Thousands of foreign workers who have made their homes in Alberta may face deportation in April as their work permits expire.

Changes that the federal government made to the Temporary Foreign Worker (TFW) program include a four-year cap on work permits, leaving many concerned that these workers may continue to stay in the country illegally.

“There are no jobs to go back to so there are going to be people who say I may as well continue working here as long as I can to contribute to my family,” Yessy Byl, an advocate for the workers, told CTV News.

“You will force people to go underground and work because they have no options.

“The social problems that come from that are just profound,” she added.

“It is appalling that we are not recognizing that people have moved here, have contributed here and they are part of our Canadian community and they should be given the opportunity to immigrate.”

One of the workers hoping for change is Vicky Vanencio, who came to Canada as a TFW but was hit by a car a few months after her arrival.

She has been unable to work and living in the country illegally.

“We're hoping that the Canadian government allow me to stay here as a humanitarian compassionate grounds,” she said.

A panel discussion held at the University of Alberta was set up to open the conversation about the problems of the program and the changes made.

“The whole attitude has become ‘Well, you are expendable. You are not really part of our society. So, now that your four years is up go away. Don’t bother us’,” Byl said.

Jason Foster, a professor at Athabasca University, said the program was ill-designed from the start.

“From the beginning this program has been poorly-designed. Essentially it has been set up to be a failure. So I think they need to start over.

“It has all been knee-jerk reactions. They have not made any planned policy decisions around this program and that is why it is the mess it is.”

“I think a lot of Canadians don’t understand that a lot of foreign workers have no opportunities to immigrate because they work in low skilled jobs. There is no federal government program for them,” Byl said.

Last February, then-Employment Minister Jason Kenney offered a one-year extension to 1,000 TFWs, but the government has not yet decided who all of those workers will be, leaving thousands to wonder if they get to stay or will be forced to go.

One of those in limbo is Dhon Mojca who has been working in Canada since 2008.

“I came here to have a better life because back home we don’t have jobs.

“I feel that it is my second home.”

Mojca said he has tried before to get his permanent residency status and hopes he will be approved before he has to leave.

“I have friends. Canadian friends, Filipino friends. I have established a relationship with others already and I feel that I have a family already here.”

With files from Nicole Weisberg