Karl, Immigration, and Privilege
It saddens me that western capitalist (and/or imperialist) nations such as Canada & the United States have over-exploited nations in the “global south” to such an extent that economic conditions have become unlivable and it forces people to leave their homes and families behind in search of work elsewhere. For example, my dad’s wife (not my mom) is Nicaraguan, but the available options for work are so minimal in Nicaragua that she is now working “under the table” as a housekeeper/caretaker in Spain. She is earning more money than she ever has previously despite her depressed wages, which are a product of working as an illegal immigrant — because it’s easier to exploit someone in a precarious or vulnerable position.
What’s baffling is that she is convinced that she will move to Canada eventually, because her life will somehow be better in Calgary than it is in either Nicaragua or Spain. She has lived her entire life in Nicaragua (until now), in warm weather, surrounded by her family and friends, and because of the economic conditions created by imperialism, she thinks that living in Calgary, Alberta is a better alternative for her to forge a new life. Don’t get me wrong, I love Calgary, but I can’t imagine how much of a struggle someone’s life must be to see Calgary as a form of salvation or paradise. A city with snow eight months of the year and shitty public transportation if you need to commute without a vehicle to/from work.
Thinking about this in relation to my own dad’s situation. He recently moved back to Calgary, he’s 62 years old without much money to his name, he lives in the deep suburbs for affordability reasons and that means he spends four plus hours every day on transit to get to/from his job. My dad leaves home at 5AM and gets home after 7PM six days a week, and hardly has any time for himself. I think it’s incredibly heartbreaking that a life of that sort is seen as desirable by people worldwide as an escape from even more desperate circumstances wherever they live. Even when they get to Canada there’s no guarantee that they’ll achieve whatever level of financial success (or otherwise) they may have anticipated prior to their arrival. The ideal of the “American Dream” still persists despite the mountains of evidence against it.
My dad is showing more obvious signs of aging, and I have noticed more and more that his cognitive abilities are beginning to wane. This means that even some simple tasks seem monumental to him, such as completing the paperwork required for his application to receive a Permanent Residence (PR) Card from the Canadian federal government. He needs to apply for a PR card in order to guarantee his Canadian PR status in general, but also so that he can receive his full employment benefits, and so that he can begin working on the process of (hopefully) bringing his wife and her daughter to Canada. I try to help my dad with these tasks as much as I can so as to speed up the process, and it’s frustrating to see just how difficult our institutions make things for people without the privileges or luxuries that many of us take for granted.
My dad has an old and very slow computer, but it’s all he can afford. Many of the Government of Canada’s documents are PDFs, and he has difficulty opening PDF files because he doesn’t have the right Adobe software and/or he has trouble finding alternative ways to open the files. He doesn’t own a printer, and many of the documents he has to complete as part of the application have to be printed, signed, and then scanned before he can submit them. Why the fuck do we still expect everyone to own (or have immediate access to) a printer? Yes, my dad could go to a library or a Staples, or some other business to have them print his documents, but that would necessitate having free time (or free time during business hours) for him to carry out that task.
Again, my dad doesn’t drive, which means that he needs to take public transit to and from anywhere he needs to go, which just creates another barrier because it’s not the quickest mode of transportation for running multiple errands around a large city in a single day. He works long hours six days per week, and in order for him to take care of this PR application, he would have to dedicate a large portion of his ONLY day off to make any headway on this process. Yes, he could take a day off work, but for someone without much money to their name, missing a day of work can be detrimental to their ability to meet their basic needs. This world is not kind to those without the luxury of wealth.
All of this means that my dad’s hopes and dreams of being reunited with his wife, as well as her aspirations for living a better life in Canada all hinge on my dad’s ability to take care of not only his own PR application, but eventually his wife’s immigration process as well. I don’t quite understand their relationship, but I also don’t really feel invested enough in that part of his life to dig much deeper into it. If it’s what they both want, then I hope for their sake that things work out in their favour. I just think it’s going to be a very difficult task given my dad’s current situation, but I will try to help him however I can.
There are those out there that would likely say that this whole situation is my dad’s fault for not being more responsible with his money, or for not working hard enough to improve his circumstances to a more comfortable level. In response to this, I would ask those people why have we created (and continue to perpetuate) a society that punishes people for irresponsibility? How would they feel if their own loved ones were in a similar position to my dad or his partner? Just because my dad is bad with money, is irresponsible, or has other issues that he needs to deal with doesn’t mean that he shouldn’t be allowed to live a dignified, meaningful, and fulfilling life in the way that he sees fit. That’s the sort of life I would hope that everyone has the opportunity for.