Today is an era of movement and migration and human uprootedness
People around the world are in a constant quest to, improve their lives, flee from political repression, and escape from natural and/or man-made disasters (Augie Fleras and Jean L. Elliot, 2002: 242). Immigration is a major social phenomenon that involves more than just a physical relocation, but importantly it is the adaptation to a new environment and, some would agree that, individuals that are more flexible, assertive and those who are better decision makers are more apt to becoming successful migrants. Immigrants vary not only in their individual points of origin and destination, and in the skills they bring, but they also vary in their reasons for migrating. For most migrants the choice to migrate is influenced by economic reasons, which differs from migrant to migrant (J. A. Jackson, 1969: 111), thus economic possibilities appear to be the common thread that instigate migration. Individuals from Third World countries are more prone to violate the terms of their visa to overstay their visits in North America to pursue economic possibilities, which may be generalized as a:
* Desire for social advancement, which includes:
o Betterment for children and self
o Higher learning
o Gainful employment
o Hope for a new beginning
o Upward and social mobility
And, this might include owing a house, an automobile or becoming an entrepreneur; all these things symbolize success for many migrants, and most individuals who seek to fulfill these possibilities, and more, may well consider themselves to be economic-oriented migrants. Barry Chiswick (2000) claims that economic migrants move from one place of work and residence to another either within a country or across international boundaries, and they tend to be more ambitious, aggressive, and entrepreneurial (61). Hence, illegal immigration within Canada and America could mostly be influenced by a quest for economic attainment.
Illegal immigration occurs when a person’s presence is in violation of the law, or when the person engages in fraud or misrepresentation, or arrived without proper documents at ports of entry. Thus, individuals become illegal as a result of surreptitious entrance across borders. That is: (1) by entering without proper inspections of their documents by immigration officials at borders, (2) by using someone’s document, and (3) having overstayed by allowing their visa to expire. Subsequently, illegal immigration in North America occurs mostly by people who have overstayed their visa. In America illegal immigration is largely attributed to Mexican nationals, who cross the Mexico/U.S. borders in search of job opportunities, and data shows that the majority of illegal immigrants usually come to find work since “Employment provides one of the most fertile areas…” says W.G. Robinson (1973: A146). Hard work, as believed by some, is the criteria for success and upward mobility; and, it is no wonder that while immigration officials are implementing laws to restrict illegal migration, job seekers still come in large volumes seeking their fortunes. INS points out that in American communities there is usually a high-volume of illegal migrants whose main focus is to seek employment, and most are usually destined for jobs in restaurant and agricultural industries (Columbus Dispatch, April 30, 1998).
Each year various strategies and laws are enacted to combat illegal immigration, which would curtail the underground employment sectors that are most prevalent in bigger cities. However, it is difficult to carry out some of these instructions because: (1) they are constantly changing, and (2) it is difficult to count the exact number of illegal immigrants in North America. Although the amount cannot be numbered with precision there are over 350,000 people [or more] living in Canada without proper documentation (The New Canadian Reporter, 2002). These are people who have no immigration status and are subjects of removal or deportation orders and have never left. As well, these people have either over-stayed, and are working and/or going to school without permission, or they have simply cross the borders.1 People’s decision to cross the border is influenced by various factors; and, these factors could be familial, economical or ideological oriented. Economic-oriented individuals will stop at nothing to migrate whether in violation of the law or to unlawfully enter the borders. Three motives usually affect the migration process that includes, 1) the decision to migrate, (2) the failure to obtain a lawful visa, (3) the decision to migrate in violation of the law (Barry Chiswick, 1988: 28). In view of this, some would argue that illegally immigration, then, does not occur by sheer happenstance but as a result of mitigating circumstances, such as:
* Improper documentation: These people enter ports of entry without permission and they form a vast majority of the annual flow, as well as the majority of the number, of illegal immigrants residing in the U.S.
* Visa abusers: These people violate the condition of a lawfully permitted entry. This group includes foreign students who work in violation of their visas, tourists who stay longer than is permitted, and temporary workers (i.e. seasonal farm workers) who either work in sectors not covered by their permit, and those people who remain longer than is allowed.
* Doctored documents abusers: These people enter North America with counterfeit visas or doctored documents, which are acquired from their point of origin.
* Ship jumpers: These are airline personnel, tourists and seamen who “jump ship” to enter North America.
Many push factors in a person’s home countries influence the decision-making process to overstay in North America. J. A. Jackson (1969) deduces that this decision-making process frequently involves factors that connect the migrant to his present situation, and those, which pulls him away (125). Sometimes, factors may include violent situations, which facilitate these choices, and they can be the nature on which these decisions to migrate are based (126). In some cases, “…Illegal immigrants…appear to come here [to Canada] to escape a violent situation….”2 (W.G. Robinson, 1973) and a case in point is that of Audrey Thomas who came to Canada from St. Andrew, Jamaica in 1994. Audrey discloses the situations that led to her visit to Canada and ones that changed her immigration status.
Following the murder of my boyfriend I decided to migrate to Canada. Before leaving Jamaica, my best friend, Marcia Wynter, gave me her sister’s contact info, which I accidentally left behind. I called mom but she couldn’t find the number. I didn’t have a sole here and my friend knew that, and so she started to act differently towards me when I told her I was thinking of running off. Her irrational behaviour over my decision scared me and it was around that time I decided to move out of her place. I didn’t have my friend sister’s number and so I contacted Bell Canada for a listing of any “Wynter in Toronto.” I got several listings. Eventually I got through to an Alice Wynter who told me that she was my best friend’s sister. I was ecstatic, but was very embarrassed due to the position I was in: nowhere to live, and no family in Canada. Alice was empathetic and told me that she would talk to Marcia then call me back.
She did so the said evening. I spoke to her on Wednesday and the following Saturday evening she came to Scarborough to move me to her place. I was at her place for three weeks when she also started showing me bad face. I had nowhere else to go. Eventually I had to call my sister in Jamaica who recommended that I speak with her sister-in-law in Canada, who just came up last week. I did and she decided to move me to her place. Can you imagine within five weeks I had moved three times? Well, I was at Marie’s place, and then things started deteriorating. By that time my visitor’s visa had expired and, at the time, I was not aware that I could have extended it. Anyway, I became illegal and just went about my life with the hopes of one day sponsoring myself. I overstayed because at the time I was working, plus the money was good and there was no reason for me to go back to Jamaica until I was ready.3
Audrey’s story demonstrates how unfortunate predicament can easily change a person’s immigration status; and situation, such as this, confirms that visitors sometimes are neither proactive nor knowledgeable about Canada’s immigration policies regarding visa extensions, which can be attributed to fear of apprehension and removal if caught. Thus, a lot of people are afraid to extend their visas therefore hiding their identities and avoiding contact with government officials.
The Immigration Act of 1976 changed the manner in which inquiries about removal from Canada are conducted and new protection policies were implemented that would protect individuals that are subjected to removal. Under the act, two new policies were added: (1) a twelve-month exclusion order, and (2) a departure notice in cases where the removal was not based on a serious offense. Under the old act, the only process for removal was deportation, which barred a person from Canada for life, unless special permission to return was given by the minister (Ninette Kelley and Michael Trebilcock, 1998: 430). Also, once admitted as a visitor, a person can be removed from Canada for several reasons. The most common is that the person has overstayed the time permissible in Canada, or the person has worked without authorization. The removal order can be a deportation order, or in less serious cases, a departure notice. A departure notice will be issued if:
(a) The infraction is minor or there was good reason for overstaying
(b) The person willing leaves Canada on or before the date required
One should note that both America and Canada differs with their deportation and removal processes with regards to visa abusers, ship jumpers and border crossers. Under a reciprocal agreement between America, Canada and Mexico, illegal migrants from Mexico or Canada who are apprehended near the American borders can be returned immediately under a voluntary removal granted by the INS. If apprehended away from the American borders, and if INS grants voluntary removal, the immigrant is eventually flown to his or her home country. “Individuals usually remains under INS control until he or she can be returned to their country” (http://www.INS.com). INS can also place an illegal immigrant in a removal hearing before an immigration judge. This action results in a penalty that would limit the individual’s ability to reenter America. An advantage of this process is that during the removal hearings an individual can apply for relief from their removal (e.g., apply for asylum), which acts as a deterrent for removal. Also, INS can detain an individual during the removal hearing process or release them on bond or on their own recognizance, if so desired.
In deciding whether or not to detain an illegal immigrant, INS considers such factors such as the likelihood that the individual will appear for his/her removal hearing or whether he/she presents a danger to the community. Subsequently, INS has the authority to decide whether to subject the individual – who attempts to enter America between ports of entry, or without inspection – to an expedited removal process. Once a person is detained usually two courses of action is taken. Under the first, the apprehended person can request INS to permit him or her to voluntarily leave the country. This is commonly referred to as “voluntary return to home country.” By thus permitting the person to voluntarily return to his or her country of origin, the person is not subjected to any penalty or fine. Voluntary departure usually takes place immediately after a background check. But if the person wants to return to America, his or her subsequent visa applications may note that the person has previously entered without permission; in some cases, this deter further entrance into America.
Visa abusers, ship jumpers and people with improper documentation are not the only inadmissible groups that immigration officials oppose, but another group, which comprise of people who cross the borders and ports of entry with fraudulent documents. This trend has become a major source of problem and though measures are set in place to detect fraudulent documents this does not deter illegal migration.
In today’s technological era many people are able to manufacture, and buy counterfeit visas or passports, or fraudulent visa applications (Barry Chiswick, 1988: 12). Entry with fraudulent documents poses major difficulty to immigration officials both in Canada and America. In America, Mexican nationals make up a large percentage of deportable migrants (14) with fraudulent documents. To an extent, there is difficulty detecting these documents because most of them appear to be unique in its appearance. Passport officers and immigration officials can easily replace a photo in a passport or essentially replace a visa for a minimal fee, and there is a market of people who are willing to pay for these documents. This is so, because if an individual’s plight for a visa is refused by a visa office outside Canada (note that in Jamaica an individual can apply for a visa six months after first refusal) this refusal can generally instigate a conscious decision to buy a visa. Although Canada has laws against these scenarios many people still purposely run the risk of using these documents to enter.
The Immigration and Refugee Protection Act clearly states that, any person caught possessing a passport, visa or other documents, of Canadian or foreign origin, that purports to establish or that could be used to establish a person’s identity; or is caught using a document for the purpose of entering or remaining in Canada, or caught exporting or importing or dealing in fraudulent document 4 will be severely punished. As a result, in most cases, individuals caught with fraudulent documents can either be fined or jailed, and deported and permanently barred from returning to Canada. To illustrate this point with reference to false documents the essay uses the real-life experience of an illegal immigrant named Pauline Cole who came to Canada from Jamaica in 1993. In 1990 Pauline was introduced to an immigration official who worked at the Canadian Embassy in New Kingston. This particular immigration officer still today works for the Embassy and is known to sell visas to individuals whose applications are rejected.
In 1990 a friend introduced me to an immigration official who works at the Canadian Embassy who charges $30,000 to get a visa. I had purchased an American visa for over $20,000 and have gone there several times, after my two applications were rejected at the Canadian Embassy in New Kingston. Even so, I was still motivated to come to Canada. I have lots of relatives here and plus they [her family] promised to hook me up with a good job, so when my friend Althea died in 1992 [Althea had a 10-year indefinite Canadian visa], I just paid the immigration official to put my photo in her passport. Three years later, it’s the best move I have made. 5
As can be ascertained, family and economic reasons influenced Pauline’s motive and after two visa refusals, her only basis of entrance into Canada, is buying a visa. It is hard to comprehend why some people willing go through such lengths to leave their home country. Pauline also points out that she makes more money when converted to Jamaican dollars than she had ever made in her job in Jamaica. As she puts it, “life in Canada is great because it affords you all the things that you need: food, nice clothing, a car and the opportunity to send lots of money home.”
In addition she also conveys that, while in Jamaica, her immediate family members and friends were aware of her intentions to run-off and that they aided her with the necessary arrangements. Hence, family relationship seems to factor into numerous illicit migrations. Many families are better able to house illegal immigrants, and they are also able to provide safe employment and make other arrangements, which make detection unlikely. Finally, illegal immigration is a disease that will not be healed anytime soon, and is a deep-rooted concern to both Canadian and American officials alike. It is now wonder it is looked upon as undesirable.