The cries of an undocumented immigrant


Immigration Matters

Sukhram Ramkissoon

The cries of an  undocumented immigrant

Every blessed day that the good Lord sends, I keep hearing  the plight of the undocumented,  many from our own Caribbean  community.

It saddens me to learn that so many of our people who  were looking forward to starting a new life in Canada as permanent residents are being “ripped off” by these so-called consultants and that their hopes have been dashed.

What’s to be done about this problem?  fair-minded citizens keep asking.

Well,  there is now more than  just a glimmer of hope that the Canadian government will finally crack down  on  fraudulent immigrant consultants.

According to a recent news release from Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada,

“decisive action” will be taken by the Canadian government to hold immigration consultants to account  by improving oversight, strengthening  enforcement and  increasing accountability to protect the public from dishonest consultants who take advantage of vulnerable people.

The news release also noted that proposed legislation included in the 2019 Budget Implementation Act, will create a new statutory framework to regulate immigration and citizenship consultants, making the  newly-created College of Immigration and Citizenship Consultants  the official watchdog of consultants across the country.

The  College, the release points out,  will have the power and tools it needs to protect both the public and consultants in good-standing, including the authority for vigorous oversight, investigations and the means to root out fraudulent immigration and citizenship consultants and hold them accountable for their actions.

And  to punish and deter illegal behavior, the proposed legislation will also double the current monetary penalty for offences and provide new authority to the Department of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship to establish administrative penalties aimed at compliance with the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act and the Citizenship Act.

I can hardly wait for the Canadian government to take action against these ” jacket-and-tie “crooks who gain  the trust of vulnerable undocumented immigrants and then fleece them of their hard-earned cash.

Only a few days ago, I received  a copy of a letter which was sent to Immigration Minister Ahmed Hussen  from  a woman who was allegedly swindled  by consultants in her bid to regularize her immigration status.

The woman, a native of St.Vincent, now faces deportation . And her letter cries out for compassion.

” I now live in constant fear of law enforcement officers. Anytime I see a police officer, I would freeze. I constantly suffer from anxiety attacks. I am unable to sleep properly at nights. I wake up every morning with dreams of being picked up by immigrant officials and sent back to St. Vincent,” she said in her letter.

The woman  told the minister that she is fearful of going back to St. Vincent because she no longer has a job there  and a policeman  who threatened her life still  resides in her community.

 

As she pointed out, she came from a poor family and worked as a secretary with a government ministry in St. Vincent but her  salary was not enough for her  to look after herself and help support her ailing mother and the rest of the  family which included two brothers, “one who suffered from a disability and the other who is mentally unstable.”

She said at that time, she was the main breadwinner of the family and felt that the only solution  to her

financial problem was to upgrade her qualifications.

” I desperately wanted to attend college in order to increase my chances of getting a higher paying job,” she explained.

She noted that in 2011, she was accepted as a student at Seneca College in Toronto and came to Canada in 2012 to pursue a course in office administration.

While  in Canada she worked in several factories doing odd jobs. and “but at least I was able to feed myself and send money and foodstuff home to take care of my Mom.

” It was while trying to earn a livelihood that I was picked up by immigration officers.  On October 17, 2013, I was travelling on a bus to work and immigration officials stopped the bus and questioned us [passengers] about our immigration status.

“They then separated us and those who did not have legal status were handcuffed and taken to an institution. I was shocked and traumatized at the way we were treated as if we were hardened criminals. Although I was eventually released, to this day, I am still affected by this trauma,” she told the minister.

She noted that after ran into problems with immigration officials, she sought legal advice and was ” ripped off ” by several consultants as she sought to regularize her status.

“I work to support myself, pay my rent and send home money to take care of my Mother… However, because of my status or lack of, I am unable to get a good job. When I do get a job, I am often underpaid. It is exploitation against the vulnerable as I cannot fight back.  ”

She also told the Immigration Minister that  she was unsuccessful in her bid to remain in Canada on “humanitarian and compassionate ‘ grounds.

Minister Hussen has said that while practicing law, he had seen the devastating effects fraudulent “experts” have had on vulnerable people.”

“It is  time to put an end of an era of those preying on defenseless people,”  he noted.

While we await the crackdown on fraudulent immigration consultants,  we also hope that  the cries of the undocumented immigrant from St. Vincent who is asking the  minister to remain in Canada, will receive the urgent consideration which they deserve.

SUKHRAM RAMKISSOON is a member of ICCRC and specializes in Immigration Matters at No. 3089 Bathurst Street, Suite 219A, Toronto, Ontario.  Phone 416 789 5756.