Woe, Canada: U.S. lawmakers lament expert immigrants shifting north

American immigration laws have been gathering dust for decades. The reform efforts have stalled in a partisan bickering. Companies warn that it will cost the country talent.

And that’s why some US politicians cast an envious look north on Tuesday.

A group of lawmakers held a congressional hearing titled “Oh Canada! How Outdated US Immigration Policies Are Pushing Top Talent Out” in a misspelled reference to the national anthem.

It was an event ostensibly intended to learn lessons from Canada’s experience, but in the end it highlighted factors that are hindering US immigration reform.

Democratic politicians who organized the hearing warned of a reverse brain drain. You said the US needs to make it easier to attract skilled workers.

A California MP, MP Zoe Lofgren, whose district includes Silicon Valley, shared a news article saying tech employment in her area is growing more slowly than in Toronto, Montreal and Edmonton.

California MP Zoe Lofgren, seen here at a 2019 hearing, warned Tuesday that tech employment is growing faster in Canadian cities than in her district’s Silicon Valley. (Tom Brenner / Reuters)

She blamed a confusing American immigration system – defined by lotteries, annual visa caps, and corporate sponsorship of candidates.

“Is it any wonder talented workers are moving to Canada?” asked Lofgren.

“We’re stuck in a time warp. It’s like driving around with a 30-year-old paper map while others easily navigate the road with turn-by-turn directions from their smartphones. And we fall behind as a result. ”

She told a story about a classmate of her alma mater, Stanford University, with rare computer skills; he spent years as a temporary worker in the USA; he paid $ 4 million in US taxes; Nevertheless, he never managed to get a permanent residence permit.

Eventually he moved to Canada.

Another Democrat resented that some of the ideas Canada uses to attract educated workers were actually American ideas – ones that the US never implemented.

US President George W. Bush, seen here at a 2007 immigration reform event. His efforts stalled, as did the efforts of Barack Obama and Donald Trump. (Larry Downing / Reuters)

New York MP Jerry Nadler made specific reference to Canada’s startup visa program, modeled on part of a decade-old US law that stalled in Congress.

He also alluded to Canada’s express entry visa and two-week visas for sought-after workers and its Global Talent Stream program for businesses.

A glimpse into a deadlocked debate

“Those who failed because of the US immigration system are now turning to Canada,” said Nadler.

“The results are paying off – Toronto has earned the nickname ‘the Silicon Valley of the North’.”

The hearing provided evidence of why American reform efforts have still stalled – even now. This was evident in questions raised by the various parties at the meeting of the House Judiciary Committee.

The country’s political parties have conflicting priorities.

Rep. Tom McClintock, a California Republican, said the focus of the meeting was a mistake. He also suggested that Canada’s economy had little to teach the US (Andrew Harnik / The Associated Press).

Republican politicians face pressure from their electorate to tighten the southern border and control migration as the primary target. The Democrats, on the other hand, are keen to give former migrants access to citizenship.

As a result, the parties have been unable to reach an agreement on a plan that could obtain the majority required to pass both houses of Congress.

Donald Trump also spoke about imitating Canada’s immigration point system. It wasn’t going anywhere. Just like under Barack Obama and George W. Bush.

With sweeping reform efforts seemingly stuck again, Democrats are hoping a draft budget will allow some limited changes to be passed and perhaps status to the young migrants known as dreamers.

At the hearing, Republicans suggested that the Democrats lower their priorities.

Several complained about the focus: instead of Canada, lawmakers should talk about Mexico and what the Republicans call a migration crisis on the southern border.

House Justice Committee chairman Jerrold Nadler, seen here last year, says it is frustrating that the US visa proposals have not passed but Canada has implemented them. (Susan Walsh / Pool via Reuters)

Copy Canada? Why?

A California Republican said the majority party had the wrong ideas.

Tom McClintock said Democrats are focusing on the immigration changes coveted by the business community – the chance to hire more foreign workers to hire at low wages, he said.

“This Congress … puts the Americans last,” said McClintock. “And it puts foreign workers and the big corporations … first.”

He also touched on the notion that the United States should rely on Canada for economic lessons: He said the US had higher economic growth than Canada before the pandemic, much higher worker salaries and a much lower unemployment rate.

“Comparing their economy to ours for some reason doesn’t seem particularly attractive to me,” said McClintock. “But that can only be up to me.”

In addition, the immigration rate in the US is actually far higher in absolute terms than it is in Canada. The US attracts slightly more immigrants from Canada than Canada from the US

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau spoke to technology workers in San Francisco in 2018 about immigration to Canada. His administration, like Stephen Harper’s, introduced reforms to speed up the immigration of skilled workers. (Jeff Chiu / The Associated Press)

On the other side of the ledger, the US immigration rate has slowed significantly in recent years, and the country is attracting a far lower proportion of immigrants than Canada when measured against the total population.

This trend accelerated during the Trump years, when Canada saw the largest surge in skilled immigration in decades.

What witnesses said

Witnesses at the hearing expressed concern about the current flight path.

Stuart Anderson, a former George W. Bush administration official and executive director of a think tank on trade and immigration in the Washington area, said the number of Indian students had plummeted in US universities and increased in Canada.

“Canada regards immigration as essential to economic growth,” states the prepared text of Anderson’s remarks.

“The world has changed since then [the last major U.S. immigration reform in] 1990. US immigration policy did not do this. “

He warned of possible long-term consequences. He said his own research shows that immigrants created more than half of the multi-billion dollar startups in the United States.

And all of the key players who helped develop Moderna’s COVID-19 vaccine are immigrants to the United States – including Harvard University’s Canadian-born Derrick Rossi.

Another witness complained that the United States of all people is still using a paper-based system instead of computers to process immigration applications. She said it was causing delays.

The US system mentality is often based on spotting scams rather than looking for talent, said Jennifer Grundy Young, the head of a technology trading organization.

She provided a written testimony that included the story of a colleague and her husband. They spent 18 years in the US on work visas, never managed to get permanent residency, and moved to Toronto where they are recruiting others to come to Canada.

“Make no mistake, the Canadians have come to compete,” states the filing from Grundy Young, CEO of the Technology Council of North America.

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