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Canada reimposes a visa requirement on Mexicans

ETHAN CAIRNS/THE CANADIAN PRESS VIA ASSOCIATED PRESS
                                Canada Prime Minister Justin Trudeau speaks during a news conference on housing in Vancouver, Canada, on Feb. 20.
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ETHAN CAIRNS/THE CANADIAN PRESS VIA ASSOCIATED PRESS

Canada Prime Minister Justin Trudeau speaks during a news conference on housing in Vancouver, Canada, on Feb. 20.

TORONTO >> Canada’s government is reimposing the visa requirements on Mexican nationals visiting Canada, the immigration minister announced today.

Quebec’s premier has been urging the Canadian government to slow the influx of immigrants, which he says has been straining resources. The U.S. government also urged Canada to take action as some Mexicans have been crossing illegally into the U.S. from Canada.

Immigration Minister Marc Miller said that the new rules take effect late today.

“We have seen exponential growth in asylum claims particularly from Mexican nationals in the last year,” Miller said.

Miller said Mexico accounted for 17% of all asylum claims received by Canada from around the world, and said most claims from Mexico are either rejected, withdrawn or abandoned, so a change was needed.

“Claims that don’t even have the prospect of success put a pressure on the system and put a pressure on the social supports that these people get,” he said. “It has ripple effects across the system.”

Miller said Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau raised this issue with Mexico’s president every time he spoke with him, and said not enough was being done to decrease the numbers.

Trudeau’s government lifted the visa requirement for Mexican visitors in late 2016, removing a major irritant in relations between the two countries.

But Immigration Department data show asylum claims from Mexico have spiked dramatically. In 2015, there were only 110 such claims, but the number jumped to nearly 24,000 last year.

The Quebec government has been calling on Ottawa to reimburse 1 billion Canadian dollars ($740 million) — the amount the province has said it has spent on a growing number of asylum-seekers.

Miller said that Canada’s relationship with the U.S. is also a factor.

“We have seen a number of claimants cross into the United States,” Miller said. “They are nothing compared to what the U.S. is facing with respect to their southern border.”

“But they are significant, and they have increased dramatically in the last year or two,” he said. “And that’s something we have to manage as a partner with the U.S.”

Previously, refugee service providers in Montreal have said that Mexican families are fleeing violence, insecurity and a lack of jobs in Mexico.

Canada only grants asylum to people it believes can’t safely live in any part of their home country, because officials are unable or unwilling to provide those conditions.

Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador expressed regret today for Canada’s decision to reimpose a visa requirement for Mexican citizens.

“They could have looked for other options,” he said during his daily media briefing. He assured that the measure wouldn’t lead Mexico to break off relations with Canada, and added that his administration would look for alternatives.

López Obrador said that he would send Trudeau “a small fraternal reproach,” but stressed the good relationship the two leaders had maintained.

Still, the president said it would be “very difficult” for him to attend the North American Leaders’ Summit scheduled for April in Quebec, because of the election campaigns going on in Mexico and the United States.

Mexico’s Foreign Affairs ministry said in a statement today that the government reserved the right of reciprocity.

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