No Decision on Plan to Allow Undocumented Migrants to Apply for Residency

No Decision to Allow Undocumented Immigrants to Apply for Residency

As of June 24, 2024, Immigration Minister Marc Miller has stated that a federal initiative to permit undocumented migrants to remain in Canada is not imminent due to ongoing cabinet discussions and significant opposition from some colleagues.

Miller’s proposed plan, introduced before the summer break, would allow rejected asylum applicants and former international students with expired permits to petition for residency. However, Miller emphasized that no decision has been made, and cabinet discussions are still ongoing which could potentially postpone the program for months.

Miller highlighted that the program’s delay stems from diverse and strong opposing views within the government. The plan aims to allow undocumented migrants, including those with Canadian children who have lived in Canada for several years, to apply for permanent residency.

In 2021, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau tasked former immigration minister Sean Fraser with exploring new measures to regularize the status of unauthorized workers. A cabinet decision was expected this spring, but Miller now says the program is unlikely to be implemented soon, due to the split public opinion.

Miller acknowledged varying estimates of undocumented residents, ranging from 300,000 to 600,000. Lisa Lalande of the Century Initiative noted that the uncertain number complicates planning and economic integration.

The program would not apply to all undocumented immigrants. Miller argued that offering residency to long-term undocumented migrants is fair and economically beneficial, especially where the immigrant has Canadian-born children.

Public support for immigration has declined recently, prompting Miller to freeze the immigration target at 500,000 for 2026 and cap international students. He stressed that educating Canadians about the program might increase support.

Other countries have similar programs. Ireland recently allowed long-term undocumented residents to apply for permission to stay, and the U.S. now permits undocumented spouses of citizens to apply for residency without leaving the country.

The idea has received support from labour organizations, migrant groups, churches, and the New Democratic Party. According to the Migrant Rights Network, regularizing undocumented migrants would benefit the economy by allowing them access to banking and credit.

Tourism Minister Soraya Martinez Ferrada, a former refugee, emphasized that keeping undocumented people “in the shadows” is economically irrational and urged for their inclusion in the system.

The program needs to be implemented before the next general election in October, requiring swift action to allow sufficient application time.

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