Why doesn't Canada have the same illegal immigration problems US does?

Illegal immigrants have been a hot-button issue lately, and one thing I was always curious about was our neighbor to the north. People say that folks immigrating here from Mexico are trying to find a better life, better working conditions, etc. Things have become very polarized, with individuals taking sides either as illegal immigrant apologists or staunch anti-illegal immigration folks (like Minutemen).

At the same time, I also hear about how Canada has us beat on a lot of services, like universal health care and unemployment insurance. What I’m curious about is if it is so much better, why don’t they have a bigger immigration problem than we do? There’s thousands of miles of US-Canada border, likely not nearly as closely guarded as the US-Mexico border supposedly is.

It would stand to reason, in my opinion, if Canada really is better for middle/lower class workers, why wouldn’t they have a big influx of immigration? Why wouldn’t, say, a family in Montana supporting themselves in low-wage jobs not be driven to try to Immigrate to Canada, where the health coverage would help them become financially stable. I heard another statistic (could be totally BS, since I don’t have a cite, bear with me here) that said 50% of bankrupcies in California were caused by medical issues.

In a heated discussion on Fark.com people were mentioning how much better Maternal Leave is in Canada compared to the US. It makes me wonder why Mexican immigrants would settle here, where there is an apparently illegal-immigration hysteria going on. Why not just go to Canada?

Canada is thousands of miles from the Mexico border.

Is that the only reason? No, because while a lot of illegal immigrants are Mexican, certainly not all of them are, but it does count for a lot.

Two possibilities I can think of, the USA has better employment prospects than Canada, that might be a big factor. Also there are Spanish-speaking systems in place in much of the US that perhaps make it easier for a Spanish speaker to settle in the USA.

Or are you asking why Americans aren’t sneaking over the border into Canada?

While I’m sure Canadians like living in Canada just fine, Canada isn’t far and away better for middle or lower income workers, it’s broadly comparable. “Free” health care isn’t free, it’s paid for by taxes out of the salaries of middle and lower income workers. And how can you take advantage of government services like health insurance or unemployment insurance if you are undocumented?

Mexico is what economists call very poor. There are lots of subsistence farmers in Mexico, and a minumum wage job in the US pays a lot more than comparable jobs in Mexico. But that’s not the case when comparing Canada to the US. You can’t sneak into Canada and get a minumum wage job or migrant farm work and support your entire family back in the US, can you? And you can’t just get a high-paying job, since high-paying employers in the US and Canada tend to check things like whether their employees are legally entitled to work. You can work as a day laborer and get paid in cash without anyone checking their paperwork, but you’re not going to get rich doing so.

Too cold, and too difficult to dig your way in through all that snow.


Canada only has 10% of the population as the U.S. and there aren’t nearly as many hispanics. In short, it isn’t nearly as easy to hide as it is in Texas, California, or most other places in the U.S. Illegal aliens don’t get all the social services that citizens do even in the U.S. and they wouldn’t in Canada either. Part of the deal of being illegal meanst that you strive to earn cash to send back home but have to forfeit other nicities because of fake documentation and the risk of getting caught. Finally, Canada is cold. The family back at home would be in hysterics if they get a postcard of you standing next to a snowman in your sombrero.

I guess my question was kind of twofold-

1.) Why aren’t more people gravitating toward immigrating to Canada (not just Mexicans, but also those from the Far East, people sneaking in on cargo containers, etc)

2.) Why don’t you see an influx of the lower class in the US making a push for Canadian citizenship, since a big issue with poverty in the US is the population lacking health coverage/unreasonable cost of health coverage.

Stuff like “universal health care and unemployment insurance” and “Maternal Leave” are only available for legal workers. Illegals don’t get 'em.

So, given a choice to cross one border into neighbouring US, where there is already a large Mexican population, and crossing into the US and then out of the US to Canada, most Mexicans who wish to be illegal immigrants naturally choose the former.

Canada only has a land border with one country, the United States. There’s no clear incentive for either US citizens or illegal immigrants in the US to sneak into Canada. I’m not sure, but I suspect there’s not a huge problem with illegal immigrants coming by sea from Greenland north of the Arctic circle.


There’s an article, reprinted from the Globe and Mail, regarding illegal/undocumented immigrants in Canada. But, I think your two questions have been answered already.

As to question 1, it’s a lot easier to secretly cross land borders than sea borders. You’re not going to get large numbers of people sneaking in on cargo ships, and since Canada’s only land border is with the US, most illegal immigrants will cross that border. And, for most of them, if they’re in the US anyway, they just stay.

As to 2, first, as has been mentioned, most of the benefits you’re talking about are limited to legal workers, but, even assuming arguendo that Canada is a better place to live than the US (and I’m not sure of that), it’s not significantly better. An American and a Canadian of the same social class have roughly the same standard of living, and roughly the same culture. So, while it’s probably easier for an American to assimilate into Canadian society than anyone else, it also means that most people won’t make the trip. Canada, even if it is “better” than the US isn’t “better enough” to face the dislocation and dangers involved in illegally immigrating.

I see you have visited Hongcouver much. :smiley:

So is Milwaukee, and there are a lot of them here. So that’s not it.

As for that, I would imagine the fact that Canada has far fewer major sea ports might have something to do with it.

Low income Americans already have government sponsored health care, in the form of Medicaid and other programs.

The problem with lack of health care coverage is largely a problem for the American middle class, but that’s probably a discussion for another thread outside of GQ.

Just a thought, but part of it is because there is no need. There is little to stand in the way of you immigrating legally (baring a criminal record, etc.).

There is a lot of immigration here and even the provincial city I live in has a large spanish speaking population, a large Asian community and a swelling Muslim community, but not a large illegal immigrant population.

I recently interacted with a government employee recently immigrated from Columbia and while we were chatting, before I departed her office, I inquired why she would select Canada over the US, which would seem to me much more attractive to someone. Her reasons were mostly related to fear of gun culture (as you’d expect from someone disenchanted with Columbia) and also because, (her words), Canada never seems to do evil in the world only good. I was surprised by her take on things.

What makes you think they aren’t? Canada has pretty high levels of immigrations for its population.

For the same reason the lower class so often stay in ghettoes, shitty rural areas, and other downtrodden places; it’s expensive and risky to move, and a lot of people just don’t know any better.


Its about 1,200 miles from the California/Mexico border north to the Washington/Canada border. Figure the same distance between the cities of San Diego and Vancouver.

Think again.

I don’t think the OP is asking why Mexicans don’t immigrate to Canada. I think he’s wondering why Americans don’t in larger numbers.

My guess would be that while Canada might be arguably better on some issues, America is close enough that there’s no clear advantage offered by jumping the border. The drop in status caused by being an illegal immigrant would easily cancel out any advantage gained by living in Canada.

Mexico and the United States are a different case. Many Mexicans appear to believe that living as an illegal immigrant in America is better than living legally in Mexico.

If that’s the case, could cost of living be an issue?

Housing is very expensive in Vancouver, Toronto, and Alberta’s boomtowns; it wouldn’t be a burden for someone moving from California or Boston, but someone from the Rust Belt or the Midwest would experience serious sticker shock. While Montreal offers a reasonable cost of living and a vibrant urban experience, there’s the whole French language thing. The Maritimes always seem to be struggling. That leaves Saskatchewan, with few urban centers and a small job market; Manitoba the same only it has Winnipeg, which makes US Rust Belt cities look good in comparison; smaller cities in Ontario like London, Kitchener, St. Catharines and the like, again places not brimming with jobs; and rural and Arctic regions.

If the hypothetical Montana family really wanted to break family ties and seek out a better economic situation, it may be just easier to stay in the States and head to Houston, Dallas, Atlanta or some other Sunbelt boomtown, and find a job with paid benefits.

For Mexicans, crossing one border illegally is tough. Think they’d want to cross two? That might not be so much of a disincentive for Central American illegals, who already cross several national borders on their way to the US; what’s one more?

I’ve had Canadian transplants at my curling club tell me that if you’re middle-class, you’re going to make out materially better in the States, provided you land a job with good benefits, while the working poor and lower-middle-class will do better in Canada.