About 50 people attended a PSU hosted conference on U.S.-Canada immigration and border issues in the Smith Center on Tuesday.
Four speakers from Canada and the United States lectured on topics concerning America’s borders and how immigrants affect the U.S. and Canada as individual nations.
Professor Don Devoretz from Simon Fraser University, Canada, reflected on the change that occurred in Canada and its borders after Sept. 11. He also touched on issues surrounding NAFTA and how that has affected Canada’s immigration laws. “Canada wants a secure border,” Devoretz said. After Sept. 11 Canadians wanted fewer immigrants, and immigration laws have since been altered twice.
“Canadian borders must move to the initial point of embarkation,” Devoretez said. “Exit visas must be required, refusal claims outside of the border should be made. We need cooperation from Mexico and every country needs to screen immigrants upon arrival.”
Devoretz also suggested that as a larger nation, Canada, the United States and Mexico combined, we need a “floating border,” meaning that borders are determined via entry method.
He explained that, “if you travel overseas, immigration must be passed in Frankfurt or Hong Kong. If you travel by plane, immigration must be passed in the airport.”
The second portion of the conference was lead by population research Professor Barry Edmonston of PSU. Edmonston focused on what kind of immigrants are coming into the United States and what they are doing after they arrive.
“There is not one single type of immigrant. There are legal and illegal immigrants, refugees and non-immigrants that currently reside in the United States.”
Edmonston suggested that these immigrant categories affect the U.S. population growth. He also agreed with Devoretz that there is a “need for coordinating Canada and U.S. immigration return screening for frequent large volume flows of people who cross borders.”
Edmonston pointed out that the “U.S. concentrates too much on the south border and not the north.”
He also said that demographically, immigrants are moving away from New York City and California and residing in places like Oregon. This in affect means that, “there is an increase in immigrant job populations.”
Currently, Asian and Mexican populations have increased in Oregon. Immigrant occupations vary from medical to farm work. Consequently, “new states, [like Oregon] are picking up the immigrant slack” that California and New York are seeing.
The third portion of the program included a commentary by Bryan E. Burton, who is a consul and program manager at the Canadian Consulate in Seattle.
Burton said there is a “smart border declaration” that would make the border system work. He also said Canada is “committed to a homeland defense.”
Burton added that this could be accomplished through a sense of a larger homeland that includes Mexico, the U.S. and Canada.
Burton explained that after Sept. 11 there was a “dramatic awakening” and future plans include “securing people and goods and safeguarding the infrastructure.”
The fourth speaker, Paul Hribernik, an immigration lawyer in Portland, ended the conference with a lively discussion and disputably arguing points made by other speakers. He suggested that Asian foreigners have invested billions of dollars into the Canadian economy.
Hribernik made a point to suggest that economics is a large player in current immigrant problems. “Economic disparity [in Mexico is a problem] that we can’t solve. It is their problem and they [Mexicans] need a better future or they will come [to the U.S.].”
He also noted that problems lie in Canadian and U.S. understanding of immigration. “Canada’s government pays for information on immigration and the U.S. pays interest groups to do the research.” Hribernik said.
“America doesn’t study the problem. We try to solve it without knowing what we are doing.” He thinks that America needs to improve its tracking devices and that the standard operating procedures of immigration laws since the ’60s “doesn’t work and we are a long way from it working.”
The conference ended with an understanding that different immigrant policies in Canada and Mexico borders are a major source of immigration border issues. All speakers agreed that there is not equal security when comparing northern borders with southern. Hribernik said that this is a cause of “Mexicans having more likeliness to stay in the U.S. as opposed to Canadians who are likely to return to their motherland.”