Canada opens its arms to immigrants

“Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free.”–Emma Lazarus

That famous line may no longer symbolize the United States’ attitude toward immigration, although you don’t have to go far to find a place where those words still ring true.

A front page article in Saturday’s New York Times details Canada’s quest for more immigration.

WINNIPEG, Manitoba — As waves of immigrants from the developing world remade Canada a decade ago, the famously friendly people of Manitoba could not contain their pique.

What irked them was not the Babel of tongues, the billions spent on health care and social services, or the explosion of ethnic identities. The rub was the newcomers’ preference for “M.T.V.” — Montreal, Toronto or Vancouver — over the humble prairie province north of North Dakota, which coveted workers and population growth.

Demanding “our fair share,” Manitobans did something hard to imagine in American politics, where concern over illegal immigrants dominates public debate and states seek more power to keep them out. In Canada, which has little illegal immigration, Manitoba won new power to bring foreigners in, handpicking ethnic and occupational groups judged most likely to stay.

The article goes on to note that on a per capita basis, Canada has roughly twice the legal immigration as the United States. Twenty percent of Canadian citizens were foreign born, compared with about 12.5 percent of Americans.

Looking at the 11 million illegal immigrants currently in the United States, one businessman told The Times, “I’m sure many of those people would make perfectly wonderful citizens of Canada. I think we should go and get them.”

The article said immigrants are drawn to Canada by more than the allure of jobs–many come for better health care, better education, better utilities infrastructure and the like.

The Times notes that it is virtually impossible to find an anti-immigrant politician in Canada.

Of course, Canada doesn’t face the challenges faced by the U.S.

“The big difference between Canada and the U.S is that we don’t border Mexico,” said Naomi Alboim, a former immigration official who teaches at Queens University in Ontario.

Scot Kersgaard has been managing editor of a political newspaper, editor and co-owner of a ski town newspaper, executive editor of eight high-tech magazines (where he worked with current Apple CEO Tim Cook), deputy press secretary to a U.S. Senator, and an outdoors columnist at the Rocky Mountain News. He has an English degree from the University of Washington. He was awarded a fellowship to study internet journalism at the University of Maryland's Knight Center for Specialized Journalism. He was student body president in college. He spends his free time hiking and skiing.

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