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