Don't Let the Headlines (or Tweets) Fool You

By Nayla Rush on May 23, 2020

There's a French saying that goes like this: L'habit ne fait pas le moine. (Literal translation: Clothes do not make the monk.) It's the equivalent of "Don't judge a book by its cover."

I was reminded of this when I recently ran across an article from last month by Radio-Canada's French language service. The title (my translation throughout) was, "Unlike Trump, Trudeau does not plan on suspending immigration to Canada".

The article came in the wake of President Trump's tweet on halting immigration:

"In light of the attack from the Invisible Enemy, as well as the need to protect the jobs of our GREAT American Citizens, I will be signing an Executive Order to temporarily suspend immigration into the United States!"

But just as President Trump's "immigration suspension" was far more limited in scope that the tweet suggested, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau's "business as usual" stand on foreign admissions was also misleading.

Beyond the usual "commitment to immigration" discourse from Canadian authorities, Radio-Canada's article suggests that Canada's plans for restricting immigration following the pandemic were not as different from those of the U.S. as the headline suggested:

The Trudeau government asserted in a statement that "Canada is a welcoming country and a country committed in favor of immigration and immigrants." The government of Justin Trudeau does not plan on imitating the U.S. President Donald Trump who decided to temporarily suspend immigration by Executive Order. ... It is out of the question for Canada to adopt a similar measure, Marco Mendicino from the ministry of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC), told Radio-Canada.

If Canada closed its borders last month [March], exceptions are in place for already selected new arrivals who did not yet get a chance to enter the territory. Applicants for permanent residency who were approved prior to March 18 are authorized to move to the country provided they are placed under quarantine for 14 days.

Restrictions on temporary visas are also being implemented. The Trudeau government decided to suspend the issuance of all non-essential visitor visas, and limit those given to temporary foreign workers. Actually, as specified by the IRCC, only applications that pertain to specific essential services (such as the medical field and the food supply chains) will be considered.

Moreover, immigration quotas should be impacted by this crisis. The Trudeau government was planning on substantially increasing the number of new arrivals the coming years. The target was for permanent immigrants (the equivalent of U.S. green cards) to represent 1 percent of the total population [annually]. In 2020, 341,000 immigrants were to be admitted, 350,000 in 2021.

Will these quotas be reassessed in line with the economic crisis and higher unemployment rate? Neither Justin Trudeau's nor Marco Mendecino's offices wished to reply. It was not possible either to find out whether applications for permanent residency were still approved at the moment.

On the other hand, the former minister of immigration, Ahmed Hussen, recognized Tuesday [April 21] that this pandemic was going to have an impact on the number of immigrant admissions without giving further details.

In Quebec, the Legault government — which has the power to select its own economic immigrants — has, for its part, already admitted to a possible revision of immigration quotas in the province. "We're not there yet but, in effect, this is something we're going to look into. I think we need to reconsider everything, including the number of immigrants in line with the higher unemployment rate we're going to witness in the coming months," said Prime Minister François Legault on April 14.

Meanwhile, despite a catchy teaser, President Trump's immigration moratorium turned out to be rather inconsequential, as my colleague Mark Krikorian noted:

The sixty-day renewable order will delay green card processing for people other than spouses or children of U.S. citizens, but would not apply to the various visa programs that import hundreds of thousands of foreign "temporary" workers each year. Since most of the one million or so people annually who receive green cards (i.e., lawful permanent residence leading to citizenship) are already living and working in the United States under some other status, the actual number of people kept out of the U.S. labor market by this temporary pause is likely to be relatively small.

Just like you shouldn't trust appearances or judge books by their covers, don't let headlines (or tweets) fool you.