After four years of anti-immigrant sentiment from Washington, how could the Biden administration affect Canada’s immigration strategy?
The Canadian-U.S. relationship is strong and longstanding. Canada is the largest trading partner with the U.S. and we share the largest undefended border between any two countries.
And despite tariffs on Canadian goods and other tense moments, Canada was able to successfully navigate four years of a chaotic Trump administration—with the Canada-U.S. relationship remaining relatively unscathed.
While few Canadians will be sad to see Trump go, some might find themselves missing him once he’s gone. Trump was a major asset, albeit indirectly, to Canada’s strategy of immigration fueled growth strategy. Trump’s consistent promotion of isolationism and anti-immigration policies, makes it easier for immigrant hungry nations like Canada to recruit and retain the worlds best and brightest.
One could describe America’s misses on immigration as Canada’s gains. So how might a Biden/Harris administration impact Canada’s immigration strategy?
Canada now goes head-to-head with the American dream
During the Trump administration, Canada benefited greatly from Trump’s anti-immigrant rhetoric and policy. Canada has always been a top destination for skilled workers and international students. But at almost 1/10 the population of the U.S.—competing head-to-head was never really an option.
Trump changed all this with his signature cruelty towards immigrants. If there is one thing the Trump administration did well, it was pushing prospective immigrants north.
Trump’s attacks on immigration during his tenure are almost too numerous to mention. A few policy decisions, however, probably had a more outsized impact on the global reputation of America’s immigration system. First, it was the family separation at the U.S.-Mexico border. Then, during the height of the first wave of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Trump administration tried and failed to force international students to leave the country if their classes were not delivered in-person. Then came the immigration ban.
The immigration ban in particular was a big motivating factor for many temporary residents in U.S. or skilled workers outside the country to take another look at Canada. The CEO of Shopify, a Canadian company, actively courted H-1B holders to come work for him if they were nervous about losing their immigration status in the U.S.
How Biden could restore America’s reputation
A Biden/Harris administration has a lot of work to do to repair America’s immigration reputation. But a few executive orders from Biden could largely reverse most of Trump’s more xenophobic policies. This would go a long way to restoring America’s reputation as a country that is accepting to immigrants, making it harder for Canada to make that same argument. But complete immigration reform, something the U.S. is long overdue for, will likely elude Biden like so many administrations before him.
Will the fears and anxieties about America’s stance on immigration evaporate after Biden moves into the White House? Trump might leave Jan. 20, but his presence in American politics isn’t going away anytime soon. Trump and his millions of Twitter followers will continue to spew hatred towards immigrants and immigration reform for the foreseeable future.
The uncertainty created by Trump’s surprise 2016 political victory will be difficult to overcome. Any moment, the tides of change may strike the American public and they may elect a Trump 2.0. A version of Trump that is vastly more effective at implementing anti-immigration policy.
Time will tell if the spectre of a Trump 2.0 coming to power, or even Trump 1.0 running again in 2024, is enough to keep newcomers interested in what Canada has to offer.