USA Civil War 2020

Apologies in advance for this post. I do not want to fear-monger or fan the flames of baseless conspiracy theories. I do not believe the USA is headed towards a Civil War in 2020, regardless of the outcome of the upcoming election. That said, I have had too many conversations with residents in the USA (including Americans, Canadians and other citizens who are living and/or working in the USA) who are planning for potential civil unrest, including armed conflict. They are looking to Canada for safety and they are planning to “escape”, if necessary. civil war

This post was prompted by a conversation I had with a medical doctor living in Florida. He lives in a slice of paradise near Miami. Mango trees. In his own words, however, he believes America is headed towards “civil war”. Yes, those are his words. A licensed physician.

IMMIGRATION INSURANCE

For individuals in the USA, we are providing immigration insurance. Essentially, if you meet the eligibility requirements, we are assisting clients with application to, potentially, relocate to Canada if, as the American doctor noted above, the USA breaks out into civil war.

The idea here is similar to the “pandemic passports” or “citizenship by investment“. I have spoken about these topics and presented at the international EB5 conference in Las Vegas, back when were able to travel and actually fly to conferences. CBI and these options are normally restricted to high net worth individuals and families.

Unlike pandemic passports and CBI solutions, our immigration insurance may be available to many more applicants. You do not need to be wealthy to qualify.

KEEP CALM, CARRY YOUR PASSPORT

During WWII, the British government published the motivational poster with the slogan “Keep Calm and Carry On”. Since then, the phrase has been adapted to many situations. In my view, we need to be prepared for unforeseen circumstances. For better or worse, 2020 has introduced many situations that were previously disregarded as improbable, or even impossible. We have had to adapt to these new realities we did not realize could come to pass.

Civil War 2020

As you may have learned from my TEDs Talk, my parents met at the University of Chicago and I have many relatives in the USA. I do not want violence and I hope that everyone south of the border stays safe and healthy. At the same time, the American physician above is not the only client who has noted a potential “civil war” in the USA. I have heard the same phrase from clients in Minnesota, Arizona, California and other states. From what I am hearing, the anxiety level in the USA is very high. News of the attempted kidnapping of Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer has fanned the flames. QAnon. Proud Boys. Social media has been steering viewers away from progressive media. Our goal, of course, is to help clients achieve their Canadian immigration dreams. If we can help some folks gain status in Canada so they may feel secure, we are doing our job.

Stay Safe & Vote

If you are American, please exercise your right to vote. I am very concerned for our clients in the USA. I am concerned for the safety of my family in the USA. We need to make sure that folks stay safe. I have no idea whether 2021 will be any better than 2020; however, in the interest of ending on a positive note, I believe things are going to get better.

IRCC Interviews

As part of our ongoing coverage of Canadian immigration laws and procedures that have been impacted by COVID-19 and the pandemic, we can report that IRCC offices across Canada will be reopening. In-person interviews at IRCC Offices will start to be scheduled at a few cities, including Calgary, Edmonton, Hamilton and Niagara Falls. These offices are in Alberta and Ontario.

To be clear, IRCC Interviews in Manitoba are not currently being scheduled. We have been in contact with IRCC and CBSA Officers in Winnipeg and they have advised that they do not have a date when interviews will be scheduled at their office at 269 Main Street. We have clients who are patiently waiting for their eligibility interviews and they will continue to wait. This situation has been frustrating for clients and Officers alike. We will continue to stay on top of the situation and provide useful information, as much as possible. We will be providing updates as soon as they become available.interviews

As posted by IRCC on 17 SEPT 2020:

For services that we haven’t been able to provide virtually, we are slowly beginning to reopen in-person services in select offices by appointment only, beginning the week of September 21, 2020.

This testing phase will allow us to assess our protocols and procedures, and ensure the safety of our staff and our clients. The lessons learned will help us plan for reopening services more widely in the future.

Please note that services are currently by appointment only. You do not need to reach out to IRCC offices for these services, as we will be reaching out to clients to schedule appointments.

These limited appointments are restricted to the following offices:

  • IRCC offices in Etobicoke and Montréal are reopening for permanent residence-related services. Clients who require a permanent resident card (PR card) pick up or permanent residence determination (interview to determine the client’s status) will be contacted by email to schedule an appointment

  • IRCC offices in Calgary, Edmonton, Hamilton, and Niagara Falls are reopening for limited asylum-related services.

  • IRCC will schedule appointments via epost with clients who need to collect or submit documents, provide their biometric information, or come in for an interview.

  • If this pilot goes well, IRCC offices in Vancouver (Hornby), Montréal, and Etobicoke will open in the future to provide these services.

As noted above, there are currently no plans for in-person appointments in many IRCC Offices, including Winnipeg. Previously, we have reported on how Manitoba is reopening and the ecomony is getting back on track. We are currently in the second wave of COVID-19 cases although, in my opinion, Manitobans should be celebrated as one of the best places on the planet that is dealing with this crisis.

Success: Crim Rehab

After years of work, including multiple Temporary Resident Permits (TRPs), we successfully applied for Criminal Rehabilitation (Crim Rehab) for our client who had multiple criminal convictions in his past. These applications are never easy and the Officer at the border has significant discretionary decision making power at the POE. We did not want to have to wait for this client to be eligible for “deemed rehabilitation” as he has strong connections to Canada. Alastair is an expert in crimimmigration – the intersection between criminal justice and immigration.

Justice is at the core of our legal system and criminality may have a strong impact on immigration. This means that individuals who are convicted and have served their sentences may not be inadmissible to Canada and they may be allowed to enter if they are successful with a “rehabilitation” application according to immigration laws and regulations. In this case, we were retained by a foreign national with five (5) criminal convictions from different incidents in his past. These convictions, and a series of other events, led to a separation of family and hardship; however, after a boatload of work and strong supporting documentation,Crim Rehab we were successful with our Criminal Rehabilitation application (Crim rehab), submitted at the Canadian Port of Entry. We were able to review the application with a Superintendent prior to our client traveling to the border for a non-binding preliminary assessment. Our client got a positive decision from the Officer after only 4 hours.

In many cases, past criminal convictions are the result of bad decisions made in youth that were affected by alcohol and/or peer pressure. The Supreme Court of Canada has considered similar situations and they have provided instructions to Officers on how to make these decisions. This case was one of those cases. Our client was completely upfront about exactly what happened and how it affected his life. He demonstrated significant changes in his behaviour and he showed genuine remorse.

Our client was thoroughly prepared by our office. As with all our cases, be prepared, be prepared, be prepared! We spent hours on this application, gave him a mock interview and prepared a strong package of evidence. At the border, he passed multiple interviews and the Officers went through our package very carefully.

In the end, our client’s application was granted and he no longer needs to worry about inadmissibility to Canada. He is now with his family members in Canada, subject to the Quarantine Act and he is taking COVID-19 seriously. It has been a pleasure to work with this family and it has been very emotional. For our office, it is very important that we build a perfect application and make sure 100% of the potential issues are covered. I will say that the Officer even said to our client that our application was the best Criminal Rehabilitation application he had reviewed. Thank you Officer! Good decision!

 

Best Immigration Lawyers

Clarke Immigration Law, and Alastair Clarke in particular, has been recognized as one of the Top 3 Immigration Lawyers in Winnipeg by ThreeBestRated.ca. Of course, I need to thank all the staff at CIL. We work as a close team to get the work done.

Please note: we had no influence or input into this ranking. In fact, we were actually quite surprised to receive the news this morning. If you are reading this, you likely know that we specialize only in Canadian immigration & refugee law. For those who need immigration lawyers for any other jurisdiction, for example the USA, we would make a referral to one of our colleagues in the United States and they can help you if you are are interested in moving south to Trumpland. We help people and businesses open doors to Canada, arguably the best country in the world.

immigration lawyers

Here is a copy of the message we received from ThreeBestRated.ca:

Congratulations!  You are now listed as one of the Top 3 Immigration lawyers in Winnipeg, MB. We would like to Thank You for providing consistent high-quality service in your area of business. Our review team either approved or updated your business listing using our rigorous 50-Point Inspection which includes everything from checking reputation, history, complaints, ratings, nearness, satisfaction, trust, cost and general excellence.

I would also congratulate my colleagues Carolina and Louay for being recognized as the other Top Immigration Lawyers in Winnipeg. We are a small community and we know each other quite well. We know who does good work and who provides good service for their clients. Unfortunately, there are many bad immigration consultants, shady immigration agents and, to be frank, bad immigration lawyers out there. The Applicant is the victim.

I also want to thank everyone who has written a review for us on Google Reviews. Currently, we have a rating of 4.9 STARS out of 5 possible STARS, based on 54 individual reviews. I have to mention that we read each and every review. If a client has provided valid criticism, we deal with it immediately. At the same time, we are bound by solicitor-client privilege and we cannot disclose any personal information about our clients, even if they are not 100% satisfied.

Immigration lawyers have a huge amount of responsibility. We say we are in the business of saving lives. When our applications are granted, it means that families are reunited, students are able to pursue their academic dreams and Canadian businesses have the international talent to serve their customers.

Success: Citizenship for Minors

Depending on the circumstance, Canadians whose children were born abroad may apply directly for their citizenship so that they can easily come home. Since the pandemic hit the global collective consciousness, we have helped many families, including minors, with their move back home. Notwithstanding universal health care and the CERB, Canada has become a global model for governance and leadership. After less than 2 months of processing time, we recently received two (2) Citizenship Certificates for the children of a Canadian living in the USA. Due to COVID-19 and other factors, she does not feel safe in the USA and she will be moving home asap.

Minors

This photo is used with permission and it does not depict our clients.

Typically, Citizenship grants for minors take much longer than 2 months. In this case, our client demonstrated exceptional circumstances and the IRCC Officer agreed to urgent processing.

Our goal is to help our clients fulfill their immigration dreams. As far as I’m concerned, our country is built on immigration and, therefore, our work leads to a win-win situation. Our clients are happy they are able to come (or stay) in the best country in the world (we are bias, of course) and, at the same time, Canada benefits from the skills and experience.

Applications for minor children have their challenges. It can be difficult to obtain sufficient evidence and there may be objections by parents and/or guardians. The key is to prepare a strong application where the Officer clearly understands the best interests of the child (BIOC) or children who are directly affected by the application.

Congratulations to our clients! We wish them all the best on their relocation to Manitoba. As part of our plan to reopen the province and get the economy back on track, they will need to abide by their 14-day Quarantine Plan as we are trying to limit the number of infections from the USA.

WFP: Audit of Deportation Orders

The widely reported report by the Canadian Auditor General describes the significant backlog and delays in the removal process for individuals who have enforceable removal orders, including deportation orders. These removals are carried out by CBSA Officers and we have many clients who are affected by these orders. We are in contact, almost daily, with CBSA Officers on behalf of our clients to ensure our clients fully cooperate with law enforcement and Canadian regulations. At the same time, we advise our clients on their legal rights.Deportation

The report focuses on failed refugee claimants who have deportation orders. Let me make a brief comment on this group. It is important to note that even when the refugee claimant’s risk may not rise to the level of risk per sections 96 or 97 of IRPA, they may still face significant risk or hardship and/or persecution. The fact is that the legal bar to refugee status is a high legal test and claimants must go through a rigorous adjudicative process, including examination and cross-examination of testimony. Another key fact is there is a shortage of competent legal counsel and claimants may be poorly prepared for their hearing.

Winnipeg Free Press reporter Eva Wasney published an article on the Auditor General’s report that discussed the challenges faced by CBSA:

Winnipeg immigration lawyer Alastair Clarke said some of the criticisms in the report are valid, but the audit is a an “oversimplification” of the removal process because it doesn’t include specific case examples.

“My concern is that the public reads this report, they don’t understand the details, the individuals who are behind these numbers, and this type of report causes undue or exaggerated anxiety in the public,” Clarke said. “The individuals who are under enforceable removal orders in the serious criminality category are generally only a small fraction of individuals in that entire pool.”

Of the more than 34,000 cases in the agency’s wanted inventory, 2,800 were criminal.

Indeed, to a certain extent, this report provides a limited perspective on the current state of removals and it fails to provide a nuanced approach to a complex procedure. I have spoken many times on this topic. Canadian laws require CBSA Officers to adhere to procedural fairness and, in our experience, CBSA Officers in Manitoba are vigilant in following Canadian laws and regulations.

In addition, I strongly agree with my friend and advocate Dr. Lori Wilkinson who has been doing significant research at the University of Manitoba’s Immigration Research West group:

While Wilkinson said she is glad to see the immigration removal audit, she is worried that the report could have a negative impact on people who are in Canada legally.

“There could be backlashes against immigrants,” she said. “Lots of people make the leap that if the deportation system isn’t working, then the immigration system must not be working.”

This is absolutely correct. In my view, IRCC Officers and CBSA Officers are working hard to ensure integrity in the system and they take deportation orders seriously.

On the flip side, let us be reminded of deportations that have been rushed and have led to disastrous results. One example that comes to mind is the case of Lucia Vega Jimenez from 2014. She was a failed refugee claimant from Mexico with an enforceable removal order as described in the Auditor General’s report. While she was on the verge of being deported, she took her own life in Vancouver. Advocates point to the serious risks to her life. On its face, I believe anyone can understand that if she was so afraid to go back to Mexico she would take her own life to prevent deportation, she had genuine fear.

In my view, it is important to consider the people behind these numbers. Every case is different, and I can tell you from many years of experience, immigration is messy. As correctly noted by the report, CBSA Officers focus their resources on serious criminals and ensuring the safety of the Canadian public. This is exactly how the system is designed to work.

Manitoba Phase 2 Reopening

Based on the sacrifice and hard work of Manitobans, the province is very safe. We are extremely grateful for the good governance in our province to manage services during this COVID-19 pandemic. We are in contract with first responders, health care professionals regularly to ensure we have updated information for our clients. On Friday, I participated in a high level call with Minister Marco Mendicino (IRCC), organized by the Canadian Bar Association. The federal government as well as the provincial government have been working hard to manage our immigration system. Today marks Manitoba’s Phase 2 reopening and we hope that residents will continue to be conscientious of physical distancing guidelines.

Phase 2

At Clarke Immigration Law, we made significant changes in JAN2020 and we continue to adapt to the circumstances. Our goal is to operate in a manageable capacity without sacrificing the safety of our clients or our staff. We regularly review all of the options and variables to ensure that we can provide the best quality of service.

To date, Manitoba has only had 295 confirmed COVID-19 cases for a population of more than 1,200,000 residents and ZERO patients are in hospital. For comparison, our neighbours in North Dakota have more than 2,365 confirmed COVID-19 cases in a population of only 762,000. As per the graph, courtesy of Manitoba Health, there have been very few cases for weeks. I am not going to guess the myriad reasons why there are so many more cases in the USA on a per capita basis. It could be poor leadership. It could be poor services. It could be poor health care. It could be poor physical distancing. Regardless, Manitobans should be proud how we have managed this pandemic thus far.

For Phase 2, many businesses will be reopening, at different levels. I spoke with a business owner yesterday who was very excited to open his business at 50% capacity. Public gatherings of up to 25 people inside are now allowed and up to 50 people outside. Businesses & activities to resume include:

  • Golf courses
  • Gyms (limited)
  • Restaurants (limited)
  • School services (limited)
  • Bars (limited)
  • Bowling Alleys
  • Nail Salons
  • Tattoo Parlors
  • Sports activities for children (group max 25)
  • Daycares (group max 25)
  • School playgrounds

For more information on the government’s plan to reopen, please consult the details of Phase 2.  The PDF with additional details is also available.

We are assisting many clients who are eager to come to Canada. Please contact our office to book a consultation. 

PGWP Update

IRCC has announced increased flexibility with Post Graduation Work Permit (PGWP) for international students in Canada. This reflects the government’s recognition of the contribution of international students to the Canadian economy and to society in general. As stated by our former Minister of Immigration John McCallum, international students are the core of the Canadian immigration system and the government is committed to supporting these individuals who have proven their financial contributions to this country.PGWP

IRCC has explicitly stated the importance of international students to our immigration system. The Press Release states:

International education represents a significant economic benefit to Canada, with international students contributing $21.6 billion to Canada’s GDP and supporting nearly 170,000 jobs in 2018. International students are also often excellent candidates to apply to remain in Canada permanently, with nearly 54,000 former students becoming permanent residents in Canada in 2018.

Indeed, the numbers are clear. Many int’l students go on to work on a PGWP and they apply for PR status. This is a proven path. In Manitoba, it is even easier with the MPNP program.

IRCC has shown commitment to ensuring students have the support they need during COVID19:

The COVID-19 pandemic has had a considerable impact on international students. In response to the health and travel restrictions that are in place, many designated learning institutions (DLIs) are offering their courses online.

Post-secondary institutions and prospective students alike are considering their approach to the fall semester. Both have sought guidance from Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada regarding eligibility for the Post-Graduation Work Permit Program (PGWPP) for students starting at an eligible DLI this fall.

The government has announced increased flexibility with PGWP applications:

Under normal circumstances, criteria for the PGWPP limit an international student’s ability to pursue a program via distance learning, from inside or outside Canada, and time spent studying outside Canada is deducted from the length of the work permit for which they are eligible.

PGWPP eligibility will not be affected for international students whose fall 2020 courses will be online due to COVID-19. This is in line with guidance provided to students already studying in Canada or whose program had a spring or summer start date.

Students in this situation may begin their classes while outside Canada and complete up to 50% of their program via distance learning if they cannot travel to Canada sooner.

In addition, they will not have time deducted from the length of a future post-graduation work permit for studies completed outside of Canada, up to December 31, 2020.

This is very good news. We have many clients who can take advantage of these updates to the PGWP. On 29 MAY 2020, Clarke Immigration Law will participate in a meeting with the Minister of IRCC as well as the Minister of CBSA to discuss further changes to help our clients. Continue to watch this space for details.

UPDATE: We have been advised that PGWP application may be extended, in some circumstances. In this past, this was not possible. Please contact our office for more information.

Donations for Mohammed

Thank you for the tremendous support for our client Mohammed. You can read about his story in the WFP article. Basically, he is in Canada on a Work Permit and he is not covered by Manitoba Health. He had COVID19 symptoms and he paid $359.00 CAD to be tested:

Mohammed called Health Links to find out how he should proceed. He told the Free Press after waiting on hold for two hours, the representative on the other end of the line advised he go for testing at the nearest emergency room — not one of the off-site coronavirus testing centres.

He went to the downtown Health Sciences Centre and was swabbed for COVID-19. He was handed a bill for $359. He has no idea where he’s going to come up with the cash to pay it.

“I already don’t save a penny for myself,” he said. “I could pay if it was a smaller amount. And I only took the test. I didn’t take any medicine or anything like that. It is a lot of money to me.”

We have been helping Mohammed with his immigration applications. We hope that we can help him become a Permanent Resident and he will not have to worry about paying cash for health care.

We have been contacted by many WFP readers who would like to help Mohammed. Manitobans are so generous!

If you would like to help Mohammed, please contact our office and we can accept donations.

Please note that Clarke Immigration Law is based on service and principles of fairness. We provide many services pro bono to clients and we are committed to helping clients through Legal Aid. Alastair worked as Staff Lawyer at various community legal aid clinics in Toronto and Kingston. Our firm is modeled after the legal clinic system and our focus is on helping our clients and providing the best quality service.

WFP: Pandemic & Immigration

During this pandemic, CLARKE IMMIGRATION LAW is open and we are working remotely while keeping staff at the office. Please refer to our post on COVID19 which has regular updates. This pandemic has caused significant frustration and anxiety among our clients, including businesses that are negatively affected, families, workers and refugee claimants. Alastair Clarke gave an interview to the Winnipeg Free Press to answer some questions related to this ongoing pandemic and its impact on Canadian immigration law.

We have included a limited selection from the interview below. Please click here to read the full article.

Free Press: Are you concerned about how coronavirus response and the economic impact of the pandemic will influence people’s ability to land in Canada and to process applications on the permanent residency and citizenship track?

Clarke: Absolutely… we’re dealing with emergencies on a daily basis. Clients are concerned about their work permits, international students are worried about their status if they’ve been granted study permits, but they’re now not able to come for whatever reason. We have clients who have requirements to get biometrics (fingerprints and photo), but they’re not able to get the biometrics because the offices are closed.

This pandemic has affected the entire system. Not to mention the (Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada) tribunal is virtually closed, 90 per cent of our hearings have been postponed.

We expect there are going to be delays in processing times. We expect this is going to impact many applications. Canada, as everyone knows, is dependent on immigration and our economy is tied very closely with immigration.Pandemic

FP: What if someone had been on track to apply for a permanent residency permit and just got laid off? Are they still going to be eligible to remain in Canada? Would they be eligible for the emergency employment benefit?

AC: Every case is different. So, we’re dealing with these questions on a case-by-case basis.

I had one trucker who called me and he has a permanent residency application in process and his employer has supported his application. But the routes he has are all to the United States, and this client doesn’t feel comfortable going to the United States anymore. He’s asked his employer for domestic routes, but they don’t have any. So now he’s asking whether or not he can quit — and that would be a huge risk; he puts his visa application at risk.

I will say, generally speaking, Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada, I’m on the phone with officers almost daily and they have been incredibly open about what they’re dealing with. The officers are incredibly sympathetic; they understand how these applicants are being affected.

Please go to the Winnipeg Free Press article to read the interview in full. This pandemic and the impact of COVID19 is causing unprecedented changes to the economy and to society on a global scale.

Finally, I want to applaud the Government of Manitoba for their hard work. Currently, there are ~250 infections in the entire province and only a few deaths. We have less than 1% of the cases in Canada and Manitoba is very safe. I feel extremely safe and secure in Manitoba and we have the benefit of an extremely reliable health care system.

We want to thank all the health care workers who work tirelessly to treat those affected by this pandemic. We each need to do our part to mitigate the risk and flatten the curve. We are very fortunate to live in Manitoba and we benefit from good governance and strong leadership.