Poilievre Calls On Trudeau To Reimpose Visa Requirements On Mexico As Asylum Claims Soar | CBC News

Politics

Conservative Leader Pierre Poilievre is demanding that Prime Minister Justin Trudeau bring back a visa requirement for Mexican nationals as asylum claims from that country continue to multiply.

Public safety minister says government looking at range of options, including visas

Brennan MacDonald · CBC News

· Posted: Jan 24, 2024 1:56 PM EST | Last Updated: January 24

Conservative Leader Pierre Poilievre speaks to reporters in the foyer of the House of Commons on Parliament Hill in Ottawa on Monday, Nov. 6, 2023. (Sean Kilpatrick/The Canadian Press)Conservative Leader Pierre Poilievre is demanding that Prime Minister Justin Trudeau bring back a visa requirement for Mexican nationals as asylum claims from that country continue to multiply.

In 2016, the Liberal government lifted the visa requirement, which was imposed by the previous Conservative government. Instead, the government cleared Mexican nationals to visit Canada by simply acquiring a $7 electronic travel authorization.

Trudeau announced the termination of the visa requirement as part of a suite of new measures meant to reset Canada’s relationship with Mexico following a two-day state visit by then-Mexican president Enrique Peña Nieto.

“This move will make it easier for our Mexican friends to visit Canada, while growing our local economies and strengthening our communities,” Trudeau said in 2016.

Annual data published by the Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada (IRBC) now shows that asylum claims by Mexicans began climbing almost immediately after the visa requirement was lifted. In 2016, 250 such claims were referred to the IRBC. That number hit 17,490 in 2023.

“Conservatives are calling on the Trudeau Government to reintroduce the visa requirement in order to prevent further abuse of the asylum system, which strains resources that should be helping those with legitimate asylum claims,” Poilievre said in a media statement released Wednesday.

He said the removal of the visa requirement led to an increase in fraud and abuse of Canada’s asylum system, causing long processing delays for “legitimate asylum seekers.”

Last weekend, Public Safety Minister Dominic LeBlanc said in an interview with Rosemary Barton Live that the government is looking at options to address the uptick in asylum claims from Mexico, including reimposing visa requirements.

WATCH | Ottawa considers visa requirements for Mexican nationals:

Canada considers visa requirement for Mexican nationalsQuebec and the U.S. both want the Trudeau government to reverse changes that have made it easier for Mexicans to come to Canada, and the public safety minister says that option is on the table. However, some experts warn a visa restriction would only make seeking asylum riskier, rather than stopping people from coming.

“My colleague [Immigration Minister] Marc Miller and I have been discussing what’s the appropriate way to ensure that people who arrive from Mexico arrive for the appropriate reasons, and this doesn’t become a side door to get access to Canada,” LeBlanc told CBC News chief political correspondent Rosemary Barton.

The numbersThe previous Conservative government imposed the visa requirement on Mexican nationals in 2009 after asylum claims from Mexico nearly tripled between 2005 and 2008.

In 2016, just 250 asylum claims by Mexican nationals were referred to the IRBC. The visa requirement for Mexican nationals was officially lifted on Dec. 1 of that year.

In 2017, the number of asylum claims by Mexican nationals grew to 1,459. In 2018 that number rose to 3,157, and in 2019 it hit 5,634.

Asylum claims by Mexican nationals dropped to 2,088 in 2020 and 3,321 in 2021, coinciding with COVID-19 travel restrictions.

By 2022, the number of Mexican claims referred to the IRBC more than doubled, to 7,483.

The number of Mexican claims referred to the IRBC more than doubled again last year, to 17,490. Just 11 per cent of those claims were accepted and 16 per cent were rejected, abandoned or withdrawn. The vast majority of the claims are awaiting a decision.

The number of asylum claims by Mexican nationals reported as pending in 2023 stood at 22,975, up from 10,045 in 2022, which suggests a growing backlog.

Washington pushing Ottawa to crack downOttawa is also facing pressure from Washington to reimpose visa requirements on Mexico. 

Last April, U.S. Secretary of Homeland Security Alejandro Mayorkas visited Ottawa and confirmed in an interview with CBC News that the Biden administration had asked the Canadian government to consider restoring visa requirements for Mexican nationals.

“We talk about this issue and many issues that impact the migration of people,” said Mayorkas. “I think that’s a decision that the Canadian officials are going to make.”

WATCH | Security, humanitarian obligations cited in need to fight human smuggling:

Homeland Security head cites security, humanitarian obligations to fight human smugglingRosemary Barton Live’s Canadian exclusive with U.S. Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas discusses cross-border activity such as guns, drugs and migration.

The United States requires that Mexican nationals obtain visas before entering the country. American border officials have been reporting an increase in apprehensions of Mexicans entering the U.S. illegally from Canada.

The U.S.-Mexico border has long been the primary focus of the American immigration policy debate, but 2024 Republican presidential candidates have increasingly talked about security at the northern border.

Donald Trump described the Canada-U.S. border as “not so hot” this month and his sole remaining challenger for the Republican nomination, Nikki Haley, has said she will do whatever it takes to keep people out, including a “wall.”

CBC News reached out to Mexico’s embassy to Canada for reaction and is awaiting a response.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Brennan MacDonald is a producer for CBC’s national television program Power & Politics.

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