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Title:A fight between the U.S. and Canada over proposed U.S. visa rules; charges of racial profiling are aired

Author:Tony Best

Publication:New York Carib News

Original Language:English



Blurb:The government in Ottawa is charging that the Bush Administrations new security requirements to screen Canadian immigrants from many countries but not those from white Dominion areas are blatant racism and class warfare. Jamaicans, Trinidadians, Guyanese, Bajans, Grenadians, Antiguans and others are wondering about outcomes that can affect West Indians and Africans who have made Canada their home away from home.


Body:Ordinarily, many of the disputes between the U.S. and Canada dont catch and hold the attention of West Indians living in the various provinces of the Dominion of Canada.

But Jamaicans, Trinidadians, Guyanese, Bajans, Grenadians, Antiguans and others are sitting up and wondering about the outcome of a serious battle being waged by the two neighbors that can affect West Indians and indeed Africans who have made Canada their home away from home.

Its a fight over who in Canada should be forced to secure U.S. immigration visas if they plan to enter the United States. The government in Ottawa is charging the Bush Administration in Washington with blatant racism and class warfare and emotions are getting charged with few people betting on the eventual outcome.

The dispute centers on a plan by the U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS) to force some Commonwealth citizens, especially those from the black nations in the Caribbean and Africa to acquire U.S. visas before they can enter the United States. The proposed rule would apply to the West Indians and the Africans who are landed immigrants in Canada, meaning that they have acquired Canadian citizenship, or are permanent residents and have gone through a rigid screening process.

I am annoyed by this, said Denis Coderre, Canadas immigration minister. I have to go to Washington on Nov. 15. I had several reasons to go and now I have another one. There is a perception, right now among Canadians that something is going (wrong) there, meaning between the United States and Canada.

The minister is upset because the proposed plan, would apply to immigrants from the Caribbean, Africa, India and Pakistan, but would exempt immigrants from the white Commonwealth countries of Canada, Australia, New Zealand and the United Kingdom, along with Singapore and Brunei.

Canadas Foreign Minister Bill Graham is also upset and plans to raise the issue with Colin Powell, the U.S. secretary of state, whose family tree has roots in Jamaica. Powell has been under fire in recent weeks from Harry Belafonte, the world-famous entertainer and civil rights advocate who compared Powell with a house slave.

Grahams cabinet colleague, Coderre, has gone on record as calling the Bush Administrations plan a form of racial profiling, which would end up creating two classes of Canadian citizens: those who were acceptable to immigration authorities across the border and those who could be denied entry.

And that, says Coderre, is unacceptable to Ottawa.

Just the other day, the Canadian Foreign Ministry took the unusual step of issuing a travel advisory on its website urging Canadians born in Iraq, Iran, Libya, Sudan, Syria, Yemen, Saudi Arabia and Pakistan to think twice before traveling to the United States for any reason.

Earlier, Graham had intervened with U.S. officials and succeeded in getting Washington to drop a plan intended to force all Canadian citizens who were born in Iran, Iran, Libya, Sudan or Syria to be fingerprinted and photographed on arrival in the United States. While the Foreign Minister says the decision about Commonwealth citizens and visas was fundamentally a decision of the American authorities, he wants the United States to recognize that the immigrants in Canada are contributing to our economy and they may well be helpful by traveling to the United States for business and other reasons.

That was why he is hoping to be able to persuade the American authorities that this measure isnt necessary.

For its part, the United States said the proposed rules were designed to improve domestic security in the wake of the events of September 11th last year. But Canada has rejected that argument, saying that the permanent residents and landed immigrants from the Caribbean, Africa and elsewhere had already been screened and there wasnt a good reason to investigate them a second time.

Caribbean diplomats and other West Indians in Canada are perplexed by the move.

When you exempt some of the Pacific peoples from the continent of Europe, then it does make one raise questions as to really what is, in fact, the motive, said Vic Johnson, Barbados high commissioner in Ottawa. It is quite unfortunate that we are now categorized, even if inadvertently, as persons who are regarded as (security) risks. We dont know what the motives are and what the methodology was that the United States government used to determine the persons whom they have identified to be excluded from easy admission to the United States. But it does look a bit strange that the Caribbean, which does not have a history of terrorism, is being put together with those nations which the United States says poses a risk.

West Indians living in Canada have been moving freely between their adopted home and the United States for decades, visiting relatives who live in New York, Detroit, Miami, Boston, California and other parts of the United States. They also travel to the United States regularly to attend social functions and to conduct business in the United States.

Its more than passing strange that the immigrants in Canada, who are exempt from the U.S. visa requirement, come mainly from countries which are considered white, such as Australia, New Zealand and Britain, said a West Indian in Toronto. It smacks of racial profiling to me and it is important that the Canadian government seek a change of policy.

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