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May 13, 2021

Mario D. Bellissimo Presenting at the CBA Immigration Law Online Symposium on the Use, Applicability and Implications of Artificial Intelligence (AI) in Immigration Law and Policy

Posted by Mario Bellissimo - Bellissimo Law Group PC

On Friday May 28th, 2021 I will be presenting at the Canadian Bar Association Immigration Law Symposium on the topic of the use, applicability and implications of artificial intelligence (AI) in immigration law and policy.  I am presenting with my co-panelists the Honourable Justice Richard Mosley of the Federal Court; Michelle Mann, General Counsel, Corporate Counsel and Tech Law from the Department of Justice; Patrick McEvenue, Director, Express Entry and Digital Policy, Immigration, Refugees, Citizenship Canada (IRCC), and Anna Lillicrap (General Counsel) IRCC).  The enormity of the implications of AI technology is far reaching.  Coupled with ongoing digitization of the world of law generally, the changes are outpacing many of our abilities to keep abreast of an emerging landscape.  Clearly, there is no sign it will slow down.  In a recent Politics Briefing Newsletter dated May 12, 2021, written by Sean Kilpatrick of the Canadian Press noted comments from the Honourable Minister of Immigration, Refugees, and Citizenship Canada, Marco Mendocino from a recent address he gave to the Canadian Club:

Mr. Mendicino said the recent federal budget commits over $800-million to create a new digital platform to replace the existing Global Case Management System. That platform, he said, will be the “cornerstone of our new, modern, immigration system.”

In my presentation and accompanying papers, I raise a number of questions.  Will there be a place left for the ordinary “me”, where my unique story is recognized instead of simply shuffling my life into pre-determined boxes? Will it only exacerbate the racial, socio-economic and political divides and discrimination so entrenched in our society through categorization processes?  Or can the application of AI help alleviate systemic issues in decision-making?  Whose interests will be best expressed and satisfied in this new world of immigration AI solutions.

With a focus on the role of immigration counsel, I speak to an updated top ten key takeaways for counsel and give some voice to the private immigration bar’s ongoing concerns while highlighting the importance for trust building and an earnest request that stakeholders like immigration counsel are in the room when AI solutions are being contemplated.       

The pandemic has shone a very bright light on the role of technology and its benefits during extremely difficult times.  The use of AI globally explodes each year.  This has not abated during the pandemic; in fact, AI has reportedly been crucial in addressing the COVID-19 pandemic. There has also been some reference to the use of machine learning technologies for the development of the vaccines for COVID-19.[1] Some have argued that AI has also been crucial to the rollout of these vaccines.

In Ontario, Canada, CIFAR AI has produced significant research related to the pandemic. AI was used in the fight against COVID-19, by “identifying existing, safe drugs that can be repurposed” for treatment, as well as tracking of research on the virus and summarizing same in an open-source information system for biomedical research and healthcare professionals, and in predicting severity of pneumonia in patients using AI driven diagnostic X-Rays.  I also touch upon some of the immigration related applications and concerns.

One such concern is the opportunity AI may unintentionally provide for unscrupulous fraudsters to game the process or offer tools for a generation of what I refer to as “digital ghost representatives” (DGRs).  DGRs refers to unauthorized representatives that will exploit the benefits of AI technology and the wider dissemination of digital immigration to ghost immigration applications and immigration pleadings under the guise of self-represented applicants that do not know better, for personal financial gain. 

Ghost representation is already an enormous problem but as more data becomes available online in terms of case trends, better self-help chat boxes, or simply as a result of collating data of online memorandums of law or legal submissions, it increases the opportunities for individuals to ghost on applications.  These DGRs can be less traceable than even current ghosts shielded behind a world of technological deception.  How will applicants be treated in law when victimized by these profiteers?

How far can this technology go? 

Digital courts with non-human judges have been implemented in China, where legal cases are decided in an “internet court” that do not require individuals to be present. These courts hear a multitude of different legal matters.  Shocking or the future?

Thank you for reading, and stay well.