“It’s time for an amnesty for hard working undocumented families”

Humberta Araujo

Dear Prime-Minister of Canada,
It’s time for an amnesty for hard working undocumented families.

If I were to have told my mother when she was in Canada in the 60’s, who is now 82 years old that I would one day be writing a letter to the Prime Minister of Canada and I would be having lunch with him, she would say: “you are crazy, you couldn’t… but if you ever had the chance to write him a letter, do you think he would even care?”

Prime Minister, she said that a long time ago and a long time since has passed. However, here I am, at your table, writing you a letter that I hope, you come to care about. My parents immigrated to Canada in 1960 and I was born a year later. When I was 7, we decided to go back to the Azores. I was a Canadian citizen. I was discriminated at school in Portugal because I was a foreigner. My teacher didn’t want me in the Portuguese class. However, I had a tough grandma and I was there a couple of days later, along with the other village girls. I went to high school in the Azores. In my 20’s, I decided to come back to Canada, where I worked as a maid, cleaner, server at a restaurant and factory worker. Later, I went to Concordia and Queen’s University. To make this story short; I went back to Azores where I became a professional journalist.

Today, I am back in this amazing country as a single mom, with a son who is now serving in the Canadian Air Forces. I’ve had a tough life here and I have never been truly accepted. However, nothing of this truly matters when I compare my life, with that of thousands of Portuguese, Italian, Polish, Greek, South American or South Asian families. These people are hard workers; they have homes, with children who were born here and pay taxes…but are illegal. I am lucky, as I am a Canadian citizen, born in Vancouver, BC from Portuguese parents, who were poor and who were looking for better days.

I am so proud to be Portuguese-Canadian and for the fact that Canada has opened its doors to families from war-torn countries. It’s our way to show our humanity and do our part. However, why not show, at the same time, the same humanity and care, for the thousands of families, who are already here. These families work hard, are responsible and law abiding citizens. Why not help them by allowing them a status, so they can stay and keep doing their part for the well-being of this country, its economy, particularly in the construction industry, with no fear?

According to the industry, the lack of skilled workers can put in peril the construction business by raising prices; thus making impossible for young entrepreneurs, families and students to stay, work and build lives here, mainly in Ontario.

There are thousands of skilled workers in the industry, who have seen their contracts end. However, they are sought desperately by contractors and construction companies, to fulfill the need for skilled workers, jobs that younger Canadians don’t want. Schools in the sector have difficulty attracting new students, as you know. These men and women, Prime Minister, are hardworking human beings, who pay taxes, have raised here their children, and who have jobs… but are illegal.
To these men, I can add mothers, daughters, wives and sisters, who work 10 hours a day, six days a week for less than minimum wage. Furthermore, they have no rights to medical assistance, suffering from mental illnesses, loneliness – as they can’t visit their families – used and abused by unscrupulous employers, immigration lawyers and consultants. Your father was a visionary politician and gave them an amnesty. It’s time to recognize the systemic issues and help give these people the chance they deserve.

I decided to write this letter, which I will show to my mother, not to ask anything for me or my son; but for the thousands of men, women and children who live in fear and who do not deserve this kind of life. It’s true that many came illegally, forced to look for a better life for their families and do not speak very good English. However, I am sure, that if they were given the respect for their struggle and the recognition they deserve for the amazing work they have been doing in this country for many years through citizenship; they would have the time, freedom, receive the means to overcome the language barriers and be better integrated citizens.

Thank you, Prime Minister Trudeau.

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