In just a decade, there will be one retiree for every two workers in Canada. To address looming labor shortages, the Canadian government announced a new goal in November to accept 1.45 million immigrants by 2025, with 60 percent trained in health care and other job skills needed with urgency.
Meanwhile, in the US, similar immigration legislation has stalled as Republicans block Democratic efforts to stimulate an influx of skilled workers until more is done to secure the US-Mexico border.
While the US has almost 10 times as many people as Canada, the US brought in the same number, about 275,000, of employment-based legal immigrants in fiscal year 2022 that Canada now plans to bring in each year for the next three years. according to data from US Citizenship and Immigration Services and the drafters of Canada’s new policy.
In the last session of the US Congress, which ended in December, bills to increase the number of foreign-born entrepreneurs, high-skilled workers, microchip makers, and farmworkers did not get enough votes to become law. . The Farm Workforce Modernization Act, the only one to pass the House of Representatives, was opposed by 30 Republicans and one Democrat. It has not yet been submitted to a vote in the Senate.
At the same time, Canada’s two largest national political parties, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s ruling Liberals and the opposition Conservatives, describe themselves as pro-immigration. Trudeau’s new immigration goal, which focuses not only on opening more pathways for refugees and low-skilled workers but also attracting high-skilled workers in sectors like health care and technology, has broad support.
Rep. Zoe Lofgren, D-Calif., then chair of the House Citizenship and Immigration Judiciary Subcommittee, introduced two bills to increase employment-based visas, but neither passed the House.
While pushing for change, Lofgren made a direct comparison between the policies in the US and its neighbor to the north. During a hearing that he titled “Oh Canada! How outdated US immigration policies push top talent to other countries,” Lofgren said, “The last major overhaul of our legal immigration system occurred in 1990. Meanwhile, other countries, like Canada, have made great strides in building flexibility and recruiting incentives into their systems to attract highly-skilled immigrants, including those we cannot accommodate.”
His Republican counterpart on the committee, then-ranking member Rep. Thomas McClintock of California, echoed what many Republican opponents have said in response to such proposals: that until the Biden administration does more to address illegal immigration in the southern border, legislation to reform should not even consider legal immigration pathways.
“The ongoing theme we hear from the left is that despite these staggering (border) numbers and despite the impact on American families as the job market is flooded with low-wage illegal immigrant workers, we need to further encourage the massive participation. migration,” McClintock said.
In the north, Canada’s Immigration Minister Sean Fraser said the need for more labor is so evident that the issue is not as divisive, and nativist arguments such as Canadian jobs belonging to Canadians simply They don’t have much traction.
“This is coming from a place where we believe Canada needs more people. We need them for economic reasons. We need them for demographic reasons. And it will help make our communities more vibrant and dynamic places to live,” Fraser said.
However, many jobs remain unfilled. Brenda Perkins-Meingast, senior director of nursing strategy at the University Health Network in Toronto, said her hospital network is 400 to 500 fewer nurses than she needs.
“We are currently in a health care crisis and a significant nursing shortage, so we really needed to be creative and innovative,” Perkins-Meingast said. University Health Network started a program this year to bring in more internationally educated nurses and help them get the additional training they need in Canada.
Rebecca Shi, director of the immigration advocacy group American Immigration Business Coalition, says both the top and bottom end of the US job market are likely to suffer in the coming years if the number does not increase. of foreigners. workers that employers can hire. She said that without more farmworkers, the price of food will continue to rise and affect American families.
“At some point there will be consequences if they keep playing politics,” Shi said. “The reality is that we could soon become a milk importer and that would drive prices up and could cause food insecurity.”
In a statement, US Citizenship and Immigration Services said it “is committed to the fair and efficient administration of the legal immigration system, increasing access to eligible immigration benefits, restoring faith and trust with immigrant communities and breaking down barriers in the immigration system, and the agency will continue to uphold the promise of America as a nation of welcome and possibility with fairness, integrity and respect for all of us we serve.”