Living Undocumented in Canada

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Saad, Samia
Illegalized immigrants , Undocumented , Narrative , Testimonio , Non-status immigrants , Trauma , Resilience
Illegalized immigrants in Canada are a growing community, yet narratives about their lives are rarely in the public eye. Discourses on the importance of safeguarding national security have shaped how vulnerable immigrants are perceived as undesirable and criminals. Such perceptions have contributed to increased border controls. These controls have resulted in the intensification of detention and deportation regimes across the globe. Immigration policies and practices have also been transformed leading to the creation of precarious conditions for migrants. At the same time, economic recession, environmental degradation, national internal conflict, erosion of social safety nets, and criminal violence continue to produce local social and economic conditions that force people to leave the Global South to venture out in search of dignity and wellbeing. Many of these migrants have come to Canada with precarious immigration status. In Living Undocumented in Canada, four women and four men who are illegalized and have lived underground for many years tell their testimonios. This project investigates and visibilizes the lives and knowledge production of eight illegalized immigrants who live under the threat of deportation. Living Undocumented in Canada is a project consisting of a book of narratives, and three other chapters that are part of the analytical section of this project. The first chapter, as the introduction to the entire project, discusses the global and Canadian context that produces illegality, as well as the methodology used for this project. The inland refugee determination process is particularly discussed in this section. The second chapter discusses testimonio as method that gives voice to the experiences of illegalized immigrants. I argue that these experiences embody a counter-narrative in opposition to prevailing rhetoric that illegalizes immigrants. In the third chapter, the psychological impact of living under the threat of deportation as experienced by illegalized people is explored. The stories of illegalized people disclose a particular type of trauma that resonates with the experiences of trauma of those living under conditions of war. This type of trauma is known as continuous trauma stress because of the continuing nature of threat to their lives. Despite that, the narrators exercise their agency and bravery to stay as people who bear rights, despite the absence of legal channels that validate their claim to stay.
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