The Atlantic

Canada Has Its Own Ways of Keeping Out Unwanted Immigrants

The country’s methods of controlling immigration are simply less in-your-face than America’s.
Source: Chris Wattie / Reuters

If you want to understand why Canada’s immigration system works, and why its immigration rate has generated so little political backlash despite being so much higher than America’s, take a look at the surprising nuances of Canada’s immigration policy. That policy may be softer-hearted than America’s, but it’s also harder-headed. Surrounding the Canadian welcome mat is a bed of nails.

Canada’s immigration success thus far is not a liberal story or a conservative story—it’s both. If the country’s image appears to be entirely liberal, that’s largely because its methods of controlling immigration are simply quieter, subtler, and less obvious than America’s. It’s that commitment to policing immigration that has, paradoxically, sustained such high levels of support.

Since the late 1980s, Canada has consistently been a high-immigration country, at least relative to the U.S. As a result, the proportion of Canadians born outside the country hit in 2016. That same year, America’s foreign-born population was 13.4 percent. That’s a record high for the U.S.—but it’s been 115 years since Canada’s foreign-born population was at such a level. As Derek Thompson put it in his article Canada’s floor is America’s ceiling.

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