Undocumented Students – Struggle Continues in Canada

During the Association of American Geographers conference in Boston this year, a graduate student researcher presented a comparative analysis of Canadian and American identity in light of immigration policy. When asked in surveys, most Americans generally responded that they had a much higher tolerance of immigrants from Canada mainly because Canadians seemed more assimilable and like 'other Americans.' However, when the same survey was given to Canadians, less than thirty percent identified with Americans–differing mostly on political viewpoints. While clarifying immigration policy today, the Canadian Premier in Ontario gave an example of the stark contrast between the two neighboring states while the actions of the federal government in deporting undocumented students said otherwise.

While the United States is busy deporting undocumented immigrant students and the states in the deep South are retreating back into time by closing doors on students, our neighbors up North are also struggling with the issue. In Ontario, Canada, politicians have expressed a "don't ask don't tell" policy on undocumented immigrant students. Yet, an undocumented student, Sarah Leonty, with federal grants and great scholastic record, faces deportation just like our undocumented students in America.

At the same time, Premier Dalton McGuinty welcomed all students to Ontario schools, stating that

"A child shows up at the door looking for an education and our responsibility is to provide that education. If the federal government feels that child, that family, should not be in our province, then that is something they should do something about. But we are not going to start picking and choosing which kids are going to be allowed into the classroom."

The declaration confirms the belief in sanctuary cities as well as the fact that school officers should act like educators, not adjudicators. A report by the Community Social Planning Council of Toronto urged the government to adopt a province-wide "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" policy to ensure that families feel safe sending their children to school. Does that not sound like a contradiction and the very struggle we are facing in the United States? Maybe we are more alike than different after all. It would be fair to say that we are living in an era of ICE, but global warming is on the horizon.

It is encouraging to see movements and declarations by politicians in other countries in support of undocumented students. A global perspective is necessary–after all we are all citizens of the world and merely separated by landmass and arbitrary boundaries.

In the United States, we have "No Child left Behind," an empty promise and a sad oxymoron like "Microsoft Works." Are we going to start lagging behind Western civilization in our treatment of undocumented students just like we already lag behind on same-sex couples, universal health care and welfare reform? For the sake of this country and for ourselves, I certainly hope not.

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