The Canadian government intends to accept 1.45 million immigrants by 2025, many of whom will have much-needed job skills. Immigration legislation in the United States is stalled.
In less than a decade, Canada will have one retiree for every two workers. To address the looming labor shortage, Canada’s government announced in November a new goal of accepting 1.45 million immigrants by 2025, with 60% trained in health care and other critical job skills.
Meanwhile, similar immigration legislation in the United States has stalled as Republicans oppose Democratic efforts to spur an influx of skilled workers until more is done to secure the US-Mexico border.
Despite having nearly ten times the population of Canada, the United States admitted the same number of legal, employment-based immigrants — about 275,000 — in fiscal year 2022 as Canada now plans to admit each year over the next three years, according to data from U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services and drafters of Canada’s new policy.
Bills to increase the number of foreign-born entrepreneurs, high-skilled workers, microchip manufacturers, and farm workers all failed to gain enough votes in the last session of the United States Congress, which ended in December. The Farm Workforce Modernization Act, the only one to pass the House, was opposed by 30 Republicans and one Democrat. It has yet to be put to a vote in the Senate.
At the same time, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s ruling Liberals and the opposition Conservatives both describe themselves as pro-immigration. Trudeau’s new immigration goal, which focuses on attracting highly educated workers in sectors such as health care and technology as well as refugees and low-skilled workers, has widespread support.
On May 6, 2022, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau shakes hands with Ahmad Najib Wahidi, left, and his daughter, 14-month-old Harir Wahidi, right, and mother Marghana Elyaskhil, center, at the Eastern Food Market in Hamilton, Ontario, as he meets with families who have resettled from Afghanistan.
Nathan Denette / The Canadian Press via Associated Press
Rep. Zoe Lofgren, D-Calif., who was chair of the House Judiciary Subcommittee on Immigration and Citizenship at the time, introduced two bills to increase employment-based visas, but neither was passed by the House.
While advocating for change, Lofgren made a direct comparison between policies in the United States and those in its northern neighbor. During a hearing titled “Oh, Canada! “The last major overhaul of our legal immigration system occurred in 1990,” Lofgren said. Meanwhile, other countries, such as Canada, have made significant progress in incorporating flexibility and recruitment incentives into their systems in order to attract highly skilled immigrants, including those who we are unable to accommodate.”
Her 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 legislation to reform even legal immigration pathways should not be considered until the Biden administration does more to address illegal migration at the southern border.
“The continuing theme we hear from the left is that, despite these jaw-dropping (border) numbers and the impact on American families as the labor market becomes flooded with low-wage illegal-immigrant workers,” McClintock said.
Up north, Canada’s Immigration Minister Sean Fraser said the need for more labor is so obvious that the issue isn’t nearly as divisive, and nativist arguments, such as “Canadian jobs belong to Canadians,” simply don’t hold much sway.
“This stems from our belief that Canada requires more people. We require them for financial reasons. They are required for demographic reasons. And it will contribute to our communities becoming more vibrant and dynamic places to live,” Fraser said.
Nonetheless, many positions remain unfilled. According to Brenda Perkins-Meingast, senior director of nursing strategy at University Health Network in Toronto, her hospital network is 400 to 500 nurses short.
“We are currently in a healthcare crisis and have a significant nursing shortage,” Perkins-Meingast explained. This year, University Health Network launched a program to bring in more internationally educated nurses and assist them in obtaining the additional training they require in Canada.