Some Latino-Canadian organizations and community leaders are coming together to create a coalition to help address the problems posed by the potential mass migration of Salvadoran migrants from the United States.
The coalition’s draft proposal lists groups such as the Salvadoran Canadian Association (ASALCA) and the Centre for Spanish Speaking Peoples and the Ontario Council of Agencies Serving Immigrants (OCASI) as member organizations.
According to the new group’s draft proposal, the coalition seeks to “provide information to Latinos affected by the elimination of the Temporary Protected Status and Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals programs in the United States on Canada’s immigration laws and programs,” and to advocate for immigrants at the community level and the federal level.
Sandra Lozano, the Public Relations officer for ASALCA said the coalition would advocate for immigrants at the community level by making sure that they are welcomed with open arms when they arrive in Canada. On the federal level she said the coalition would advocate for immigration reform.
Lozano said hundreds of thousands of Salvadorans were forced out of El Salvador in 2001 following a devastating earthquake. Many of these refugees were let into the United States under the Temporary Protected Status program, and their children were covered under the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program. Following the repeal of these protections many Salvadorans will be forced back to a country they haven’t lived in for 17 years.
The coalition is still its developmental stage, but its goal is clear: it seeks to help potential migrants in any way possible.
At a coalition meeting at the Friends House, a Quaker church used as a meeting place for community organizations, members assembled to discuss plans and goals.
There were about 17 people attending who were representing organizations or themselves. The scent of soup and salad made its way through the room while members discussed and debated ideas, frequently switching between English and Spanish. The information from the meeting was gathered through English statements and having an interpreter summarize and explain Spanish statements.
Francisco Rico from the FCJ Refugee Center said that a key focus of the coalition will be to increase the flexibility of currently existing immigration programs.
Vilma Filici, an immigration consultant from Filici Palacio Immigration Services said one area they will be looking at will be the language requirements for the federal skilled workers program. The current score required to pass the language test is seven, but Filici said that many applicants score 5.5 or six on the tests.
She said that the difference between a score of six and seven is quite small, but the high language-skill requirement keeps many people out. “Frankly, it discriminates against non-English or French speaking countries,” she said.
The coalition provides information for those impacted by the end of DACA and TPS on how to come to Canada legally.
“We are not encouraging people to come here illegally,” said Sandra Lozano, the Public Relations officer for ASALCA.
“We want people to know that there are other ways to get in to Canada without becoming a refugee or crossing illegally,” she said.
Most would probably go back to El Salvador but “even if only ten per cent come here, that’s still more than 25,000 people,” Lozano said. She also said that the coalition is working with the Salvadoran government to ensure the process goes smoothly.
Lozano said having migrants come to Canada would be a good thing. “A lot of people who would be coming here are already established in the States, they have businesses, houses, cars,” she said.
She also said that many of the potential migrants “are educated, skilled workers” who would contribute positively to Canada.
While Lozano and other members of the coalition have high hopes for making change, Jamie Killingsworth, professor at the University of Guelph-Humber, said that it will likely be an uphill battle. Killingsworth teaches Canadian policy and political science.
He said that for the coalition to get the immigration policy changes it wants, it needs to, “be the loudest voice in the room.” This would be difficult for the Latino community in Canada as they make up a little more than one per cent of the population of Canada.
However, he also said that he wouldn’t count the coalition out just yet, and that they have, “a very real chance” at making change.
Although the coalition is still in its infancy, Lozano said that support from the community has been quite positive, “We have hundreds of people who have come out to say how much they love this idea”.