Catherine Dauvergne probes the global pressures that are challenging the state of immigration laws in Canada and around the world.
Ignored within the confines of an obscure detention centre, five men of Muslim descent are being held without the possibility of trial. Their crimes have yet to be identified, much less substantiated. They received no warning, no warrant and certainly have no prospect of adequate legal defense. While incidences like this have surfaced internationally before, not many would believe this is currently the case in Canada.
Not long after Sept.
11, 2001, the Canadian government implemented anti-terrorism legislation
If we send them back to where they came from, theyre likely to be tortured or killed. If we keep them here, it appears we dont have enough information to put them on trial, says Catherine Dauvergne, UBC associate professor and Canada Research Chair in migration law. Canada, it seems, is not unique in using its migration legislation to put citizens in indefinite detention. Its a crisis of liberal democracy to decide what to do with these people.
Security politics in the realm of migration law is just one aspect of globalization and illegal migration that Dauvergne is researching. Since 2002, she has been investigating how migration laws around the globe have been shifting under contemporary social and political pressure due to globalization. Published in 2005, her book Humanitarianism, Identity and Nation: Migration Laws in Canada and Australia traces the links between immigrations tradition of nation-building and the challenge of admitting people who do not reflect a countrys national interests.Delving deeper into the nexus of globalization and migration law, her newest findings will be documented in a forthcoming book, Making People Illegal: Globalization, Sovereignty and Migration Law, which will be published in 2007.
Traditional discourse surrounding globalization and law tends to revolve around economic law and the global accumulation and movement of capital. Dauvergne says globalizations effect on immigration law is creating an important yet little-studied trend: fewer disadvantaged (ie: poor) people are seeking political asylum despite the fact that the number of displaced peoples has remained constant. One of the ambitions in her forthcoming book is to investigate why this phenomenon exists. Over the past decade, most prosperous Western nations have been involved in cracking down on migration and [thats] partially to do with a very successful legal maneuvering that makes it impossible to seek asylum, she says. States can then turn around and say there are fewer people than ever before that are seeking asylum when its really a product of efforts to legally define people out of the system.
Each year, it is estimated that 30,000 people apply for refugee status in Canada. In addition, there are about 10,000 applications for humanitarian and compassionate exceptions, which are accepted or declined at the discretion of the immigration minister. This is the official loophole in Canadian immigration law, and there is almost no information on how or why decision-makers in Canadian immigration use this legal provision. Discovering the nature of these exceptions is an area that Dauvergne is currently dissecting in another research-project funded by the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council (SSHRC).
But it is the stories
of refugee claimants who dont make it into Canada that make the
biggest impression on Dauvergne. Her research takes her into the traumatic
lives of refugee seekers. Many people come to Canada with the hopes of
finding a better life but for one reason or another do not fit into the
framework of Canadas immigration legislation. Its very
difficult to talk to people who you know have no legal redress and particularly
if you believe them, she says. Thats a difficult point
to bring across in public discourse. Just because you get rejected doesnt
mean youve done anything wrong.
Much of Dauvergnes
research on migration law manifests itself into policies and recommendations
that she hopes governments and agencies involved in immigration can take
steps to implement. However, on a
Migration law has been Dauvergnes life work since she graduated from UBCs Faculty of Law about a decade ago. In addition to her book on globalization and research-project with SSHRC, she is filling her already-busy schedule with two more projects. Funded by the Australian Research Council, she is researching first-instance refugee decision-making in six countries with a colleague at the University of Sydney. She is also in the final stages of revising a collaborative report funded by Status of Women Canada entitled Gendering Canadas Refugee Process that examines gender in the Canadian refugee determination process.
Dauvergne admits its sometimes hard to be an academic lawyer because theres always the pull to become an advocate for refugee cases. But she shows no signs of forgoing her research for the life of a practicing lawyer. Theres at least a decade of interest left for me, she says. I think immigration law is interesting because it is ignored [and] Im interested in that place at the margin.