Thursday, July 23, 2009
Refugee board gave alleged killer chance
Refugee board gave alleged killer chance
Deportation order lifted week before murder
Kim Bolan, Canwest News Service
A week before Babak Najafi Chaghabouri allegedly kidnapped and killed Vancouver resident Ronak Wagad, the Immigration and Refugee Board gave him one last chance to stay in Canada despite a series of convictions.
Mr. Chaghabouri convinced IRB member Renee Miller last Feb. 16 that he was turning his life around even though he had been ordered out of Canada in 2008 because of serious criminality.
On Feb. 23, Mr. Wagad disappeared. The remains of the 31-year-old were found near Chilliwack, B. C., on July 8.
This week Mr. Chaghabouri and Charles Anthony Leslie were charged with Mr. Wagad's first-degree murder, abduction and forcible confinement. Police said the victim and the accused killers were all involved in the mid-level drug trade.
There was no mention of drugs or gangs in Ms. Miller's ruling reversing Mr. Chaghabouri's deportation order, a copy of which was obtained by The Vancouver Sun.
She said Mr. Chaghabouri had demonstrated he deserved another chance even though he had a string of convictions between 2003 and 2007 for possession of a weapon, assault and forcible confinement, uttering threats and aggravated assault.
"Ultimately I was convinced that the appellant's prospects for rehabilitation are good," Ms. Miller said.
She cited a violence prevention course done by Mr. Chaghabouri as proof of his commitment to change.
"That course did not appear to have been completely successful because the appellant was involved in a subsequent violent offence while in custody and was convicted of that offence," Ms. Miller said. "However, he did provide evidence that he has competed two other preventative courses. Although I do not have the corroborative evidence, I accept his evidence on that point."
She said he seemed to be in a "stable relationship" and had obeyed all his probation conditions. "He told me that part of the efforts that he has made with regard to his rehabilitation is to avoid contact with the Persian community," Ms. Miller said. "I take the view that the appellant has demonstrated that he has made efforts towards rehabilitation and that there is more than a mere possibility that there is rehabilitation in his future, although clearly it is not complete."
Ms. Miller also said that Mr. Chaghabouri had not relied on welfare, which weighed in his favour. Nor did he explain how he earned a living. "Although his evidence of employment and ability to support himself was minimal, there was no evidence of any reliance on social assistance. However, it is hard to see how he could have supported himself on $3,500 per year," she said.
And Ms. Miller said that if Mr. Chaghabouri were to be deported to his native Iran, he could be in danger.
"There was evidence before me that there is a serious risk to the appellant if he were removed to that country, given his past political involvement in Iran and his current involvement in an organization which advocates for the separation of the Kurdish people from the government of Iran," she said.
The murder charge is not the only new allegation Mr. Chaghabouri has faced since having his deportation order overturned.
He was also convicted in two other cases, including one where he carried a knife and an imitation firearm on April 27.
The weapons charge led the public safety minister back to the IRB in June to get the deportation reinstated.
Mr. Chaghabouri was ordered deported a second time on June 29, just nine days before Mr. Wagad's body was found and three weeks before the murder charge was laid.
Mr. Chaghabouri came to Canada in 2001 at the age of 19 and got refugee status in November of that year.
His first run-ins with the law began two years later.
At one point he fled to Ontario to evade prosecution, Ms. Miller heard. "He may well have had an overpowering fear of the criminal justice system in Canada, but it is not a factor in his favour that he fled responsibilities," she said.
She did warn Mr. Chaghabouri that he had better stay on the straight and narrow. "If you continue on the course that you have been, which involves criminal convictions for violent offences or offences that involve weapons, at some point the balance will tip against you and the potential danger to you in return to Iran and the efforts that you have made to create a stable life for yourself in Canada will no longer outweigh the danger to the Canadian society," she said.
Even though the deportation order was ultimately reinstated, criminal proceedings must be completed before someone is removed from Canada.
Monday, July 13, 2009
Canada imposes a visa on the Czech Republic
Ottawa, July 13, 2009 —Beginning 12:01 a.m. EDT on July 14, 2009, Czech nationals will require a visa to travel to Canada, Citizenship, Immigration and Multiculturalism Minister Jason Kenney announced today. For the first 48 hours, Czech citizens may apply for entry on arrival in Canada. After 11:59 p.m. EDT July 15, 2009, a visa will be required.Since the visa requirement was lifted on the Czech Republic in October 2007, nearly 3,000 claims have been filed by Czech nationals, compared with less than five in 2006. The Czech Republic is now the second top source country for refugee claims. The relatively higher acceptance rate of refugee claims originating in the Czech Republic masks the troubling fact that more than half of the claims are abandoned or withdrawn before a final decision is made by the Immigration and Refugee Board, indicating that many claimants may not be genuine refugees.“In addition to creating significant delays and spiraling new costs in our refugee program, the sheer volume of these claims is undermining our ability to help people fleeing real persecution,” said Minister Kenney. “All too often, people who really need Canada’s protection find themselves in a long line, waiting for months and sometimes years to have their claims heard. This is unacceptable. “The visa requirement I am announcing will give us a greater ability to manage the flow of people into Canada and verify bona fides. By taking this important step towards reducing the burden on our refugee system, we will be better equipped to process genuine refugee claims faster.”“The visa process will allow us to assess who is coming to Canada as a legitimate visitor and who might be trying to use the refugee system to jump the immigration queue,” Minister Kenney said. “It is not fair for those who have been waiting patiently to come to Canada, sometimes for years, when others succeed in bypassing our immigration system.”Canada regularly reviews its visa policies toward other countries. Countries are aware that if they do not satisfy the conditions of a visa-exemption, a visa may be imposed.This change means that nationals from the Czech Republic who want to travel to Canada will first need to apply for a Temporary Resident Visa and meet the requirements to receive one. It is up to the applicant to satisfy the visa officer their visit to Canada is temporary, they will not overstay their approved time in Canada, they have enough money to cover their stay in Canada, they are in good health, they do not have a criminal record, and are not a security risk to Canadians. These requirements are the same for anyone who wants to visit Canada.Applicants from the Czech Republic will submit their applications to the Canadian visa office in Vienna, Austria which currently serves nationals from several other European countries.“Canada has strong ties with the Czech Republic,” said Minister Kenney. “We continue to welcome all genuine travellers to Canada from this country
Canada imposes a visa on Mexico
Ottawa, July 13, 2009 — Beginning 12:01 a.m. EDT on July 14, 2009, Mexican nationals will require a visa to travel to Canada, Citizenship, Immigration and Multiculturalism Minister Jason Kenney announced today. For the first 48 hours, Mexican citizens may apply for entry on arrival in Canada. After 11:59 p.m. EDT July 15, 2009, a visa will be required.Refugee claims from Mexico have almost tripled since 2005, making it the number one source country for claims. In 2008, more than 9,400 claims filed in Canada came from Mexican nationals, representing 25 per cent of all claims received. Of the Mexican claims reviewed and finalized in 2008 by the Immigration and Refugee Board, an independent administrative tribunal, only 11 per cent were accepted.“In addition to creating significant delays and spiraling new costs in our refugee program, the sheer volume of these claims is undermining our ability to help people fleeing real persecution,” said Minister Kenney. “All too often, people who really need Canada’s protection find themselves in a long line, waiting for months and sometimes years to have their claims heard. This is unacceptable.“The visa requirement I am announcing will give us a greater ability to manage the flow of people into Canada and verify bona fides. By taking this important step towards reducing the burden on our refugee system, we will be better equipped to process genuine refugee claims faster.”“The visa process will allow us to assess who is coming to Canada as a legitimate visitor and who might be trying to use the refugee system to jump the immigration queue,” Minister Kenney said. “It is not fair for those who have been waiting patiently to come to Canada, sometimes for years, when others succeed in bypassing our immigration system.”Canada regularly reviews its visa policies toward other countries. Countries are aware that if they do not satisfy the conditions of a visa-exemption, a visa may be imposed.This change means that nationals from Mexico who want to travel to Canada will first need to apply for a Temporary Resident Visa and meet the requirements to receive one. It is up to the applicant to satisfy the visa officer their visit to Canada is temporary, they will not overstay their approved time in Canada, they have enough money to cover their stay in Canada, they are in good health, they do not have a criminal record, and are not a security risk to Canadians. These requirements are the same for anyone who wants to visit Canada.Citizenship and Immigration Canada (CIC) has been working to increase processing capacity in Mexico City. Nevertheless, the imposition of the visa will mean short-term delays in travel as CIC puts resources in place. Applicants are encouraged to send their applications by courier or registered mail and to avoid visiting the Embassy unless specifically invited for an interview.“Canada has strong ties with Mexico,” said Minister Kenney. “We continue to welcome all genuine travellers to Canada from this country.”
Saturday, July 11, 2009
Help desperately wanted
Dan Bortolotti, FP Magazine
Here's a suggestion for people with a death wish. Stroll through Windsor, Ont., or a Newfoundland outport, and chat up the older residents about their employment prospects. After you've listened to their tales about massive layoffs in the automotive sector and dried-up opportunities in natural resources, tell them that Canada is facing a labour shortage. Then start running.
Along with sticks and stones, your pursuers will hurl statistics at you. In May, the country hit its highest level of joblessness since 1998 - 8.4% - and staffing firm Manpower Canada reports that a mere 16% of companies are planning to hire new workers in the third quarter of 2009. Canada's GDP shrank by an annual rate of 5.4% in the first quarter of this year, its worst contraction since 1991. Those are dramatic numbers. But they're merely snapshots of the recent past, not a trailer for the feature film. What's coming soon to a city near you are workplaces that will be desperate for young, highly skilled workers. Unlikely as it sounds, Canada is actually in the midst of an ongoing labour shortage.
It's a shortage that will have a substantial impact across wide sectors of the economy as we pull out of the recession, and will grow over the years to follow. According to predictions from the Conference Board of Canada, Ontario may face a shortfall of 190,000 workers by 2020, while Quebec may be short 363,000 workers by 2030. The think tank predicts that British Columbia may be in need of 160,000 employees by 2015, while Alberta may have 332,000 unfilled positions by 2025.
The apparent contradiction between the unemployment rate, which is at an 11-year high, and a labour shortage can be explained by separating the current economic woes from the people in the workforce. The economy can turn around - for better or worse - in mere months, but overall skill levels and demographic patterns take years or decades to change, and it's these long-term trends that are behind the coming crunch. "Right now, with unemployment where it is, labour shortages are the furthest thing from people's minds," says Jim Milway, executive director of the Martin Prosperity Institute, a Toronto-based economic think tank. "But mark my words, this recession will end - whether in six, or nine, or 12 months - and those ‘Help Wanted' signs will be going back up."
To understand why, it helps to point out that the current overall employment situation is not nearly as bleak as the headlines suggest. The numbers are highly skewed by the carnage in manufacturing and construction. Since the spring of 2008, Canada has shed more than 200,000 manufacturing jobs, a staggering decline of about 10%, and lost an additional 100,000 jobs in construction. "Manufacturing of both durable and non-durable goods is the weakest we have seen in our surveys since the first quarter of 1978," says Lori Rogers, vice-president of staffing services for Manpower Canada. It's a rotten time to be a middle-aged auto worker, but routine-oriented physical jobs have been in decline for decades. These occupations have unemployment rates approaching 13%, with little hope for improvement.
The big picture looks quite different, however. Statistics Canada divides the Canadian workforce into two broad categories: the goods-producing sector (manufacturing, construction, agriculture, natural resources and utilities) and the service-producing sector, which lumps together everything else. This latter sector - which employs three and a half times more people than the goods-producing sector - has seen a net increase of 24,000 jobs in the last year. So while the demise of manufacturing jobs has meant hardship for thousands, the service economy is providing livelihoods for more than 13 million Canadians, and that number is growing.
True, recent job gains in the service sector have been modest, well off the growth we saw from 2006 through 2008. But that was during an economic boom and was unsustainable: We had three straight years of unemployment under 7%, a streak we've not seen since the 1960s, before women entered the labour force in significant numbers. In fact, the average annual jobless rate over the past 33 years has been 8.5% - a tick higher than it was in May. We've merely come down from Mount Everest and settled at sea level.
The current hiring freeze at many companies is not going to change the long-term trend. "The recession is actually masking a talent shortage, not only in Canada, but globally," says Manpower's Rogers. There's already a dearth of skilled workers in a wide variety of occupations. Many economists would classify a level of unemployment under 3% as an acute labour shortage, and creativity-oriented workers - a diverse group including scientists and technologists, managers and analysts, lawyers and accountants - now have a jobless rate of just 2.7%. "Unemployment among this creative class is up a bit because of the recession, but it's nothing compared with what you see among blue-collar workers," says Milway.
For example, in high-tech fields such as IT, demand for highly skilled workers remains strong. "I don't think it's ever easy to find good people," says Sarah Weiss, manager of campus programs for IBM Canada. Another sector where worker demand is strong is public administration - local, provincial and federal government departments and agencies, as well as courts and correctional institutions. In nursing, meanwhile, unemployment levels are a minuscule 0.6%, far lower than in any other profession. "There is a well recognized global nursing shortage," says Dr. Sally Thorne, director of the School of Nursing at the University of British Columbia.
And despite the fact that many Canadians seem eager to run their investment advisers out of town, the labour market for business and finance professionals is also tight. A 2009 Manpower survey ranks financial jobs number eight among hard-to-fill positions. Statistics Canada confirms that unemployment in the sector is a mere 2.7% - up from 1.9% in 2008, but still very low. "When it comes to business and finance, contrary to the general perception, in Canada it seems there is still a shortage," says Roger Sauvé of People Patterns Consulting, which specializes in the labour market.
It's worth stressing that creativity-oriented jobs like these are not a lone bright spot in an otherwise dark economic future. On the contrary, they are Canada's economic future, and will be the engine of growth in the years to come. As the number of creative jobs grows, Milway says, they create other opportunities in the service industries. More high-tech workers means more office cleaners to vacuum the cubicles; more accountants working overtime means more take-out restaurant visits on the way home. The Martin Prosperity Institute estimates that creativity-oriented jobs and the services they spawn will make up almost 90% of new positions by 2016. According to Milway, it will be difficult to fill all these new jobs, and while immigration will help, it won't be enough to prevent worker shortages.
Another major factor driving the shortage is our aging population. According to Sauvé, the number of workers aged 55 to 64 has doubled since 1989, while the number over 65 has increased by an astonishing 129%. When the Baby Boomers finally retire, they will leave enormous career opportunities in their wake.
The recession has merely slowed down this demographic inevitability. In many jobs, workers with seniority are the least likely to be laid off, and some workers have delayed retirement so they can rebuild their savings. All of which is creating obstacles for younger people getting jobs - but only temporarily.
The labour shortage will create winners and losers. On one hand, a tight labour market can create big problems for businesses. As companies are forced to raise wages to compete for fewer skilled employees, their costs go up. At the same time, however, a backlog of unfilled positions leads to a drop in production levels. This double whammy of rising costs and lower production is what economists call "wage-push inflation." It can slow economic growth, contribute to a lower overall standard of living, and make the country less competitive in the global marketplace.
The real casualties in Canada's evolving labour force will continue to be those who work in the goods-producing sector, especially manufacturing. Some will successfully complete retraining programs and find work in new fields. Many more, unfortunately, face years of hardship as they compete for a shrinking number of jobs in industries that continue their steady decline.
The winners, of course, will be those with the schooling and skills suited to the new economy. As companies demand more creative, highly skilled workers - a trend already well underway - young, well-educated Canadians can look forward to a fertile job market in the months and years ahead. In the sectors with the greatest needs, the small number of qualified workers should be able to demand higher wages and better working conditions. When the economy improves and these young guns are in high demand, look for them to push back against their employers, lobbying for more flexible hours and family-friendly policies.
The cloud of recession is still hovering above us, and there may be more rain in the coming months. But young Canadians and people in skilled fields can look forward to their day in the sun. "It sounds heartless to say this now," Milway says, "but high unemployment is not a long-term problem."
Friday, July 10, 2009
The past several days have been filled with a number of legislative, regulatory and enforcement developments relating to employer immigration compliance and will certainly be remembered as one of the most important weeks in the history of immigration enforcement.
Here’s a quick review.
July 1, 2009
The month began with the announcement by ICE that an I-9 audit found that nearly a third of the 6,000 workers employed by popular clothing retailer American Apparel appear to lack authorization to work in the United States.
Later in the day, DHS issues a bombshell announcement – ICE will audit the I-9s of 652 businesses across the country. That is more than the total investigations that took place in 2009. The companies were not chosen randomly. According to ICE, they were chosen based on leads and information obtained through investigative means. Last April, DHS Secretary Napolitano noted that enforcement efforts will shift from worksite raids to audits and investigations targeting employers and this is one of the first major signs of the seriousness of the White House in carrying out its announced strategy.
July 7, 2009
ICE announced that well known company Krispy Kreme has been fined $40,000 after it found the company employed dozens of illegally present immigrants at a plant in Cincinnati, Kentucky.
Senator Charles Schumer (D-NY), the chair of the Senate’s Immigration Subcommittee told the Associated Press that he will introduce the long-anticipated comprehensive immigration reform legislative package before Labor Day, suggesting that the bill will, in fact, will be debated in the near term. The bill will have major repercussions for American employers including provisions to legalize millions of unlawfully present workers and major new employer compliance rules (such as a requirement that all employers in the country use e-Verify). A major open issue is how the bill will deal with the future flow of immigrants to the country.
July 8, 2009
The White House announces decisions on two major rules issued by the Bush Administration that are currently tied up in the courts. First, the White House indicated that it intends to implement a rule mandating federal contractors use the E-Verify electronic employment verification system. The rule is now set to take effect September 8th. One of the issues that has caused the rule to be challenged in the courts is a requirement that existing employees who are working on a contract be run through E-Verify. The normal E-Verify rules require only new hires be run through the system. A rumored compromise by the Administration on this issue remains unaddressed by the Administration in its announcement.
The White House also announced that it is rescinding the controversial social security no-match rule which outlines specific procedures for employers to follow after receiving such letters and the penalty for not following the procedures is a potential finding of knowingly hiring unauthorized workers. Some estimate that as many as four million people are working on false social security numbers so the potential impact of the rule could be massive.
Later in the day, the Senate approves the first of three important E-Verify amendments to the Department of Homeland Security spending bill for fiscal year 2010. Senator Jeff Sessions (R-AL) introduced Amendment 1373 which permanently reauthorizes the E-Verify program and codifies the federal contractor E-Verify regulation. Senator Schumer attempted to table the amendment. That effort failed by a 44 to 53 margin and the amendment then passed by voice vote. The underlying spending bill already had a three year extension for E-Verify, but critics of the amendment expressed concerns that a permanent program would not receive the same level of oversight as a pilot program. The contractor provision seemed a little less important after the White House announcement, but it also contained a provision specifying that existing employees working on contracts are to be put through the system. This seemingly weakens the plaintiffs’ lawsuit challenging the regulation and may tie the White House’s hands as far as negotiating on that issue.
July 9, 2009
Senator David Vitter (R-LA), is successful in getting a positive voice vote on Amendment 1375 to the DHS spending bill. The amendment would bar DHS from using its budget to revoke the federal contractor or no-match rules. The first part appears to be largely moot as the White House indicated it will move forward to implement the contractor rule. But the second part runs contrary to the White House announcement from the 8th. The White House would seem to have the upper hand, however, since the amendment only bars spending 2010 budget money to rescind the no-match rule. The rule will likely be rescinded in the next few weeks, however, so it should not need 2010 money to make it happen. This could explain the timing of the White House announcement.
Finally, Senator Chuck Grassley (R-IA) succeeded in getting a positive voice vote on an amendment that will give employers the option to run current employees through E-Verify instead of only new hires.
Within minutes of the announcement of the passage of Senator Grassley’s amendment, the spending bill was passed by the Senate.