Undocumented Immigrants Are Ready to be Taxed

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Myth: Non-Status immigrants don’t pay taxes.

Fact: Non-Status immigrants pay property and sales tax but not income tax because they do not work legitimately.

Immigrants who crawled through the border and the system, literally and figuratively, do not possess legal status which keeps them out of the taxation system. Due to their undocumented status they are not enrolled in the system, therefore, are not responsible to pay income taxes. This also means they do not receive any advantages and services that a legal status-holder does from the system. However, they pay property taxes as well as all other applicable sales taxes when they make their daily purchases etc.

Canada wants immigrants and needs immigrants. It is for this reason that the federal and provincial programs are being churned out to lure new immigrants.

However, there are an estimated up to half million undocumented workers in Canada. According to Amnesty for Undocumented Workers Campaign, led by the Migrant Workers Centre (MWC) these undocumented workers “form the most vulnerable section of ‘essential service’ workers.” Even though they entered Canada legally initially, in either case, such individuals no longer have documentary evidence to prove they are in Canada legally, and so they are staying in the country without legal authority or permission to do so. Oftentimes, these non-status immigrants continue to live in the country working, often for low pay. In spite of being able to live in Canada, they lack the most essential things – freedom and access to basic social support, health services and educational opportunities. They cannot claim any rights because they are undocumented, and that extends to the children born here in Canada. They constantly live in fear of deportation and avoid drawing any kind of attention to themselves including not filing for benefits and taxes.

Illegal immigrants or undocumented workers don’t have it easy in any way in Canada. They adopt status mostly in two ways: when their work/study/visa permits expire or when their refugee claims are rejected by the government. Canada’s highly regulated immigration system, including some of the world’s strictest visitor-visa requirements, is designed to further curb this phenomenon. The life of a non-status immigrant is not an enviable one, even as they continue to contribute their quota to the development of the country directly and indirectly. There is a high labour demand which remains largely unfilled because of the bottlenecks of immigration. The construction industry is a case in point. Factory work is also another. Many provinces do not have enough Canadians to fill these shortages. Non-status immigrants usually come in handy. They fill such positions and pay provincial sales tax on goods and services.They may also pay property tax as well as contribute to insurance funds, health and union dues and pension plans through false Social Insurance Numbers (SINs). Yet, they remain largely invisible and unrecognized contributors to Canada.

The MWC campaign has called on the Government of Canada to regularize the status of undocumented workers by immediately:

  • Creating a new permanent residency program for all essential migrant workers, including undocumented workers
  • Allowing migrant workers in Canada to apply for a 12-month open (unrestricted) work permit to maintain or regularize their status while their application for permanent residency is in process.

The MWC makes the case for urgent action on these measures in light of COVID-19, which has exposed the extent to which the Canadian economy and society depend on migrant workers who lack permanent resident status and, as a result, lack access to basic rights and services that Canadians expect.

It is a fact that the number and issue of these undocumented workers don’t get the spotlight in Canada due to their size and given that this is a serious issue in the neighboring United States. However, Canada has prided in being a better choice for immigrants, and it should aspire to be the same for undocumented migrants whose contributions are all too visible.

Getting them into the system is not an act of favor but an imperative which will turn beneficial to Canada, the Canadian tax system and the migrants who are willing to be a part of the system, including paying all taxes.


By The Editorial Board.