Quebec: Attempting to Do Immigration Right  


October 24, 2022

By Matt O’Brien

Even as the Biden Administration has effectively erased the southern border of the United States, our neighbors to the North seem to be waking up to the importance of borders. Quebec Premier François Legault, whose CAQ party (Coalition Avenir Québec/Coalition for the Future of Quebec) won a majority by running on a responsible immigration platform, has secured a second term. And this time it appears that even more voters were attracted by CAQ’s promises to protect French as Québec’s official language; to give preference to Francophone immigrants; and to cap migration at 50,000 individuals per year.

This is not to say that CAQ’s positions didn’t create controversy. Legault triggered a media firestorm when he suggested that bringing in immigrants who are unable to speak French would be “suicidal.” Nevertheless, his assertion is correct. Successful immigration programs require migrants to assimilate into the receiving society. And the ability to speak the lingua franca is a superhighway to assimilation.

Traditionally, Québec has seen immigration as a means of strengthening its French identity. The province administers its own immigration program, distinct from that run by the Canadian federal government. And that program gives a clear preference to speakers of French, Québec’s official language.

Over the last decade, however, the percentage of Anglophone migrants being allowed to settle in Quebec has increased significantly. And the Québecois, quite reasonably, do not want to commit socio-political suicide by allowing themselves to become outnumbered by people who do not understand the local culture – which derives from that of France, not Great Britain.

There is an immutable relationship between any language and the various cultural cues that accompany it. As Language Magazine put it: “To interact with a language means to do so with the culture which is its reference point. We could not understand a culture without having direct access to its language because of their intimate connection.” Quite simply put, Québec wouldn’t be what it is if it weren’t French.  

The U.S. welcomes migrants who arrive without any ability to communicate in English, which reduces their prospects for economic success and slows their integration into American society.

The leaders of CAQ have seized on a concept of monumental import, something that Québecois voters understand intuitively: Arriving in Québec with the ability to speak French sets up newly arrived immigrants for success. And that, in turn, makes immigration a benefit, rather than a liability for Québec. Ultimately, why permit immigration at all if it doesn’t benefit the receiving nation?

And make no mistake, the policies that appeal to Québec’s voters have nothing to do with racism. According to Canada’s 2014 National Household Survey (roughly analogous to the U.S. Census Bureau’s American Community Survey), the vast majority of migrants to Québec come from Africa and the Middle East (i.e. they aren’t Caucasians from Europe). Any racism in this equation would come from presuming that most Francophones are Caucasian.

While the United States does not have a de jure official language, its de facto official language is English. Nevertheless, only a tiny percentage of the million-plus immigrants we accept each year are English-speakers. Instead, the U.S. welcomes migrants who arrive without any ability to communicate in English, which reduces their prospects for economic success and slows their integration into American society.

The inability to earn a living leads to reliance on public assistance that costs taxpayers billions. This makes most newly arrived immigrants a fiscal liability for the United States. And rather than working for the U.S., our immigration policies often seem as though they are deliberately calculated to undermine the aspects of American society that made our country such a driver of immigrant success in the period between the Civil War and the end of World War II.

Rather than rewarding foreign trespassers for violating our borders, we should restructure our immigration laws to give preference to immigrants who have the ability to communicate in English and who possess job skills that are needed to drive our economy. Making such reforms would set migrants up for success and eliminate much of the chaos that Team Biden’s laissez faire approach to immigration law has created along our southern border. 

And, as with Québec, this has nothing to do with racism. The largest populations of English-speakers outside of the United States are in India, the Philippines, the Caribbean and Africa – not exactly areas populated by European Caucasians.

If only they would pay attention, American politicians could learn a few lessons from their Francophone neighbors to the North.

Matt O’Brien is the director of investigations at the Immigration Reform Law Institute. He is a former Immigration Judge and previously served as a division head at U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services.

Also published at American Liberty News, October 22, 2022.

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