Race, ethnicité, peuples autochtones et politique

L21 - Liberating Migrant Labour in Settler Colonial Contexts: Probing “New” Forms of International Mobility and the Analytical Challenges and Opportunities that their Study Poses to Critical Research in (Im)migration Policy Studies

Date: Jun 14 | Heure: 03:30pm to 05:00pm | Salle:

Chair/Président/Présidente : Feng Xu (University of Victoria)

Discussant/Commentateur/Commentatrice : Christina Gabriel (Carleton University)

Canada’s Migration/Mobility Policy Construct: Are International Mobility Programs Temporary Migrant Work in Disguise?: Leah Vosko (York University)
Abstract: Migrant workers are an important source of labour in high-income receiving states. In Canada, historically, many have entered via the longstanding Temporary Foreign Worker Program (TFWP), filling jobs unattractive to workers domestically whose exploitive conditions are well-documented. Yet despite the vital role of workers enrolled in the TFWP in addressing qualitative labour shortages–or demands for workers to fill precarious jobs in occupations and industries undesirable to citizen-workers, their presence is routinely met by measures seeking to preserve so-called “Canadian jobs” for nationals. In a major overhaul of the TFWP in 2014, for example, the government of Canada began to reduce and more strictly regulate temporary migrant work programs under its auspices. However, it simultaneously expanded avenues for mobility under the International Mobility Program (IMP). Challenging the migration/mobility global policy construct, this paper explores new directions and continuities in international migration for employment on a temporary basis to Canada in the 21st century through a case study of the IMP–a program through which a wide range of migrants, including working holidaymakers, inter-company transferees, spouses of skilled workers and students, and recently graduated international students, secure permits to work in Canada. Conceptualizing key IMP programs as products of an (im)migration policy framework that sorts participants in a manner contributing to gradations of inclusion, I argue, on the basis of quantitative and qualitative data analysis, that fast-growing “mobility programs” perpetuate “precarity”–or the simultaneous experience of labour market insecurity and insecurity or presence–among many work permitholders.

Precarity across the Continuum: Temporary Foreign Workers in the U.S: Shannon Gleeson (Cornell), Beth Lyon (Cornell), Daniel Costa (Economic Policy Institute)
Abstract: This paper examines the nature of worker precarity in U.S. guest worker programs. Existing research has typically examined the nature of “low-wage” seasonal work in the wake of the Bracero program (such as the H-2A and H-2B programs), and recent research has even looked at the challenges facing high-wage temporary migrants (such as the H-1B program). However, there is an alphabet soup of TFW’s in the United States, officially known as non-immigrant visa classifications that authorize employment. In this paper we reconceptualize this cross-section of (im)migrants as not simply a liminal segment of the foreign-born labor force, but also a foil to the ongoing policing of the 10.4 million undocumented workers. These far smaller pockets of work-authorized non-immigrants are assumed to inhabit a privileged segment of employees. Yet we argue that their existence simultaneously justifies and is impacted by these exclusionary policies. The paper traces both the domestic and international policies that have given rise to the proliferation of temporary workers. Herein we highlight the political justifications for these temporary migrants, which parallel a fervent campaign to simultaneously close off pathways for permanent migration. As a result, temporary foreign work programs serve multiple purposes: to appease employer demand for flexible pliant labor, to advance a narrative of U.S. cosmopolitanism amidst ongoing critiques of racial subordination of low-wage workers, and to deflect critiques of U.S. exclusion and immigrant abuse. We argue instead that these programs reflect an extension, not curtailing of each.

Settler Colonialism and Migration Policy in Canada: Critical Approaches to Studying the IMP: Leah Vosko (York University), Cynthia Spring (York University), Nisha Toomey (York University)
Abstract: This paper explores the methodological possibilities and challenges that arise when bridging migration & border studies, Indigenous studies, Black studies, feminist political economy, and work and labour studies, in policy analyses of Canada’s “new” international mobility programs (IMPs). Settler colonial societies are structured by categorizations of belonging, racial hierarchies, and dispossession of Indigenous peoples from their lands. Migrant labour is a key formation of settler colonialism’s capital accumulation and production, while also bolstering ideas of who has legitimate claims to the nation-state, and who is temporary, contingent and disposable. Recently, Canada has sought to lessen structural oppressions associated with temporary labour migration programs by creating IMPs that promise labour market mobility and pathways to permanent residency; for example, in 2023, Canada extended open work permits to family members of IMP permitholders and high-wage TFWP permitholders, and provided for 18-month extensions to post-graduation work permitholders—interventions rationalized by employers’ demand for more workers to address pandemic-fuelled labour shortages in a period of economic recovery. In this context, the extent to which settler colonial logics and processes of differential inclusion long at work in importing labourers from Global South to North continue to inform and shape mobility programs, is under studied. Accordingly, we argue that reading public policies, addressed to recruiting workers migrating internationally for employment as part of settler colonial structure, opens space for examining oft intersecting processes of Indigenous dispossession, racism, and gendering that contribute to categorizing certain peoples, who are always already subject to precarity, as workers and migrants.

Migration Studies beyond Epistemic Coloniality and Labour Exploitation: Simon Barber (University of Otago), Sereana Naepi (University of Auckland), Francis Collins (University of Auckland), Christina Stringer (University of Auckland)
Abstract: Migration studies is dominated by a set of assumptions emergent from western epistemologies that centre neoclassical economics and have their origins in enlightenment thought underpinning imperialism and colonialism. Notwithstanding critical interventions from feminist and postcolonial perspectives, the totems of individualism and rationality hold sway in intellectual and policy understandings of migration globally. In settler colonial contexts, such epistemological positions provide an intellectual foundation for much migration and border governance, which carry the legacies of ongoing Indigenous dispossession and the exploitation of migrant labour. Any attempt to disrupt ‘business as usual’ in migration studies and resultant government policy must therefore confront and work against these assumptions. In Aotearoa New Zealand, migration has been framed in a way that sustains the singular authority of the settler state, displacing Māori sovereignty claims over migration and their deep connections to sustained mobility across Te Moana-nui-a-kiwa (the Pacific Ocean), while providing legitimation for economistic valuing of migrant life that justifies labour extraction and exploitation. Our aim in this paper is 1) to reconceptualise migration in ways that centre Māori conceptions of political authority, which are firmly tied to place and long-term inhabitation cultivating connection to ancestors and whenua; 2) to incorporate Pacific knowledge and epistemologies into the intellectual wellspring of migration thought and action; and 3) to advance an agenda for migrant justice beyond extraction and exploitation. In doing this, questions around migration no longer centre on borders and exclusion but instead relational connection. We aim to reimagine what migrant justice looks like when conceptualised from relationality and place.