Bummed About the Election? Finding a New Country Is a Lot Harder Than It LooksJoel Stein @thejoelstein Nov. 17, 2016My lovely wife Cassandra and I had very different emotional reactions on election night. … I mumbled something about checks and balances and Paul Ryan, but she cut me off: “You’d be one of those Jews who was put on a train and said, ‘Oh, fun! Camp!’”Admittedly, I tend to dismiss doomsayers, which must be frustrating for someone named after a doomsayer everyone dismissed. …Then I explained Israel’s law of return for Jews and their spouses, which she found only slightly comforting. …Then at 3 a.m. she woke me up. “Everybody is posting ‘New Zealand,’” she said, standing over me. “I don’t know what’s going on with New Zealand, but they’re going to be full. I need other options.” When she mentioned France, I told her they had a powerful far-right party. Italy and Germany too. Sweden, I vaguely remembered, has an anti-Muslim party. She started getting excited about Spain, but all I knew was that it hadn’t had a leader for a year, which seemed to provide dubious stability.… When Cassandra got up after a pill-fueled sleep, she wanted to go over our emergency emigration plans. I had found out that you had a good shot at living in Mexico if you buy a house that costs at least $172,000. We’d be with lots of Americans, more of whom have moved there in the past three years than vice versa. This seemed like a perfect safety net, since we would be protected from Trump by a giant beautiful wall.But she rejected the option. “I want a first-world quality of life,” she said. Israel was out because of café bombings, though I thought if things were dire enough to expatriate, we could go without cappuccinos for a while. I suggested Canada, but she turned that down too. “After 10 years in L.A. there’s no way I’m moving there. It’s too cold,” she answered.After a teacher at my son’s school was yelled at to move back to China and two actors from Silicon Valley were accosted at a bar near us by Trump supporters, Cassandra thought we should re-explore the Canada option, even if it meant buying coats. So I went to the country’s immigration website, which was back online after crashing from being deluged on the night of the election. I took the test to see if I had the 67 of 100 points required to be considered for a fast-track as a skilled worker. Unfortunately, I sucked at French in high school and I’m really old, so I only got 64. I could get 10 more points if an employer had a job for me. So I emailed Nancy Gibbs, the editor of this magazine, to ask if I could run the Vancouver bureau of TIME, which would be a desk inside a very small, well-heated apartment. She answered with an emoticon that did not look like it was taking applications in the Vancouver bureau.
Here’s my 2001 article “Canada Doesn’t Want Me
” in which I took Canada’s on-line immigration points quiz to see if I was good to be allowed into Canada. I’ll put it below the fold.
Getting increasingly nervous, I called my friend Neil Strauss, who wrote Emergency: This Book Will Save Your Life, about how he became a survivalist and got dual citizenship in St. Kitts and Nevis, which has no income tax. If I paid $400,000 for a place in St. Kitts, I could sell it five years later but keep the passport, which I could use if there are worldwide travel restrictions against hordes of fleeing Americans. …Cassandra and I know that leaving your country is privileged, whiny and unhelpful, but in our defense, we are privileged, whiny and unhelpful. Still, we decided we’re staying. But we also have the name of a good real estate agent in St. Kitts.
Below the fold is my 2001 UPI article “Canada Doesn’t Want Me:”
Canada Doesn’t Want Meby Steve SailerUPI, August 24, 2001Canada doesn’t want me. I just found out that, if necessary, the Royal Canadian Mounted Police would bar me from immigrating into Canada. Why?Because I’m just not good enough to be a Canadian.With possible immigration reform much in the news in America, I decided to research Canada’s system for choosing immigrants. Perhaps America could learn something from its northern neighbor.The Canadian government has a voracious appetite for new immigrants. The ruling Liberals intend to boost the legal immigration rate to 1 percent of the population annually, about three times the American rate. Despite that, I discovered, its official position is that the people currently living in Canada would find my joining them to be less of a blessing than a curse.In 15 minutes, on the government’s “self-assessment worksheet” at Web site cic.gc.ca, I was able to learn that Canada’s considered judgment of me is, “Don’t call us, we’ll call you.”On this nine-question test, a would-be immigrant to Canada must score a minimum of 60 points out of 100 to qualify to be interviewed by a visa officer.It’s not that I particularly want to become a Canadian. I’m a loyal American, born and bred. I’ve only spent about six days in Canada in my life. From what I saw (mostly the insides of Holiday Inn Crowne Plazas), Canada seemed to be a fine country; one blessed with Holiday Inn Crowne Plazas every bit as nice as those in my native land. Still, I couldn’t resist the challenge. Was I man enough to be a Canadian?I sat down to take the test. First, I found, you get 8 points just for having a pulse. “Hey, how hard can this be?” I said to my wife.Then the test inquired into a series of important facts about oneself.How old are you? I’m 42, which won me the maximum of 10 points for being in my immigrating prime. But not for long. I’ll soon enter a rapid decline. By age 49, I’ll get zero points.How much schooling have you had? High school dropouts get zero; high school graduates, five; college grads 15; advanced degree holders 16.Those two long years I spent getting an MBA have finally paid off! Chalk up 16 more points for me.I’m rolling now, with a running total of 34 points.Can you speak English and/or French fluently? I get nine points for English, but what about snagging those additional six for French? Perhaps they’d be a good sport and give me a few points just for trying to parlez la (le?) Francais? No. As anyone who has attempted to speak French has learned the hard way, trying isn’t good enough. You have to be able to “comprehend and communicate effectively on a range of general topics” — and that’s just to score three points.So, I’m at 43 points by now.Do you have a close relative in Canada? That’s worth five points. No. My wife helpfully pointed out that one of her Italian great-uncles stayed in Canada for a few months before he could arrange to sneak into the United States. I appreciated her suggestion, but didn’t think that would count.Maybe I could talk one of my uncles into moving to Canada ahead of me. But what if he couldn’t qualify unless I moved to Canada ahead of him?Thinking about this made my head hurt, so I moved on to the occupation questions.Do you have a guaranteed job arranged in Canada? No. The closest I could come to that is to point out that last year I had a part-time job in Canada. Oddly enough, while I was living in Chicago, I was actually hired as a columnist by one of Toronto’s biggest newspapers, even though I haven’t been to Canada since 1994.Unfortunately, I was fired almost immediately, probably because my awareness of Canadian culture was limited to knowing that it is intensely beaver-centric and that Wayne Gretzky is (was?) a hockey player.How much formal education or training does your occupation require? To be frank, I’ve never noticed that journalism requires any. As irascible basketball coach Bobby Knight likes to point out to reporters, “Everybody learns to write by the second grade, but then most of us move on to other things.”Yet, somebody has apparently hoodwinked the trusting Canadian authorities into awarding journalists 15 out of 18 points, the same as they give computer systems analysts and tree-service technicians.Does Canada need more workers in your field? As a journalist, I only scored three out of 10. It would appear that Canada is quite capable of producing an ample supply of native know-it-alls and doesn’t need much help from abroad. Importing additional journalists is officially deemed less important to Canada’s well being than bringing in more blacksmiths (5 points), not to mention extra clinical perfusionists (10 points).Whatever it is that clinical perfusionists do, Canada can’t seem to get enough of it. I tried to assure the authorities that if they admitted me — while I wouldn’t actually know how to clinically perfuse anybody (anything?) — I would definitely write hard-hitting editorials deploring the clinical perfusion shortage and demanding that Steps Must Be Taken. But there was no place on the form to indicate that.Finally, how much work experience do you have in your trade? One year would get me two points; four or more years, eight. Unfortunately, I’ve only been a full-time journalist for 10 months. So, zero for me.That didn’t seem fatal, since I already had 61 points. That exceeded (if barely) the minimum of 60 required to make it to the interview round.Then I read the fine print. “If you do not [have at least one year's experience], your application will be refused…”“That’s ageist discrimination against people who didn’t know until they were 41 years old what they wanted to do when they grew up,” I raged.My wife, a much-in-demand computer programmer, commiserated with me. Yet, she also seemed to be quietly gloating over her impressive score of 69. Or, perhaps, she was planning a better life for herself in Canada without her husband, that loser.Groucho Marx said he’d never want to join a club that would have him. And, in a way, my rejection has made me appreciate the Canadian immigration system more. In contrast, the United States has no point system for choosing from among the millions of applications it gets from would-be immigrants each year.This fundamental difference between the two countries’ immigration systems grows out of a philosophical disagreement over what the purpose of immigration should be. To a significantly greater extent than the United States, Canada tries to choose those applicants who possess the “human capital” to most benefit Canada as a whole.Minister of Citizenship and Immigration Elinor Caplan explained, “Independent skilled immigrants (the largest single class of those admitted to Canada) are selected on the basis of their potential contribution to Canada’s economic and social well-being.”Choosing immigrants wisely can make a big difference in the quality of life of current citizens. Support for the Canadian approach was uncovered by a National Academy of Sciences study of immigrants to America. It found that immigrants with below a high school education cost the country $90,000 net over their lifetimes, while those with the equivalent of a high school education cost the United States $30,000, but immigrants with a college education or more brought a net benefit to the nation of $100,000.In contrast, the American government’s philosophy of immigration — to the extent that it actually has one — appears to be based far more on emotion than analysis.James W. Ziglar, the Bush administration’s new head of the Immigration and Naturalization Service, testified to the Senate in July that his “philosophy” was that America should continue to be “a magnet for the tired, the poor, the homeless, the tempest-tossed, the wretched refuse of teeming shores, and the huddled masses yearning to breathe free.”While noble sounding, the American government’s refusal to adopt a point system or other pragmatic method for finding immigrants who would most benefit the public interest has meant that private interests do most of the choosing. Each year, the largest group of immigrants is allowed into America primarily because of nepotism. Under the massive “family reunification” system, their qualification is essentially that they are the relatives of permanent residents or citizens (usually immigrants themselves).The next largest class of immigrants is those whom private employers sponsor because they can make a profit off their labor.Yet, probably nothing illustrates America’s refusal to choose rationally than the little-known “Diversity Lottery.” Each year, the U.S. State Department randomly picks 55,000 lucky visa winners from 10 million applicants. This enormous number of applicants comes just from countries that don’t rank in the top 15 in providing immigrants to America. The goal of the program is to increase America’s ethnic diversity.Yet, we could both bolster diversity and simultaneously benefit the American public directly simply by skimming from each nation’s applicants only the most promising. Instead, the government just relies on blind luck in picking immigrants.The late congresswoman, Rep. Barbara Jordan, D-Texas, said that it is “both a right and a responsibility of a democratic society to manage immigration so that it serves the national interest.” Canada seems to agree. The United States, however, seems to think that the distinguished stateswoman’s philosophy is discriminatory. Yet, if the government refuses to select among applicants, somebody still has to do the job. There are tens of millions more applicants each year than there are openings. Not surprisingly, special interests will be only too happy to continue to choose immigrants for us.
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