Two ways U.S. immigration reform could affect Canadians

Andy Radia
·Politics Reporter

Immigration reform is a big story south of the border right now.

Over the next several weeks, Congress will debate S.744, the “Border Security, Economic Opportunity, and Immigration Modernization Act,” a sweeping proposal for reforming the U.S. immigration system.

[ Related: Immigration expert warns that Canada’s new visa program could cost U.S. in “war for global talent” ]

There are at least two reason, why Canadians should be paying attention:

1.) Snowbirds can spend more time in the sun:

The proposed Bill includes a provision which would allow Canadians aged 55 and over to spend up to 240 days in the U.S. without a visa -- up from the current 182 day limit.

According to CJAD 800, $3 million Canadians visit Florida each year.

Despite the economic boon to the state, the proposed rules aren't sitting well with at least one Floridian blogger.

That's right, America. If the Senate has its way, those Quebecois bikers flooding your favorite beachside tiki bar with their poutine and their Fin Du Monde will be allowed to stay up to eight months at a time in the U.S.

Dear Marco Rubio: These people, many of them do not even speak English as their first language. Do you realize this? They still pledge allegiance to the Queen. THE QUEEN. Not to mention that the mayor of their biggest city allegedly smokes crack cocaine and the mayor of Quebec's biggest town was just arrested this morning for corruption.

The Bill also includes provisions for a Retiree Visa which would allow Canadians, over the age of 55, who do not work and who maintain at laest $500,000 in American real estate holdings to reside in the U.S. year-round.

2) An end to the 'expedited removal' of good, honest and hardworking Canadians?

Cross-border groups on both sides of the 49th parallel are encouraging Congress to adopt an amendment to S.744 to stop over-zealous border guards from arbitrarily barring Canadians from entering the U.S. for lengthy periods of time — a process known as expedited removal.'

We've all heard our share of these border horror stories.

Yahoo!'s Soray Roberts, recently wrote about a high-profile expedited removal involving Vancouver-based actor Chad Rook who was interrogated by border officials for eight hours.

Rook told officers he was an actor vacationing in L.A. but was also job hunting and would apply for a work visa when he got a solid offer. That's when they allegedly accused him of attempting to work without a permit in the States.

The officers reportedly kept Rook until he provided passwords to his emails, phone and his social networking sites. He was then given a five-year ban from entering the U.S. "for not providing border officials with all the details of his trip up front."

U.S.-based immigration attorney Greg Boos told Yahoo! Canada News that the border guards actually have no authority to bar Canadian citizens in such manner — a regulation exempts Canucks from the expedited removal process.

They do it anyways, he says, and there's little or no recourse for individuals like Rooks.

"The fact that [customs officers] are not are not subject to having administrative or judicial review over their expedited removals — it has allowed CBP [U.S. Customs and Border Patrol] to become a lawless agency," he said in a telephone interview on Friday.

"No matter how noble anybody's intentions are, it is not good to have a government agent doing anything for which he is not accountable."

[ Related: Americans moving to Canada in record numbers: report ]

Boos adds that if a Canadian does get one of these bans, there is no formal appeal process.

"It is possible to apply for a 'waiver' or "advanced permission to enter the United States" — the filing on each of them is about $600. Then there's lawyer's time. It takes CBP about a year adjudicate the application and there is no guarantee an applicant will get [it.]," he said.

"While there are no statistics out there, I suspect 90 per cent of the applicants fail in getting the relief that they seek."

Boos — who is working with the Pacific Corridor Enterprise Council to garner support for the amendment — says their legislative action will ensure that there is a right of administrative and legal review for expedited removal. Their amendment, however, is just one of 200 to 300 proposed floor amendments to the immigration bill.

So, it is an uphill battle.

(Photo courtesy of Reuters)

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