Status For All: Legal Fund for Undocumented Migrants
A common yet undiscussed issue
Despite the fact that the Canadian government has drastically failed to meet its own immigration targets for 2020, Immigration Refugees and Citizenship Canada has been actively refusing to give permanent residence to people who are already in Canada. These people are our friends, neighbours, classmates, and coworkers; members of our communities who are being told that they cannot stay in Canada even though they have made their home here. As a result, people are having to spend exorbitant amounts of money on new immigration applications and on lawyers fees’ to try to stay in Canada. If they cannot afford to pay these expenses they risk detention and deportation - the violent consequences of an unjust system.
Some real life context
One of our members, C, has recently had their permanent residency application denied on the twisted grounds of meeting one of the primary requirements for immigration, establishment in Canada. This is their story:
“I first arrived in Canada more than 10 years ago. Because my partner at the time had employment, I was granted a temporary open work permit. However, the relationship didn’t last, and when they dropped me from our joint PR application, I found myself without status for the first time. My life spiraled out of control and I was on the verge of homelessness for years, but eventually I was able to enroll in university, get a student visa, and find a part-time job. After graduating, I only had a short time to find a qualifying full-time job to apply for PR, but was unable to do so, and after my student visa lapsed, I found myself again living in Canada without status.
Unable to work in traditional employment due to lack of a work permit and again facing homelessness, I started a small business with my Canadian partner. After initial growing pains, the business became more successful than I could have imagined. Over the last few years, until COVID hit and we lost most of our business, we employed dozens of Canadians and other undocumented comrades. The immigration officer who processed my application found all of this to be persuasive, writing: “My assessment is that the applicant is established in Canada, having obtained an education and employment in Ontario, and having established friendships and social connections in the Toronto area.” However, instead of using this assessment to approve my application, the officer decided that this primary metric for immigration to Canada was a rationale to remove me, concluding: “However, I find that the applicant, having moved to another country and become established there would likely be able to re-establish in [their home country].”
I’ve found a lawyer who agreed to take on my case and file for a judicial review, who called it perverse and unjust that the officer would use one of the primary criteria for granting permanent residency - establishment - as a reason to deny my application. My suspicion, given that I am only one of many who have seen such unjust denials in recent months, is that such decisions are being made to deliberately cause more grief and hardship for “undesirable” undocumented migrants: after all, it doesn’t matter if the reasons for denial are invalid if we don’t have the funds to hire a lawyer and appeal. Judicial reviews must be filed within 15 DAYS of receiving the results (which comes with no reasons for denial, migrants must hire a lawyer to file the preliminary paperwork to even find out why they were rejected). How many undocumented people can raise $5,000-$10,000 in a short time? In the meantime, we must contend with the threat of removal/deportation and continue to face a lack of access to traditional employment and other resources available to most with status, such as health care (I was diagnosed with a serious condition several years ago and still have no access to insurance).”
As you’ve heard from C’s story, our so-called “welcoming” government is deliberately putting the people we care about at risk, even though they are clearly contributing to our society and are needed to keep our country going.
The money contributed to this fundraiser will first support C, our colleague and friend, in their appeal of this decision. Any amount collected above what is needed for C’s legal fees will be shared with others in our community facing the same situation. It is appalling that our government is refusing Humanitarian and Compassionate applications - all made by people who have been living in and supporting our communities for years. And to do so during a pandemic, when people are most vulnerable, borders are closed, and few new immigrants are coming to Canada, is cruel and malicious. We want to be treated with dignity and above all we want to be protected in this time of pandemic like every Canadian citizen.
What you can do
Give generously and help us spread the word by sharing this campaign far and wide! The more reach we get- the more we can raise. The more we raise- the more people we can help through vulnerable situations.