Academic journal article Refuge

Migrant Illegality, Nation-Building, and the Politics of Regularization in Canada

Academic journal article Refuge

Migrant Illegality, Nation-Building, and the Politics of Regularization in Canada

Article excerpt

Abstract

Regularization, a means for people living with precarious immigration status to legalize or "regularize" their status, is a central demand of immigrant rights groups across Canada. From a perspective of No Borders, does the demand for regularization, while challenging the day-to-day practices of Citizenship and Immigration Canada, also unintentionally reinforce state power? Historical research on regularization programs in Canada suggests that regularization programs do not eliminate migrant illegality but reconfigure it. In this way, regularization may be implicated in processes that both makes and unmakes illegality within the context of immigration and citizenship in Canada.

Resume

La regularisation, un moyen pour les personnes vivant avec un statut d'immigration precaire de legaliser ou de << regulariser >> leur statut, est une revendication centrale de la defense des droits des immigrants partout au Canada. D'un point de vue No Border, la demande de regularisation, tout en contestant les pratiques usuelles de Citoyennete et Immigration Canada, ne renforce-t-elle pas aussi involontairement le pouvoir etatique? La recherche historique sur les programmes de regularisation au Canada indique que ceux-ci ne suppriment pas l'illegalite des migrants; ils ne font qu'en modifier la configuration. De cette facon, la regularisation peut etre impliquee dans des processus qui a la fois font et defont l'illegalite dans le contexte de l'immigration et de la citoyennete au Canada.

Introduction

Regularization, a means for people living with precarious immigration status to legalize or "regularize" their status, is a central demand of immigrant rights groups across Canada. But what are the implications of this demand? Coming from a perspective of No Borders, does the demand for regularization, while challenging the practices of Citizenship and Immigration Canada, also unintentionally reinforce state power? Historical research on regularization programs in Canada from 1960 to 2004 demonstrates that the regularization process is a nation-building exercise. "Regularization" is the term most often used by government officials to describe programs that offer opportunities for people living with precarious immigration status in Canada to apply for permanent status. (1) Regularization programs, however, do not eliminate migrant illegality; instead this illegality is reconfigured through the regularization process. In this way, regularization may be implicated in processes that both make and unmake illegality within the context of immigration and citizenship in Canada.

The theoretical concept and methodological approach of governmentality (2) is useful for exploring processes of illegalization within the context of immigration policy in Canada. "Illegalization" refers to those processes that make people illegal: processes that illegalize certain bodies in particular spaces within the globalizing nation-state system. In Canada, we can see the ways in which people are made illegal through the classist, gendered, and racist processes of selection and exclusion embedded in the Immigrant and Refugee Protection Act (IRPA). The majority of people living with precarious immigration status in Canada are people who do not meet the restricted requirements of the points system, a system that emphasizes particular work skills and economic status while also privileging an education from white-dominated countries, such as Australia, the US, the UK, and others. Unable to access the points system, many have submitted refugee claims or have failed these claims and have decided to remain in Canada rather than face persecution in their country of origin. Others hold work, visitor, or student visas or have overstayed their visas. From a governmentality approach, processes of illegalization--the processes that make a person "illegal"--can be understood as created not solely through state bureaucracies and institutional mechanisms but also through technologies of government. …

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