Memo to the restless young: Skip the US and plan a move to Canada

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Marlen V. Ronquillo

Ka Crispin (Aranda) should write this story. I am barely equipped to write it. But because it is timely, and it needs to be written, I will give it a try.

The genesis of migration to the US was the story of sailors (who have been jumping ships from time immemorial) and able-bodied workers for the cane fields, the fruit farms, the train tracks and the canning factories. The early years of the able-bodied migrants, (read Carlos Bulosan), was not pretty. But the mid and late 20th century surge of migration to the US was built around – and influenced by – a different story, the migration of families that used to work at the giant US bases, Subic and Clark.

After 15 years of unbroken service at either of the two giant military facilities (and the other minor facilities such as Sangley and John Hay) , a worker could move with relative ease to the US, with all members of the family below 21 years old. The stories of prosperity in the “Home of the Brave and the Land of the Free” was the driving force, a choice of sheer pragmatism. No, no, there was no “colonial mentality” involved. Just the search for a better life.

Those who couldn’t move to the US under the base workers program, had alternatives. Join the US Navy or work in the Guam construction sites, divorce the wife here and marry a native of Guam.


I knew of these regular movements to the US as a young man because of a quirk of geography. Both Clark and Subic were hosted by my region, Central Luzon, which was also a center of recruitment for Guam construction workers and young US Navy hopefuls. The migration program for base workers was so lenient that even ground maintenance crews at either Clark or Subic were given the chance to apply for US migration.

Ok, there was another major abettor of migration that was the direct result of the bases, the marriages between US military personnel assigned at the military facilities and the locals (mostly women from or based at the provinces of Zambales and Pampanga). The Filipina wives of the US military personnel would uproot the eligible members of their families and bring them to the US en masse after a five-year waiting period.

Today, the migration mix is more diverse, and the stories of “petitioned”family members are now secondary stories to the movement of professionals, mostly nurses and physical therapists. Occasionally, there are H1-B visas granted to skilled workers sponsored by either Silicon Valley or Wall Street companies. Or the giant auditing firms.

While “family” oriented migration still dominate, the movement of professionals now make up about 35 percent of migration, from its negligible share in the 60s to the 90s.

It was expected to be the next driver of migration. Until, of course, the recent inauguration of Donald Trump as the 45th president of the US. Mr. Trump has been accused of nativism, racism and bigotry. Not yet one month in office, Mr. Trump’s executive orders have validated these accusations.

So, with Mr. Trump and Steve Bannon in power, what will now happen to the young, who, in the course of searching for better professional careers, want to move to the US?

Here is the practical thing to do. Move to Canada instead. As much as you want to move to the US and be close to your next of kin there (very, very few families have no next of kin in the US), the US has dropped its open immigration policies in favor of restrictions. Right now, the US is not a welcoming place for immigrants. While Mr. Trump is obsessed with banning Muslims and restricting the movement of Mexicans, there is a general hostility being displayed by the party in power, the Republicans, toward non-whites.

Because immigration policies are almost always shaped by the political party in power and the president/prime minister, the young with the itch to move will find Canada a more favorable destination.

Hours after Mr. Trump issued an executive order that banned the entry of people from seven Muslim-majority countries, with emphasis on Syrian refuges, Canada’s Prime Minister Justin Trudeau posted on social media a message that countered Trump’s EO. Below was the message.

“To those fleeing persecution, terror and war, Canadians will welcome you, regardless of faith. Diversity is our strength. Welcome to Canada.”

No OECD country moved with determined swiftness and boldness to counter the Trump ban.

Of course, things could change. A Harper-like leadership would not be as bold as Trudeau on immigration. But right now, Trudeau is the leader. Still young and very popular, he would be Canada’s leader for a long while. And Canada’s institutions could not be tampered with by a leader like Trump.

The plus factor is that the Immigration Minister of Canada, Ahmed Hussen, is a former refugee from Somalia. The welcoming environment can’t get better than that.

Did I mention the fact that Canada offers a better health care system than the US? And that its elite universities offer rock-bottom tuition fees for citizens and permanent residents alike.

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4 Comments

  1. As a conservative person myself, I understand why Trump has to do what he is doing now. I am sorry for the liberals and the left-wing Democrats, but the influx of Muslim refugees in the US is not really a good idea. The US had already accepted a lot. Just look at the turmoil seen in Europe because of the Muslim refugees. Muslims find it hard to assimilate because they really believe that Islam is right and that countries where they live should accept the Sharia law so they don’t want to honor the laws of the countries that took in the refugees. However, if you go to Muslim countries, you need to follow their laws there. Just look at Mindanao as an example of how many Muslims insist on their way of life and even though they are given the right to practice their religion, we still have Muslm rebels. Try to practice Christianity in Saudi Arabia in public and you will be arrested. Trump just followed what the Obama administration identified as countries where there are imminent threats. People thought it was Trump who identified these Muslim states. And btw, why is it okay to coddle illegal immigrants. Are you saying that it is okay for the Philippines to allow illegal immigrants to stay here indefinitely. Just because pinoys are always TNTs abroad doesn’t mean that what they are doing is right. I am tired of the PC left-wing views that started in the US and is now being espoused by our media today. Trump is right about making America first. The Philippines and Filipinos should start making the Philippines first. We are always so nice to the foreigners to the detriment of our national interests. We should start supporting our inventors so that we can make money from their patents. We should not be showcasing beauty pageants, boxing, billiards, and singing competitions all the time. These events do not make the Philippines rich.

  2. Edwin Castillo on

    Just a clarification, government universities in Canada are very expensive. Students who are not supported by their parents can get student loans and graduate with a big debt plus interest. Yes regular interest, these are not soft loans with zero or low interest.

  3. donald vantrees on

    why don’t you try to keep these young people and develop them in to leaders. There are so many untapped resources in the Philippines but due to corruption Filipinos see that opportunity only exist out side of the Philippine. There is no way on earth you can start a legitimate manufacturing business in the US without at minimum 5 million US Dollars, But in the Philippines you could start with a fraction of that. It is time for Filipinos to recognize what they have instead of listening to the corrupt who in wish only to collect to get remittances.

  4. Hehe, that’s if you can practice your profession in Canada!
    Also, Trudeau is on the way out, sooner than you know!