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Immigration Minister Silent on New Strategies to Address ‘Unprecedented Influx’ of Asylum Seekers

Immigration Minister Marc Miller is remaining tight-lipped on potential new immigration measures to combat “historic flows” of asylum seekers to Canada.

Speaking at a Feb. 7 House Citizenship and Immigration committee meeting, Mr. Miller responded to a question from Conservative MP Tom Kmiec on why the government has not reimposed visa requirements on Mexican nationals. The Trudeau government lifted the requirement for Mexican travellers in 2016 as part of a broader trade agreement.

“When it comes to asylum seekers, generally, we’re facing historic flows,” said Mr. Miller, adding that just because visa requirements haven’t been reintroduced “doesn’t mean that there hasn’t been action taken.”

“So, why haven’t you reimposed the visa requirement on Mexican nationals?” responded Mr. Kmiec.

“Again, it doesn’t mean that we are not taking steps necessary to change that reality,” said Mr. Miller. “But I’m not going to tell you in advance when it will occur. And I think as a responsible member of Parliament, you can appreciate precisely why.”

On Jan. 22, Mr. Miller called for stricter regulations to manage the rising number of asylum seekers from Mexico, acknowledging the presence of “bad actors” among these claimants.

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The minister’s statement aligns with ongoing diplomatic discussions between Canada and Mexico aimed at addressing the surge in asylum applications.

Despite acknowledging the economic advantages and Mexico’s significant role as a trade ally for Canada, Mr. Miller pointed out that the specifics of potential policy changes are being kept under wraps to prevent misuse of the system by those who would exploit it.

Statistics from Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada reveal a dramatic 2,000 percent surge in asylum applications from Mexico, escalating from 110 claims in 2015 prior to the Liberal government’s election to 23,995 by 2023. The past year alone has seen a 46 percent rise in asylum claims from Mexican citizens.

The significant increase is attributed to the 2016 policy change that abolished the visa requirement for Mexican travellers, simplifying the process for seeking asylum in Canada.

During the committee meeting, Mr. Kmiec brought up the percentage of accepted Mexican asylum claims at Canadian airports, referencing an Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada figure of 11 percent, meaning 89 percent are “rejected as false asylum claims.”

Mr. Miller rejected the accuracy of the statistics.

“That 11 percent that you are citing is erroneous; it is closer to 30; it would be very important to correct that record,” he said.

Mr. Kmiec persisted, citing a 2016 government news release that promised asylum numbers from Mexico would remain low despite the removal of the visa requirement.

“What were those prevention measures that were used between 2016 and 2024? Why haven’t they worked?” Mr. Kmiec asked.

Mr. Miller responded by referring to his cancellation in December of a policy put in place to “unblock a lot of the backlog” in processing temporary resident visa applications during the pandemic. He admitted the move was not directly related to Mexican asylum seekers.

Switching tacks, BQ MP Alexis Brunelle-Duceppe asked RCMP Chief Superintendent Richard Burchill, who also attended the meeting, if there was any connection between the removal of the visa requirements and the increased presence of Mexican cartels in Canada.

“I wouldn’t necessarily draw the correlation that any immigration patterns are responsible for organized crime per se,” Chief Supt. Burchill responded.

He said those fleeing to Canada are vulnerable individuals, and “organized criminals of all stripes, Mexican cartel included, will exploit that.”

The administration of U.S. President Joe Biden has issued alerts about the potential misuse of Canada’s visa exemption policy by human traffickers affiliated with Mexican cartels who are trying to enter the United States.

Meanwhile, the Mexican foreign ministry has emphasized the significance of retaining the economic advantages brought about by the simplified travel arrangements with Canada.

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