Last week, Citizenship and Immigration Minister Chris Alexander issued a statement setting out the federal government’s opposition to Canadian municipalities becoming “sanctuary cities” for illegal immigrants.
The sanctuary city concept is one in which a city agrees not to take action against illegal immigrants. In Canada, at least two cities including Toronto and Hamilton, Ont. have declared themselves to be sanctuary cities. While some immigration enforcement laws are harsh and disproportionate, all immigration laws must be followed.
The Canadian government rightly points out that it is important for Canadians to have faith and integrity in the immigration system. Canadian cities have an obligation to respect Canadian laws and to enforce these laws when required. If communities are concerned about the way illegal immigrants are treated they should convince the federal government to change their laws so any punishment is suited to the actual immigration violation that has been committed.
When non-Canadians violate immigration laws, they are usually faced with deportation.
While this penalty may be appropriate for long-term repeat offenders, it is not appropriate for first-time offenders with minor violations. The problem facing Canadian immigration enforcement is there is usually no middle ground for penalties. While Canadian immigration law allows for the issuance of fines for immigration violations, this provision of the law has never been put to use.
What the federal government should do is introduce graduated penalties that can be assessed on non-Canadians for violation of immigration laws. For minor violations, a fine or an official warning may be more appropriate. These types of penalties could be recorded on the non-Canadian’s immigration file and, repeat offenders could be given harsher penalties.
The introduction of graduated penalties does not mean that ordering deportation should always be used as a last resort. Clearly, there are cases where deportation will be the appropriate penalty, even for a first offence. Immigration officers should be given the ability to exercise their discretion to assess what is an appropriate penalty under the circumstances.
Cities, first and foremost, have an obligation to their residents, if the situation calls for a city to enforce or assist in the enforcement of immigration laws, co-operation should be provided to the federal government.
Attorney Colin Singer Commentary:
The Harper Government has adopted harsh policies on immigration especially in the area of criminality. Canadians seem to support such a stand. Yet there is a disconnect by Canadians on the impact of such measures especially in the area of minor criminality which will affect Canadians who wish to sponsor members of the family class to immigration to Canada.
Source: CBC News