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Unbeknownst to most Canadians there is a large community of illegal immigrants living throughout the country. The main hubs for these groups are, not surprisingly, Toronto, Montreal and Vancouver.

When people hear the phrase “illegal immigrant” there is an automatic distasteful connotation to these words but in most case these are just hard working folk trying to make a better life for themselves or their families.

In recent years, America has been slowly losing its title as “The land of opportunity”, so Canada as well as Australia have been taking over the mantle. As a result, the number of illegal immigrants in Canada has increased.

Living as an illegal immigrant in Canada can be easy in some aspects, but extremely hard in others. There are many ways to avoid unwanted attention, and to successfully integrate and build a life for oneself.

By Michael Shehan Obeysekera from Moratuwa, Sri Lanka (Toronto Skyline  Uploaded by Skeezix1000) [CC BY 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

Toronto by MIchael Shehan Obeysekera / Wikimedia Commons / CC BY 2.0

Toronto is the main destination for most immigrants in Canada.  Whether their temporary resident status is expired or they are waiting for their permanent residency, immigrants – legal or illegal - find Toronto very inviting to start up their life.

One of the hardest things to do as an illegal immigrant is to find a job that pays cash and does not put them through the tax system. If they use their expired social insurance number they will show up on the system as having over-stayed their visa in Canada and they will be tracked down and removed from the country. It is easier to find such cash jobs in a big city such as Canada.

The hospitality industry is a haven for illegal immigrants. Working for tips with below minimum wage pay is a popular, though hard, way to survive. Also every immigrant has their ethnic community to rely upon and support them, and through networking within the community jobs can be found.

However, once the person finds a job, they don’t have the rights and freedoms that a permanent resident or citizen has – or even the rights of a temporary worker - and they are not protected by the labour board or a union. Often immigrants are extremely underpaid, overworked and abused.

But these workers actually do benefit the Canadian economy. People assume that these immigrants don’t pay taxes, but they do. Every day illegal immigrants pay sales tax on everything they purchase, whether its clothing, gas or the phone bill. This adds up to a substantial amount of money.

What is also over-looked is that many of these immigrants are working in jobs that have a low level of appeal for most Canadians. The fact of the matter is that these jobs have to be done, whether people want to do them or not.

The stereotypical view that immigrants offer nothing to the work force is also misguided. Many immigrants have a higher education level than the average Canadian. Many of them were doctors, engineers, accountants, or highly skilled tradesmen. They can contribute to the economy even if they cannot get into their field of expertise. These people have already demonstrated they can master tough professions. They bring these skills to their new jobs.

The biggest curse of being an immigrant without status is the inability to return home, until one is granted permanent residence. It is really heartbreaking if a loved one becomes ill or dies while they cannot travel. Homesickness is obviously common as they often do not see their families for years. Many give up waiting, and return home which often eliminates any chance they would have of gaining the proper status in Canada.

As well as focusing on the negative impact of illegal immigrants and an effective solution, we should focus on the positive aspects and what we can gain from these individuals, especially now that Toronto is considering becoming a Sanctuary City.

More and more people are coming to Canada, and visas expire every day, creating this large underground society.  

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