Mexican Asylum Claims Skyrocket Since the Trudeau Government Eliminated Visa for Mexican Nationals

The numbers have increased dramatically although without the IRCC background documents, we do not know whether this extent was predicted or not. But there was a clear trade-off between economic and political considerations and maintaining the visa requirement.

The previous Conservative government faced similar pressures from the EU with respect to the visa requirements then in place for Bulgaria and Romania but were defeated before they had to make a similar decision (EU visa standoff strains allies Canada needs to pass trade deal. The Conservative government did drop the visa requirement for Czech nationals facing this pressure. The Liberal government dropped the visa requirement for Bulgaria and Romania (only Romania figures in the top 25 asylum claimant countries):

After the Trudeau government changed Canada’s visa rules, the number of Mexican refugee claimants in Canada skyrocketed.

2,445 Mexican visitors to Canada failed to leave and instead applied for refugee status in Canada during the first ten months of 2018, according to new data from Immigration Refugee Citizenship Canada (IRCC) .

The number of Mexican asylum claimants to Canada in on track to rise almost 75% above the previous year’s total, or an 840% increase from 2016’s total.

In July 2016, the Trudeau government removed the visitor visa for Mexicans travelling to Canada —  a visa imposed by the Harper government back in 2009 to end a surge of Mexicans claiming refugee status — despite the fact that the visa significantly reduced the number of asylum claims.

In 2016, the number of Mexican asylum seekers jumped to 260 from 111 the previous year, then surged to 1,515 in 2017, and continued to climb dramatically in 2018, rising to 2,445 claims in the first 10 months.

Number of Annual Asylum Claims from Mexican Nationals

2007 2008 2009 2010 2011 2012 2013 2014 2015 2016 2017 2018
7,153 9,454 7,581 1,197 649 321 84 80 111 260 1,515 2,445

Source: Department of Citizenship and Immigration Canada

“Our Government took a pivotal step towards rebuilding and strengthening our relationship with Mexico, which was damaged considerably under the previous government,” said Immigration Minister Ahmed Hussen’s spokesperson Mathieu Genest in an email.

“The visa lift has helped expand trade and business opportunities, increase investment and tourism, and strengthen people-to-people ties that benefit both countries. In 2017 alone, the increase in business travellers and tourists generated more than $600 million in economic benefits for Canada.”

Not everyone shares the Trudeau government’s optimism.

Toronto Immigration lawyer Guidy Mamann pointed out that, “the decision was definitely not consistent with traditional immigration policy.”

“This was completely anticipated by anyone who knows anything about it. It was done for purely political reasons. Mexico is a full participant in NAFTA and didn’t want to feel like the poor cousin of the trio. The cost was anticipated and was undertaken as the ‘cost of doing (international) business,’” said Mamann in an email.

“I would bet that any report by the CBSA (Canadian Border Services Agency) or CIC (the Department of Citizenship and Immigration Canada, now know as Immigration Refugee Citizenship Canada or IRCC) that was requested by the government at that time would have warned of a significant increase in refugees claims,” he said.

Prior to the Harper government’s policy that made it mandatory for Mexicans travelling to Canada to get a travel visa, only a small fraction of the thousands of Mexicans asking for refugee status were deemed by the Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada to be legitimate claimants. In 2008, for instance, Mexico comprised 26% of all asylum claims in Canada.

About 90% of those claims were eventually either rejected or abandoned.

“It would be inappropriate to speculate on asylum claims before the IRB,” said Genest about the low success rate of past Mexican refugee claimants being a concern with the latest spike in claims.

“The IRB is an independent, quasi-judicial tribunal that operates at arms-length from the government to assess and make decisions on all refugee claims. Each case is evaluated on its own merits, and those with a well-founded fear of persecution are permitted to stay and those who are found to not have a legitimate claim are removed.”

Canada’s asylum system costs taxpayers billions of dollars every year.

Migration Flows in Mexico Have Challenged the Country’s Immigration Policies

Interesting overview of some of their challenges:

Mexico is facing new challenges as millions  of Mexican migrants return from the United States and Central Americans seek asylum and safe passage through the country. Historically, Mexico has been a predominantly immigrant-sending country. Political unrest and violence in Central America, heavy-handed immigration enforcement in the United States, and increased development in Mexico has made Mexico a country of destination, return, and transit. Each of these roles demands a unique, humane, and thorough policy response.

Until recently, Mexico has never had a coherent immigration policy. Past laws, such as the 1974 General Law of Population, focused solely on enforcing criminal penalties for immigrants entering or staying in the country without authorization. Throughout the past decade, however, several reforms to laws and policies have expanded the scope of Mexico’s immigration policy to reflect the realities of the country’s diversifying population. Yet while legislative changes to immigration and asylum laws have been implemented to expand services and protections for immigrants, they have not been sufficient to address the needs of return migrants and Central American asylum-seekers and have revealed large gaps in Mexico’s immigration policies and practices.

Mexico’s response to return migration is falling short

The Mexican government has made efforts to ease the transition of returnees through the creation of several programs and initiatives aimed toward reintegration. For example, the Somos Mexicanos initiative, which the National Institute of Immigration (INM) implemented in 2014, aims to facilitate the reintegration of Mexican nationals, providing them with food, medical attention, toll-free calling, free transportation, and employment assistance upon initial return. While such existing programs and initiatives are a step in the right direction, they have done little to ease the transition of many returnees, who continue to struggle with emotional trauma and lack access to employment, educational opportunities, and the long-term support they need to navigate life in Mexico.

With the government falling short, nonprofits have instead shouldered the responsibility of facilitating successful reintegration by directly working with returnees, providing them with long-term support, and serving as valuable networks. Certain organizations—such as Otros Dreams en Acción, New Comienzos, El Instituto para las Mujeres en la Migración, and Dream in México—offer free programs that assist returnees in pursuing educational opportunities, searching for jobs, accessing mental health services, securing emergency shelters, obtaining identification documents, and enrolling in mentoring programs. Yet while nonprofits have worked to fill the gaps that exist between the services that government-run programs offer, Mexico is still struggling to keep up with returnees. Moreover, if the Trump administration is allowed to terminate the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, stripping immigration status from approximately 700,000 current DACA recipients—nearly 80 percent of whom are from Mexico—the forcible or voluntary return of these long-term U.S. residents to Mexico would overtax the country’s already strained social services.

Central American migration poses another challenge for Mexico

Since early 2018, Mexico has responded to the increased number of Central American migrants with force. In response to pressure from the United States, Mexico has heightened security efforts along its southern border and has detained and deported thousands of Central American migrants. According to Mexico’s National Institute of Migration (INM), 80,000 Central American migrants were deported from January 2018 through September 2018. In 2017, due to worsening conditions and violence in the Northern Triangle region, which includes Guatemala, Honduras, and El Salvador, 14,596people applied for asylum in Mexico—a 66 percent increase from 2016. Despite this increase, only 1,907 requests were approved in 2017. This surge in asylum claims has placed a strain on the severely understaffed and underfunded Mexican Commission for Refugee Assistance (COMAR), the department that processes asylum petitions. A 2016 study documented the difficulties Central American migrants face when seeking asylum in Mexico, including due process violations; obstacles in gaining access to asylum procedures; lack of information about their rights at migration stations; and lack of legal representation during the petition process.

With the arrival of the most recent Honduran caravan, however, Mexico’s response to Central American migration has begun to shift slightly. On October 26, former Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto announced a plan called “Estás en tu casa,” or “You are home,” to facilitate the asylum process for those in the caravan. The program will grant migrants official documentation, temporary work permits, medical attention, and access to education for children if they return and file with the INM in Mexico’s southern states, Oaxaca and Chiapas. According to the Mexican Office for Domestic Affairs, more than 3,800 migrants have applied for refugee status, nearly 136 Honduran migrants per dayhave requested assistance to return, and thousands more have chosen to continue toward the United States due to concerns over long wait times and mistrust of Mexican authorities. Asylum-seekers in Tijuana now face extreme backlogs as U.S. Border Patrol only processes 40 to 100 asylum claims a day. As tensions and uncertainty in Tijuana continue to rise, Mexico has increased its efforts in response to a situation that remains both complex and ever-changing.

There is opportunity for meaningful change

While Mexico has taken substantive steps to improve its immigration system, it should continue to partner with both the United States and international organizations such as the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees in order to strengthen its capacity to effectively address surmounting immigration challenges and overhaul the bureaucratic process that continues to make it difficult for returnees to enroll in school, seek employment, and access social services. Mexico would also benefit from collaborating with nonprofit organizations on the ground so that it can better understand the needs of return migrants. Meanwhile, organizations such as COMAR should receive additional resources so that they can efficiently and fairly process and provide refuge to those seeking asylum. Finally, Mexico should work to demilitarize its southern border and build bridges with Central American countries in an effort to encourage meaningful change in the region.

The election of Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador, a left-populist candidate of the National Regeneration Movement, may also catalyze a change in the way Mexico approaches migration. President López Obrador has been vocal in his critique of Mexico’s security policies, anti-immigration efforts on Mexico’s southern border, and the United States’ involvement in shaping Mexico’s immigration policy. He recently urged the United States, Canada, and Mexico to jointly address the migration influx by investing in development in Northern Triangle countries, though the focus of his immigration policies remains unclear.

Conclusion

Migrants and returnees who seek opportunities, refuge, and safe passage should be met by policies and programs that support their well-being and promote stability. With looming uncertainties in U.S. immigration programs such as DACA, as well as continued instability in the Northern Triangle region, it is critical that the López Obrador administration makes immigration policy a priority. As the new administration settles into office, it should focus not only on reforming its current immigration policies but also on adopting policies that transform the landscape of immigration toward a more humane and orderly system.

Source: Migration Flows in Mexico Have Challenged the Country’s Immigration Policies

Canada border agent detentions of Mexicans surge to highest levels in a decade

While the removal of the visa requirement for Mexicans is the largest factor, the high number of detentions and asylum determination refusals suggest ongoing enforcement of entry regulations:

Detentions of Mexican nationals by Canadian border agents have surged dramatically this year to levels not seen in a decade, new figures obtained by The Canadian Press show.

According to Canada Border Services Agency, the total number of detentions from Jan. 1 into the first week of September hit 2,391 — roughly six times the 411 in all of last year — and equal to the previous five years combined.

“CBSA cannot speculate why the number has increased,” spokesman Barre Campbell said in an email Thursday. “The agency’s role is to apply Canadian law at the border.”

The sharp increase has contributed to a rise in the rate of detentions of all foreign nationals this year. Figures show agents detained 1,032 people each month this year, compared to 877 a month last year and 993 in 2015.

Experts point to two main factors as the most likely cause of the upswing in Mexicans running afoul of border agents in Canada.

Last December, the Liberal government under Prime Minister Justin Trudeau lifted a visa requirement for Mexicans coming to this country, making it easier to do so. The result was an immediate jump in detentions.

Additionally, the crackdown on undocumented migrants under U.S. President Donald Trump and his threat to remove deportation protections from those foreigners who entered the States illegally as children — the vast majority Mexicans — may also have prompted many of those affected to look north to Canada.

Scott Bardsley, spokesman for Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale, said on Thursday that Canada was working with Mexican officials to monitor migration trends and address any risks.

“Canadian officials have co-operated closely with Mexican counterparts to lay the ground work for the visa lift and ensure that appropriate safeguards are in place,” Bardsley said in an email. “These efforts include measures to identify and deter irregular migration, including bolstering co-operation on travel-document integrity and traveller screening.”

The last time the Mexican detention numbers were anywhere near current levels was in 2008, at 3,301, border agency numbers show. That year also saw the number of Mexicans seeking refugee status in Canada reach record levels.

In response to what they characterized as phoney refugee claims, the former government under then-Conservative prime minister Stephen Harper imposed an onerous visa requirement in 2009 that meant all would-be Mexican visitors had to provide numerous supporting documents.

“We are spending an enormous amount of money on bogus refugee claims,” Harper said at the time. “This is a problem with Canadian refugee law, which encourages bogus claims.”

Harper’s visa decision resulted in an immediate plunge in detentions and asylum claims that lasted until 2015, with a slight uptick happening last year. However, the requirement angered the Mexican government and civil-rights groups in Canada among others, ultimately leading to Trudeau’s reversal of that decision late last year.

Bardsley defended dropping the visa requirement as a boon to bilateral relations, trade, investment and tourism that he said will result in lasting economic benefits for Canada.

Recent Immigration and Refugee Board statistics also show a dramatic increase in asylum requests from Mexicans this year, although the vast majority of such applications are rejected as unfounded.

In 2016, for example, 242 Mexicans applied for refugee status. Almost three times as many — 660 — were recorded in the first seven months of this year alone. The board does not keep statistics of how many people came via the U.S. rather than from Mexico itself.

The law allows the border agents to detain foreign nationals or permanent residents on reasonable suspicion they pose a danger to the public, may go underground, or where identity is in doubt. The CBSA data relates to detentions not detainees and may include a person detained more than once.

Source: Canada border agent detentions of Mexicans surge to highest levels in a decade | Toronto Star

Canadian officials preparing for potential flood of Mexican migrants after Trump wins presidency – Politics – CBC News

Appropriate analysis and preparations, along with the note by Lorne Waldman of the need to see exactly what policies a Trump administration enacts (assume this kind of policy work is a focus across government these days):

The federal government is preparing for a potential surge in Mexican migrants coming to Canada after Donald Trump’s election victory, CBC News has learned.

Sources confirm high level meetings took place this week with officials at Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada and in other departments.

The news comes as Canada prepares to loosen rules for Mexicans to enter the country by lifting a visa requirement on Dec. 1. That restriction has been in place since 2009.

Talks on a plan to cope with a possible spike in asylum-seekers have been ongoing for some time, but were accelerated this week after Trump’s surprise win.

Trump campaigned on promises to build a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border and to swiftly deport undocumented workers and illegal residents.

Lawyer predicts ‘significant impact’

Toronto-based immigration lawyer Lorne Waldman expects an increase in refugee claims from Mexicans once the visa requirement is lifted. He also predicts a “significant impact” from Trump’s election.

“The government was very concerned about the potential for a large number of new claims coming from Mexico, and that’s why they hesitated for so long before announcing that they were going to remove the visa,” he said.

“And that announcement was made before anyone knew that Donald Trump, with his very different immigration policies from those of the current administration, won the election.”

But Waldman cautioned it’s too early to tell exactly how the situation may unfold, saying it will depend on whether Trump follows through on his campaign pledges.

Source: Canadian officials preparing for potential flood of Mexican migrants after Trump wins presidency – Politics – CBC News

Amid Brexit anxieties, Trudeau and Peña Nieto miss the mark [Mexican visa removal commentary]

Good commentary by Steven Murrens on the removal of the Mexican visa requirement:

Secondly, on the travel issue, Canada agreed to lift a visa requirement on Mexican visitors, starting on Dec. 1. It was imposed a few years ago by the previous Conservative government, in response to a spike in Mexicans applying for refugee status in Canada. But the Canadian government made a point of stressing today that, when the visa is dropped, Mexicans would have to apply for a new permit, called an Electronic Travel Authorization (ETA), before coming to Canada.

Steven Murrens, an immigration lawyer with the Vancouver firm Larlee Rosenberg, said the ETA is already proving an effective barrier against the sort of travellers the much-resented visa sought to discourage. The ETA will be required for travellers to Canada from all visa-exempt nations, except the U.S. That means Mexicans will be in the same category as, say, tourists from Europe and Japan, so they can hardly complain.

The online application for an ETA is much less onerous than applying for a visa. Still, Murrens says early experience suggests the ETA will be effective in weeding out problem travellers. “What we’re seeing, from people who are already starting to apply for it even though it’s not mandatory yet, is they do get refused for previous denials of entry to Canada, criminal issues, and…where people may have had previous issues in the United States,” he said.

In other words, on travel, Canada has found a less onerous system that still provides some additional screening. And, on trade, Mexico has finished a gradual process of phasing out trade restrictions. These are not headline-grabbing breakthroughs. They are the incremental signs of a normal international relationship, where friction is inevitable but doesn’t have to be permanently disruptive.

Source: Amid Brexit anxieties, Trudeau and Peña Nieto miss the mark

For the contrary perspective, former Conservative staffer Candice Malcolm, silent on the ETA requirement:

We attracted legions of human smuggling rings and known criminal networks, and spent billions of dollars propping up this charade.

We would get nearly 1,000 refugee claims per month from Mexico alone.

Hence why, in 2009, the Harper government brought in tougher laws and required people from Mexico to get a tourist visa before coming to Canada.

The policy worked. The number of asylum claims from Mexico fell sharply, and the Mexicans who did claim asylum in Canada were much more likely to be bona fide refugees.

But our Mexican counterparts didn’t like the visa. They found it embarrassing and inconvenient. And so, caving to international pressure, Trudeau announced this week he will remove the visa requirement for Mexican visitors.

When asked if the government had conducted a formal review of the Mexican visa policy, Immigration Minister John McCallum admitted it hadn’t.

Typically, Canadian rules only allow the government to lift a visa requirement for countries that make up less than 2% of the total refugee claims.

In 2008, the last year before we required a visa for Mexican travellers, Mexican visitors to Canada made up 26% of total asylum claims.

Scrapping Mexican visa a mistake