We bar some people from Canada and won’t tell them why. We bar others because of their race. We refuse to listen to appeals. Here are some pros and cons in Ottawa’s current controversyFRED BODSWORTH May 14 1955
We bar some people from Canada and won’t tell them why. We bar others because of their race. We refuse to listen to appeals. Here are some pros and cons in Ottawa’s current controversyFRED BODSWORTH May 14 1955
IMMIGRATION has always been a fighting word in Canada. But not in many years has this familiar political issue blazed with such violent allegations and confusing contradictions as have marked the recent immigration debate in parliament, press and radio. The emphasis has been on what immigration is doing or is failing to do in Canada. Perhaps even more important, though little recognized, are the polite but mounting suggestions in the background, from trade and embassy officials and from foreign governments, that Canada’s immigration policy may be damaging our national reputation abroad. For immigration must be a two-way affair there is always another country involved.
Foreign diplomats and trade officials in Canada are here as guests and they’re careful not to criticize Canadian policies in public. But from off-the-record talks it is obvious to this writer that some feel Canada could and should be doing more through immigration to help other countries. Some certainly feel we have immigration practices that are discriminatory and dictatorial practices that may be making enemies for Canada in some parts of the world as fast as we recruit friends and build trade and goodwill. “And when you make bad friends,” one European government representative in Ottawa reminded me, “you also often make bad friends for the cause of democracy, which Canada represents.”
According to the criticisms, there are two factors in Canada’s immigration policy that are giving Canada a black eye in other countries:
1. The relatively small number of immigrants we accept. Countries like the British West Indies and Italy, which have severe population problems, feel that Canada with its vast space and resources has a moral obligation to help) reduce poverty and surplus populations by opening the doors to more immigrants. This view is also strongly held by immigration experts of the Intergovernmental Committee for European Migration, an advisory body with headquarters at Geneva, Switzerland, established two years ago by Western nations including Canada, to help move surplus Europeans to under-peopled countries.
2. Thousands of would-be immigrants we reject each year are rejected in an arbitrary manner. First, we make them angry by turning them down, then we make them angrier by refusing to tell them why they are turned down, and also by refusing to grant them the right to argue their cases or defend themselves. Foreign-government, representatives point out that, would-be immigrants or outsiders who have reached Canada and face deportation are granted none of the safeguards or benefits of our system of justice, although every criminal gets them automatically in any Canadian court as a protection against false conviction. In the eyes of our Government, immigrant applicants and deportees are people without, rights, seeking a favor from Canada, and entitled only to an arbitrary “yes” or “no” with no questions to be asked.
How to Tell a Communist
What is the Canadian government’s reply to these criticisms?
First, Immigration Minister J. W. Pickersgill points out that our population has jumped twenty-five percent in seven years. He says the Government feels we couldn’t absorb immigrants any faster than we are now doing without creating hardship and disruption in Canada.
On the second point the Government has a double-barreled explanation. First, it is argued that to give reasons for rejections would sometimes mean putting our cards on the table and telling a Communist how we found out he is a Communist. This would mean, say immigration officials, that subversive organizations in Europe and elsewhere would quickly discover the secret techniques we have for ferreting them out. Instead, our immigration policy is to leave all rejected applicants in a planned and deliberate state of confusion so that those who are Communists trying to infiltrate into Canada are left wondering: “Do they know, or have they rejected me for some other reason?”
“To force us to give reasons for rejections,” an immigration official claimed, “is the same as ordering a bank to reveal how it detects fraud and forgeries.”
The Canadian government gives another and more fundamental reason for depriving immigrant applicants and deportees of the safeguards and privileges that go automatically to every Canadian citizen under our British democratic and judicial system. Immigration Minister Pickersgill told me that all the debate about justice and democratic rights springs from a misconception as to what Canada’s immigration policy actually is.
“Immigration isn’t a matter of right at all,” he said. “Only a Canadian has a right to enter Canada. For everyone else it is a privilege which we have a perfect right, to grant or deny as we see fit. When an alien applies for permission to come to Canada, he isn’t on trial in a court, he is like someone applying for membership in a club. You can’t make these things a matter of rigid law because the country’s immigration needs fluctuate, and the policy must be flexible so that it can change with changing needs.”
The qualifications of an applicant are not the only consideration. Those qualifications must he considered against Canada’s current labor requirements. An applicant might be turned down one year, then because of changing employment conditions admitted the next. The Government argues that if an appeal board, guided by rigid laws instead of the nation’s current needs, had the authority to overrule the Immigration Department, it would be impossible to regulate the immigrant flow to absorptive capacity, and all would suffer.
“Our purpose is to get good immigrants, to select those we are sure will adapt to Canadian life,” Mr. Pickersgill said. “I don’t believe we should go to the cost of entering into complicated consideration of marginal cases when there are so many for whom there is no doubt.”
In short, then, for purposes of economy, security, ease of administration and as a safeguard against flooding the labor market at low periods, the Government’s aim in immigration is to retain full authority to reject arbitrarily and without question anyone it wishes.
But frequently Canadian courts, when they have had the opportunity, have ruled that the Government’s stand against revealing reasons for barring immigrants is legally wrong. A current case involving this point is that of the attractive young U. S. brunette, Mrs. Shirley Brent, shown under police arrest in the picture on page eleven.
Early in April a year ago, waiting police arrested her as she entered her fashionable North Toronto apartment. She was informed she was to be deported to the U. S. but a couple of hours later, on special instructions from the Hon. Walter Harris, then Minister of Immigration in Ottawa, she was released while the deportation order was being drawn up.
Mrs. Brent had come to Toronto from Buffalo in 1952 and was in Canada legally on a visitor’s permit. She met and married Barry Brent, a young Toronto man, and a week or two before her arrest she had applied for permission to remain permanently. The Immigration Department decided to deport her instead.
A few days after the arrest her case was heard by an immigration board of enquiry. She said she had married a Canadian and asked why she was being deported. She was told that she failed “to meet requirements of the Immigration Act.” She asked: “What does that mean?” A copy of the act was handed her and a paragraph indicated. The paragraph read in part that admission into Canada can be denied any person for reasons of “his unsuitability, having regard to the economic, social, industrial, educational, labor, health or other conditions or requirements existing in Canada or in the country from which such person comes to Canada, or to his probable inability to become readily assimilated or to assume the duties and responsibilities of Canadian citizenship within a reasonable time after his admission.”
Mrs. Brent read it, stared at it blankly, and asked again: “What does that mean?” According to evidence later given in court, the immigration examiner answered: “You can read English, can’t you?” And it was the only explanation Mrs. Brent ever received as to why she was facing deportation.
The case went to the Supreme Court of Ontario, where her lawyer, F. Andrew Brewin, argued: “A mumbo jumbo of words was thrown at her which couldn’t mean anything to anyone. No one can tell what on earth the objection to Mrs. Brent is." He called the board of enquiry “a meaningless mockery not complying with the essential elements of justice.”
Immigration authorities argued that Mrs. Brent had never been granted permanent admission and, although she had been in Canada a couple of years, she was still in the same position as someone applying at the border for entry. That entry could be denied her, it was argued, without the need of proving anything. But the court disagreed. Mrs. Brent’s deportation order was quashed, the court ruling that she had not had a fair deportation hearing because, “neither the basis of it nor the grounds of suspicion have ever been communicated to her in intelligible form.” The Government appealed and the appeal case was heard last October.
On April 5 in the Ontario Supreme Court Mr. Justice Aylesworth, with Mr. Justice Roach and Mr. Justice Gibson concurring, handed down a judgment that threw out the appeal and bitterly criticized immigration authorities. Mr. Justice Aylesworth said they should give their reasons for excluding a would-be immigrant. “Otherwise the whole proceedings are reduced to a farce,” he added.
Do We Get the Best People?
The rights and wrongs of Ottawa’s arbitrary attitude toward deportees and immigrant applicants has prompted the harshest words in the immigration debate. The immigration branch claims it is protecting Canada against an unplanned and injurious influx of foreign workers and perhaps political undesirables. But many lawyers argue that it is using the bogey of national security to cover up and justify a system which has turned back the clock of justice several hundred years.
While this controversy over fundamental policy waxes and wanes, the immigration machinery itself rolls steadily along. Early every year the immigration branch of the Department of Citizenship and Immigration estimates, on the basis of employment conditions, our immigrant needs for the year. Instructions go out to twenty overseas offices as to the skills and classes of immigrant needed.
Whatever those needs, Canada’s immigration policy is always highly selective and the gates are never opened wide. We take only what our Immigration Department considers the cream of the crop, a practice which has been criticized at times by Britain and other overseas nations who feel we should take a representative cross-section—the old and infirm as well as their healthiest and most productive. But the Government tries to catch and turn down all with any history of mental disorder, criminal record, ill health, disability, or with any suggestion of Communist or subversive sympathies.
The Government makes no bones about its policy being discriminatory. “We call it selective,” says Immigration Minister Pickersgill. “But I do not understand there is any real difference between the words selection and discrimination.”
The Government denies that there is any racial discrimination in its immigration policy. However, it makes no attempt to hide the fact that it has preferred immigrant classes that tend to have certain racial origin. In general, it prefers people from northern Europe to those from southern Europe and the tropics. Race, it insists, has nothing to do with it. It is simply a case that immigrants from countries where the climate, modes of life and working conditions differ sharply from those in Canada have a harder time fitting into the Canadian social and labor scene.
The most preferred classes are from Britain, Australia, New Zealand, the U. S. and France. All such immigrants have to satisfy regulations as to health and good character, and then they are on their way. France was added to this preferred group in 1949 as a gesture to French Canada, but it means little. The French government discourages emigration and Frenchmen as a class are not keenly interested in leaving home.
Next, and considered worthy of a grouping by themselves, are the Germans and Dutch. These people fit in well and make good Canadian immigrants. Right now economic and employment conditions are good in these countries, the desire to emigrate has dropped off, and Canada is accepting all the Dutch and Germans she can get who meet the rules.
Next in preference are Italians. Immigration officials claim they are slower to fit into the Canadian scene, and for this reason we are now restricting them to an unofficial quota of about 25,000 a year. Unlike Germany and The Netherlands, Italy always has a surplus population and unemployment problem, and there are always Italians who want to come to Canada.
Everyone else can be lumped into a final group. Some of these—Scandinavians, Swiss and Belgians—are good immigrants but, like Frenchmen, have little desire to emigrate. But most of the remainder are people like Japanese, Chinese, Indians and West Indians who would come to Canada in large numbers if we would let them. Our policy toward them, unofficially, is to accept as few as we can manage to.
Occasionally, but not often, a government spokesman agrees that Canada has responsibilities in immigration which go beyond our own immediate national interests. Canada has officially admitted, as a country with space and untapped resources, that we have a moral obligation to accept immigrants, not only to help our own country but also to ease crowding in the world’s overpopulated lands. Prime Minister Mackenzie King admitted this first in 1947 when he outlined the immigration policy that the Government claims is still being followed.
“The problem of immigration must be viewed in the light of the world situation as a whole,” he said. “It should take account of the urgent problem of the resettlement of persons who are displaced and homeless . . . We have a moral obligation to assist in meeting the problem of resettling refugees and this obligation we are prepared to recognize.”
At that time the problem was largely one of refugees displaced and homeless as a result of the war. But the problem of “economic refugees” -surplus unemployed populations in countries that cannot feed and maintain them—is in the same category. When referring to this situation in a speech last November, Immigration Minister Pickersgill said: “In a world of shrinking distances and international insecurity, we cannot afford to ignore the danger of so small a population attempting to hold so great a heritage as ours.”
Are we ignoring the danger or not?
In 1954 we admitted about 150,000 immigrants. This is a reduction of about ten percent from the 1953 total. Our annual immigrant, intake has dropped steadily each year since its 1951 peak. Our annual average since the war has been around 115,000.
Could we absorb more?
The Government says we cannot do so conveniently and comfortably. Yet Canada’s postwar average of 115,000 immigrants a year, as a percentage of population, is less than half of Australia’s.
About four years ago William F. Holding, when president of the Canadian Manufacturers’ Association, charged that we “have failed abysmally to realize the need for production of the most valuable product we are able to produce—Canadians,” and declared we should accept immigration sufficient to boost our population 750,000 a year. As evidence that Canada could do this he pointed out that the U.S. added a million people a year from 1860 to 1890. At the beginning of this period of tremendous U. S. growth the U. S. population was only double that of Canada’s now and its economy was expanding little faster than Canada’s today. Canada itself was taking in 400,000 immigrants a year just before the First World War, a time when the grainlands of the west were opening up.
One of the most authoritative statements that Canada could, to advantage, step up its immigrant intake came last January from the Intergovernmental Committee for European Migration in Geneva, Switzerland. The ICEM has completed a two-year study of Canada’s absorptive capacity and says that Canada should be taking as a long-term average at least 170.000 immigrants yearly. There has been only one year since 1913 in which Canada has reached that figure—1951 when we took 194,000.
If we can absorb more immigrants, can we get more? And if so, where?
Right now employment is fairly high in what Ottawa considers our best immigrant hunting grounds overseas -Britain, Germany and The Netherlands. Or at least it is high among most of the skilled and experienced workers we are looking for. This means that fewer persons in these countries are applying for Canadian immigrant visits. At our immigration office at The Hague, Netherlands, applications per week last winter were about half what they were a year ago. But according to ICEM most European countries have surpluses of population that their economies cannot keep permanently employed.
Britain is said to be burdened with a surplus of seven million people. West Germany, which supported a population of thirty-six million before the war, now has fifty million. Austria still has nearly a million displaced persons. Greece has half a million unemployed.
But probably worst off, and our best prospect for an immediate increase in immigrants for Canada, is Italy. It is one of the nations that feel Canada’s immigration policy should he doing more for world economic stability.
Since the war Italy has sent more than a million emigrants abroad, about half to South American countries with absorptive capacities lower than Canada’s. Canada has taken fewer than 100,000 Italians; in fact we are accepting only close relatives of Italians already in Canada. Australia, in spite of its smaller population, has accepted more Italians since the war than we have.
A Policy to Beat the Reds
Italy’s unemployment problem is growing. It now has two million workers more or less permanently unemployed and living on the government. Discontent over unemployment is providing rich fodder for Communist propaganda. Communism has made such gains among Italy’s farm and laboring classes that Italy is the one Western nation today in danger of going Communist not by revolution hut by the democratic ballot. At its last election thirty-five percent of voters cast Communist or far-left ballots.
“Our government would like to send more Italian emigrants to Canada and Australia,” an Italian official told me. “We feel Canada could absorb forty or fifty thousand Italians a year, instead of the twenty-five thousand you are now accepting. We could easily supply this number of first-class immigrants.” He predicted if Italian work and living conditions began to show improvement Communism would quickly lose its main appeal.
Immigration Minister Pickersgill told a House of Commons committee studying Immigration Department estimates last month that Canada is already admitting Italian immigrants as fast as they can adapt themselves into Canadian society.
Oddly, our immigration policy is creating greatest resentment among British subjects—the colored citizens of the British West Indies. Canada is accepting only about one hundred West Indian Negroes a year. Although the word “race” has been carefully edited out of our present Immigration Act, the immigration branch is being repeatedly accused of practicing discrimination against West Indian Negroes. An immigration official told me the discrimination wasn’t racial. He said that to survive in the tropics people developed a relaxed attitude toward life and work, which made it difficult for them to fit into the competitive business and labor pattern of Canada. We accept few for that reason.
But a British West Indian trade official in Canada argued that the real reason must be color because we are rejecting West Indians who are urgently needed in Canada. He referred to the shortage of household domestic help, a field of employment he believes to he admirably suited to West Indians. Recently governments of the British West Indies tried to arrange with the Canadian immigration branch for the movement of domestics to Canada. “Your immigration branch didn’t co-operate,” he said. “They weren’t interested.”
The West Indies are overpopulated, unemployment is widespread, and the desire among West Indians to emigrate is stronger than it has been at any time of their history. Large numbers from Jamaica and Barbados are going to Britain; Puerto Ricans are pouring into the U. S. So Canada’s attitude toward West Indian immigrants is a bitter topic there today.
Another country that would like to send more immigrants to Canada is India, but the viewpoint from which East Indians view Canada’s immigration policy differs sharply from that of West Indians. India’s population problem is so big that emigration offers little hope of relief. Yet the Indian government would still like to send more immigrants to Canada. We now accept only a hundred and fifty a year.
A spokesman at the office of the Indian High Commissioner to Canada said recently, “We would like to see Canada take five hundred a year. You cannot accuse us of wishing to dump surplus population. Our population is 350 million and if you took a million East Indians a year it still wouldn’t alter things.” At last count, in spite of attempts to discourage them, twenty thousand East Indians were trying to come here—enough to keep our present quota filled for 133 years.
So, an immigration policy that requires us to turn down a good many more immigrants than we accept is generating ill will against Canada at government level in several countries. But, according to many lawyers who as legal advisers are often closely connected with immigration and deportation cases, the manner in which we turn down applicants may be doing us and our democratic cause even more harm, not at government level but at the level of the individual mind where the battle for international understanding has finally to be won.
“Our methods of handling immigrant applications abroad and deportation cases here at home,” says E. B. Jolliffe, former CCF leader for Ontario, now in private law practice, “are usually a complete contradiction of the democratic rights and freedoms we are trying to implant by persuasion and example throughout the world.”
What are those rights, won by British peoples after centuries of struggle? They are: 1. No one shall be imprisoned or penalized without being told why; 2. No one shall be judged on the basis of gossip, hearsay or suspicion; 3. Before imprisonment, fine, tax, confiscation of goods or any such penalty can be imposed, the victim is entitled to a fair hearing and a full defense, with counsel if he wishes; and 4. After all this be is entitled to appeal a decision he regards as unfair to a higher and impartial court or board.
They Think We’re Rude
Yet lawyers charge that every day Canada’s immigration officials are imprisoning people pending deportation bearings or barring them from entering Canada and refusing to tell the victims why. Decisions affecting the future lives of thousands are made in secret, so that those concerned never know whether their cases received fair consideration, or whether they were considered at all. A defense is usually impossible because the victim doesn’t know what he has to defend himself against. Representation by counsel has been discouraged and at some immigration stations it has been flatly refused. Entry applications are often refused solely because of suspicion. There is no readily available and impartial authority to which to appeal an unfavorable decision.
How many people do these immigration procedures touch? Mr. Pickersgill says it is impossible to state when an enquiry actually becomes an application, but he estimates that “three, four or live times” as many persons approach overseas immigration offices as are accepted. Last year we admitted 150.000. So if we take Pickersgill’s lowest estimate it means we rejected 450.000. Foreign-embassy officials believe that a large part of this army of would-be Canadians retains a resentment against Canada and suspicion of our democratic cause because of the curt manner in which rejections are handled.
But many thousands of these applications come from new Canadians already in Canada who apply for relatives still abroad. When one of these applications is rejected and an explanation is flatly refused. Canada not only may make a new enemy abroad but is also running a risk of destroying the faith of a family already here.
Whether the system of arbitrary rejections is needed and justified as a national policy is a point that can stand debate, but its cost in grief, hardship and bitterness when it gets down to specific cases is indisputable.
The sad story of Leong Hung Hing is a case in point.
In February 1951, Leong, a frail and ageing Chinese cook, walked from a Vancouver court proudly clutching a certificate proclaiming him a naturalized Canadian citizen. A few days later he received a letter from the Minister of Citizenship and Immigration at Ottawa informing him that he was now entitled to “the ancient liberties of a free people under a democratic government which recognizes the rights of all its citizens.” Leong was then sixty-seven, feeble, wrinkled and lonely. In Hong Kong he had an eighteen-year-old student son, Leong Ba Chai, whom he hadn't seen since the boy was a baby. In the room where he lived alone, Leong often gazed pensively at his picture. As the son of a Canadian citizen, Leong Ba Chai could now come to Canada as an immigrant if he could meet medical and other requirements.
So Leong Hung Hing’s first act as a new citizen was to go to the immigration office in Vancouver where he told the story of his son and made application for Ba Chai’s entry. Leong started haunting the Vancouver office, awaiting news of when his son would arrive. Two months later, Immigration Superintendent D. N. McDonell informed him that his son was ineligible. Leong continued to haunt the immigration office, pleading with officials. In this case the officials broke from the customary policy and told Leong the reason for his son’s rejection. In the view of the Immigration Department, they said, Leong Ba Chai was illegitimate.
A Vancouver lawyer took up Leong’s cause and a year later, in March 1952, the case went to the Supreme Court of British Columbia, where Leong falteringly testified that Ba Chai was born of a concubine wife and under Chinese law was a legitimate child. He had supported Ba Chai and his mother for many years by sending about six hundred dollars a year to China. The court ruled that Ba Chai, since he was legitimate in the country of his birth, must be regarded as legitimate for Canadian immigration purposes. The immigration branch was ordered to reconsider the application.
But the immigration branch appealed to the appeal court of British Columbia, lost again, then carried the appeal to the Supreme Court of Canada. In December 1953, almost three years after Leong’s original application, the Supreme Court also ruled that Ba Chai was legitimate and that he should be admitted if he complied with the Immigration Act.
Leong, his savings gone to pay legal costs and his health failing, waited hopefully, confident that the battle to have his son with him was virtually won. But now Ba Chai was “investigated” in Hong Kong to determine if he “complied” with immigration requirements. Another spring, summer and fall dragged by. Leong, now seventy, grew weaker and frailer. His pride of citizenship turned to resentment. He began to distrust the government that preached democratic rights, then seemed to do everything to repudiate them.
Early last December Leong Hung Hing died of a heart attack without seeing his son. The last act of the drama came quickly after his death. The Immigration Department, after a year’s silence regarding Ba Chai, quickly ruled that since the boy now ... no sponsor to receive him in Canada he could no longer be considered as an immigrant. The case of Ba Chai was closed.
If a traffic policeman doubts that the driving permit you show him is really yours, he must prove his suspicions in court before you are penalized. What a contrast this legal procedure is with the immigration case of Shing Lee, a Chinese-Canadian girl who was barred from Canada for five years because an immigration officer in Hong Kong doubted that the British Columbia birth certificate she carried was actually her own. Canadian-born Shing Lee went as a child to China with her parents, the family was separated by the war, then three sisters reunited in Hong Kong, in 1948 two returned to Canada, but Shing Lee was suspected of having a false birth certificate and barred. It took the services of seven law firms in Hong Kong, Vancouver and Ottawa to persuade immigration authorities that Shing Lee was a Canadian. After a five-year battle she arrived back in the land of her birth early in 1954.
A subcommittee of the Canadian Bar Association, representing Canadian lawyers, recently spent two years studying about two hundred such cases involving immigrants. At the association’s convention in Winnipeg last fall the group filed a report recommending several changes in immigration procedures to make immigration hearings more fair and humane. The subcommittee could not be accused of politicking for two of its three members were staunch government supporters. The chairman was John H. McDonald, an Ottawa lawyer who has been Liberal candidate against George Drew for the last two elections. Another member was John H. Dickey, Liberal MP for Halifax and parliamentary assistant to Hon. C. D. Howe, Minister of Trade and Commerce. The third member was John R. Taylor, a Vancouver lawyer not active in politics but a frequent counsel in immigration cases.
The subcommittee had expected its report to be handled with a minimum of publicity, but the Government got wind of what was happening. Deputy Minister Laval Fortier turned up unexpectedly at the convention to defend his department. The Press picked up the ball and immigration became a hot issue. The subcommittee’s report was made public and sent to government officials, but it was not formally adopted by the convention. It was returned to the subcommittee “for another year of study.” As the immigration pot continued to boil Dickey resigned, explaining: “I did not see the final draft of the report. It did not carry my approval, nor did I sign it.” Other subcommittee members explained that Dickey didn’t see the “final” draft because he was not present at the Winnipeg convention. But he did see and help compile an earlier draft and the “final” draft he disowned contained only a minor change which Dickey himself asked for.
The report contained two principal recommendations: 1. That reasons for rejection or deportation be given in each case “in such a way as to give the rejected party or the applicant concerned an opportunity of overcoming the department’s objections”; 2. That an impartial appeal board be set up to hear cases where the legality or fairness of the department’s decision is questioned.
“Anyone can make a decision on any subject,” said John Taylor, the Vancouver subcommittee member, “but giving a decision with reasons to prove that it is the correct decision is an entirely different matter.”
“When reasons for decisions do not have to be given,” said Davie Fulton, lawyer, Conservative MP and opposition immigration critic, “then error, corruption, favoritism and injustice are invited, and rights and liberties are denied.”
Why can’t immigration officers tell reasons when rejections are for non-security reasons?
“If we gave all the other reasons we would be labeling the remainder as security cases and doing indirectly what we have undertaken not to do directly,” Bickersgill explains.
“The Government’s system protects no one,” says E. B. Jolliffe. “If a Communist is rejected, the very fact he is rejected tells him everything. He knows at once there must be a leak somewhere. And as a result of this policy many innocent applicants are unjustly rejected. Immigration officers in Europe accept malicious gossip, accusations from anonymous informers, and the subject cannot clear his name because immigration officers won’t tell him what they suspect.”
Although the U. S. McCarran act is looked upon throughout most of the world as a symbol of inhuman and undemocratic immigration restriction, the U. S. still gives reasons for rejections quite freely. An alien applying to emigrate to the U. S. can be rejected at. two points. He can be refused a visa at an overseas office, or if granted a visa he can still be turned back when he reaches a U. S. port of entry.
They Can’t Go To Court
If his visa application is rejected his application form is stamped with the section and subsection of the act on which the rejection is based. Then a copy of the act is given him with the section clearly marked. It is specific enough that he is left with no doubt as to why he is being rejected. He is given a form letter which tells him if he has a defense to offer he can bring it up and have his application reconsidered.
If he obtains a visa and reaches a U. S. port of entry and is then stopped, he is handed a notice of rejection which outlines his appeal privileges and contains a form for him to fill out if he wishes to start appeal. Since he is now on U. S. soil he can appeal to the Board of Immigration Appeals at Washington if he desires. If he fills out the appeal form, he or his lawyer is then told the section and subsection under which he is rejected. Where security is a reason for rejection, the subsection breaks it down to a specific point, such as membership in a subversive organization, or a related reason. Occasionally the immigrant is kept in custody while waiting for his appeal, but usually he is released on bail.
A member of one of the European embassy staffs in Ottawa who escaped from behind the Iron Curtain at the end of the war and is familiar with the European international scene told me: “If the U. S. has been forced by public opinion to give reasons for immigrant rejections, they probably give false reasons to put rejected applicants off the track. I doubt if they are tipping off Communists by giving real facts. There are often two or three reasons and they can always give a minor reason and keep the real reason hidden.”
The courts rarely get the opportunity to interfere in immigration or deportation cases, because parliament has done all it can to deprive immigrants of court protection. The Immigration Act says that no court or judge shall have jurisdiction “to review, quash or otherwise interfere” in immigration decisions made “in accordance with the provisions of this Act.” The loophole that has saved many immigrants from unjust treatment is that final phrase, for if a court thinks an immigration board of enquiry has not acted “in accordance with” the act, the court has the authority to step in and change the board’s decision.
But for every case that reaches the courts, there are scores in which questionable immigration rulings go unchallenged because the victim is outside the country or because he lacks money, a lawyer or knowledge of the English language to launch a court appeal. It is for this reason that the Canadian Bar Association’s immigration subcommittee made its second big recommendation: that an appeal board be established outside the Immigration Department to which grievances can be taken.
Under the present system the final “court of appeal” for all except those few cases that can be brought before a court of law, is the minister himself. Everyone, theoretically, is entitled to have his immigration case reviewed by the minister as a last resort. Many lawyers argue that this final and sweeping authority should not be vested in a person who is one of Ottawa’s busiest politicians, a man who, even if he had time to review a case in detail, would still be influenced by a purely natural and human tendency to take the side of officials in his department.
“Actually,” says one lawyer, “this has created a situation under which admission to Canada is determined to a large extent by political influence. If an applicant is represented by a lawyer or a member of parliament, with enough influence to get in and discuss the case personally with the minister, the case always gets a sympathetic review and the ruling is often reversed in the applicant’s favor. But if some unknown little fellow writes a letter asking the minister to review his case, I doubt if he gets much of a review. I say this because I have discussed a case with the minister and I have had to remind him that he rejected an appeal on the case three or four days before. He had forgotten it already, so I don’t see how he could have given it much attention.”
There is appeal machinery of some sort overseeing all other branches of government where individual rulings might be challenged by the person or company concerned. There are appeal boards to hear complaints about tariffs, income tax, unemployment insurance, pensions and army court martials. The U. S. has its Board of Immigration Appeals — an impartial legally trained tribunal and not immigration officers or politicians.
Under the Canadian Tariff Appeal Board there is a more democratic system to handle a can of beans crossing the border than there is for handling human beings crossing the same border. If a can of beans is held at the border the citizen bringing it in can go to the Tariff Appeal Board, find out why and argue his case. But if the same citizen applies to have his brother or son enter from another country and the application is turned down, the citizen will not be told why and there is no higher authority to which he can freely appeal.
In reply to all these arguments the Government always falls back on the fundamental point of its defense—that if we are going to permit any immigration at all in today’s world, in which national security must be the Government’s first concern, it has to be arbitrarily controlled. According to immigration authorities, we are forced into the ironical position in which, while extolling democratic rights as the privilege of all human beings, we must in our own immigration affairs withhold those rights from many of the very people we are most anxious to reach with the democratic message.