Illegal immigrant wants to enter through the back door
Laibar Singh should be shown the exit to preserve the integrity of the system
Published: Thursday, February 28, 2008
Is he still here? Yes, he is.
Laibar Singh continues to convalesce in Surrey's Guru Nanak Sikh temple, the Canadian Border Services Agency continues to keep a low and cryptically mute profile on his case and his supporters continue to characterize anyone who wants Mr. Singh out of here ASAP as heartless racists whose real agenda is to stop all immigration of a darker hue into this country. I suspect it has been suggested I might fit that profile.
But as you read in today's paper, Sun reporter Kim Bolan shows even some of Mr. Singh's foremost, and noisiest, supporters are now saying that maybe it's time he should go back to India.
In the wake of that, much name-calling has ensued. The Indo-Canadian community is again aflap. Its perception among the greater community has again suffered a humiliation, if not for its support of a scofflaw, then for sheer flakiness.
None of this need have happened. If Singh and his supporters had thought this out, Singh might have long ago been on the road to entering Canada legally.
Instead, his supporters, and those who would manufacture a political cause celebre around the poor sod, have done nothing to help his case. But they have succeeded in solidifying the opposition to his staying here.
To explain, we talked to Richard Kurland, a prominent immigration lawyer and a policy analyst who has advised all four federal parties on immigration.
Kurland describes himself as “extremely pro-immigration.” It has made the country a model of acceptance, he says, and given Canada a global reach.
He also holds extremely liberal views on the acceptance of immigrant applications on humanitarian and compassionate grounds. He believes they are a mark of the country's greatness.
He also believes that any government who continues to accept H & C claims is acting bravely, especially in the face of the growing complaints of what he calls “the law-and-order crowd” who believe the immigration system is riddled by abuse.
Anyway, in the course of his regular research, Kurland recently unearthed a statistic about H & C cases that floored him. As he does often, he had put in an Access to Information request to the Ministry of Citizenship and Immigration to find out how many H & C cases the government had processed from 2003 to 2006.
He expected to see a big drop in the numbers. The opposite had happened. In 2003, the federal government processed 2,327 such H & C cases. By 2006, that number had grown to 9,459. Not only that, but the acceptance rate for those claims jumped from 50 per cent in 2003 to 70 per cent in 2006.
“It astounded me to the point that I did something I very rarely do,” Kurland said. “I called and confirmed [with the ministry] the documents I received under the Access to Information request to make sure the numbers were correct. I was floored.”
Kurland thought this “politically courageous,” given the public impatience with abuse of the immigration system.
Did he think then, in lieu of the dramatic increase in the number of H & C cases, that Laibar Singh had a case for staying in Canada? After all, his supporters say his condition is an obvious reason for Singh being allowed to stay in Canada on grounds of compassion.
“Oh, no!” Kurland said. “I think he should be on the first plane out of here. He should not be on Canadian soil at all. He tried every avenue to stay in Canada and failed. His file was reviewed by, I expect, dozens of well-trained, conscientious immigration officers, and I say that as someone who is not always the immigration department's best friend.
“But on this one, they got it right. If they did allow him to stay, it would be a slap in the face to the program's integrity.”
Instead of trying to stay in Canada by any means, Kurland thought Singh should respect the removal order, then be moved to a third country — preferably where his health care costs would be cheap, so his supporters can care for him while he is there. He can then reapply after a year.
There is no guarantee he would be accepted, though the political sensitivities of the case suggest to me he would. Nonetheless, it observes the legalities of the immigration system, and saves face for all parties.
“It can be done within a year,” Kurland said.
“But you got to go through the front door. You can't go through the back door. He can't queue-jump. It's manifestly unfair to the tens of thousands of Indians waiting for visas in New Delhi.”
If we did allow Singh to stay on the grounds of compassion, Kurland said, it would not only be an inappropriate use of the program, it would “be rewarding a scofflaw.”
That, in turn, would encourage thousands to do the same, which would obviate what sense remains in the immigration system.
And that is why the only answer to Singh and his supporters can be:
There's the front door. Use it on your way out. You're welcome to use it if you wish to return.
Only this time, knock.
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