a shift in the type of people who immigrated to Canada from Europeans to Asians.

Finally in 1976, a new Canadian Immigration Act, that Canada still uses today, was implemented. This act separated Canadian immigrants into four separate categories, or as they call them, classes:  a humanitarian class (which included refugees, persecuted or displaced persons), an independent class, a family class, and an assisted relative class. Just like in the United States, Canada implemented a very strong family immigration policy, but what makes Canadian immigration policy different from American immigration policy is the strong emphasis on the independent class which is run by the point system. Canada’s immigration policy therefore is using immigration more for economic profitability purposes, whereas the United States’ seems geared more to a humanitarian or familiar goals. This fundamental difference in immigration policy between the two countries illustrate strong political differences between the two countries which result in differing economic impacts of immigration.