American Nightmare – Canadian Dream?

The DACA termination is a nightmare for 800,000 plus deserving young people and casts a long shadow on the American claim to superior morality.  For Canada it may represent an opportunity to demonstrate compassion.  It may equally represent a unique economic and demographic opportunity.  We remember the draft-dodgers of the 1960’s who brought their ideals, passion and their talents.

Giant poster of toddler peering over US-Mexico Border wall.

The DACA population is popularly stated as 800,000 but the actual number of registered, eligible for registration if they complete High School and those still too young to register is in fact 1,900,000. (Migration Policy Institute) This group is by definition young, healthy, motivated and free of criminal records. The investment by society in these young people has already been made and (DACA) requirements virtually assure they will be contributing members. They speak English fluently and are not only comfortable with the culture but desperately want to be part of it.

This should be a dream group for any City or country – yet they find themselves the target of attack and live with uncertainty and despair. The suggestion has been made that Canada should open its doors to a meaningful number of these American rejects. Such an action if carefully managed would bring youthful and energetic talent to Canada at essentially zero cost.

The total number of 1,900,000 is beyond the capacity of Canada so any such program requires a strategic approach. There are a number of possible pathways:

  1. University students – The DACA group represents more University study achievement than the unregistered population and slightly less than the American average. This suggests there are highly qualified individuals who would want to study and are capable of study if given the opportunity. Canada could create a special DACA University-access program. Existing study access structures are largely in place but these students should be allowed to study at normal Canadian tuition to increase access. Transition to permanent residence after study should be assumed.
  2. Records indicate that the DACA group occupies primarily white collar occupations. This indicates a high level of competence and acculturation. They could be allowed to apply for work in locations and occupations across Canada that are considered capable of absorbing additional workers. Their visas should be designed to lead to permanent residence.
  3. DACA members with superior resumes could be given a visa similar to the “Visit Canada” programs now available to youth from around the world. Many may have the resources to cross the border, explore Canada and support themselves. Again, the program should permit transition to permanent residence under established conditions.
  4. Use the Express Entry program or an appropriate variation to match qualified DACA youth with work opportunities that lead to permanent residence.

The DACA group is composed of youth from 15-28 which is a product of timing and design. Some of these young people will have already established families and will have the motivation to settle and contribute quickly.

The point is that DACA represents a unique population of known characteristics, fully acculturated and generally successful in the North American labor market. They could integrate into Canada at no cost to Canadian settlement authorities and with a strategic approach can contribute to labor market or demographic challenges and opportunities.

Would an inflow of DACA immigrants take jobs from Canadians?

This is the kind of question frequently asked with the objective of minimizing immigration of any kind. Stop and think for a moment.

If a DACA immigrant lives under very uncertain conditions he or she is unlikely to invest in a house or other longer term fixed investments. On the other hand, given reasonable assurance of permanence, this group is desperate to settle and become part of the culture. It can be reasonably expected that every 1.5 or 2.0 DACA immigrants to Canada would in one form or another generate demand for a place to live. Most Canadian cities do not have a surplus of housing which means that every 1 or 2 such immigrants would create a demand for a residence. Consider the impact on construction and services implied in building a new structure.

The DACA population would be expected to join their age cohort in spending their income in similar ways. Since they would be in an establishment phase of their life they can be expected to create significant demand in the economy. Some research is warranted to consider the impact on services and accumulation of such an aspiring population. My personal estimate is that the DACA population would create at least as much and possibly more demand for the work of others than represented by their own participation in the workforce.

How many DACA immigrants could Canada accept?

Based on the arguments about their economic contribution and their successful acculturation an argument could be made that from a global perspective any number of such immigrants would result in self-generating demand to support their presence. This may be statistically true but may not express itself that simply in a local situation.

Nevertheless, the arrival of significant numbers of DACA immigrants with careful selection and some assistance in guiding them into appropriate work situations would make significant numbers possible.

One suggestion is to create a cluster of inflow pathways such as students, work and other and then target a significant number such as 100,000 per year for several years. My prediction is that these young people would be welcomed and create a very positive dynamic in Canadian society – a dynamic that encourages greater immigration.

The loss of some of the best of their youth may result in some sober second thought in America – also a positive outcome.

The prestigious Federal Economic Advisory Council has recommended increased immigration to the 400,000 – 500,000 level and there have been other calls for immigration well beyond 300,000. Capacity is related to ease of absorption and the DACA immigrants would be ideal candidates.

An open and honest discussion in the press and in the political environment would be helpful to articulate such a possibility.