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Institutionalizing Precarious Immigration Status in Canada

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journal contribution
posted on 2021-05-21, 16:02 authored by Luin Goldring, Carolina Berinstein, Judith K. Bernhard
This paper analyzes the institutionalized production of precarious migration status in Canada. Building on recent work on the legal production of illegality and non-dichotomous approaches to migratory status, we review Canadian immigration and refugee policy, and analyze pathways to loss of migratory status and the implications of less than full status for access to social services. In Canada, policies provide various avenues of authorized entry, but some entrants lose work and/or residence authorization and end up with variable forms of less-than-full immigration status. We argue that binary conceptions of migration status (legal/illegal) do not reflect this context, and advocate the use of ‘precarious status’ to capture variable forms of irregular status and illegality, including documented illegality. We find that elements of Canadian policy routinely generate pathways to multiple forms of precarious status, which is accompanied by precarious access to public services. Our analysis of the production of precarious status in Canada is consistent with approaches that frame citizenship and illegality as historically produced and changeable. Considering variable pathways to and forms of precarious status supports theorizing citizenship and illegality as having blurred rather than bright boundaries. Identifying differences between Canada and the US challenges binary and tripartite models of illegality, and supports conducting contextually specific and comparative work.