Is Canada in the midst of an influx of migration from Mexico?

After Canada relaxed travel restrictions in December, the number of visitors from Mexico has tripled. Some are asking whether that might have just as much to do with the United States as with Canada.

Several Canadian immigration lawyers, consultants, and activists told Reuters in recent days that their offices have seen a surge of requests for advice from Mexicans hoping to obtain a work permit there.

Marcela Gonzalez, an immigration paralegal in Toronto, said she once got about four phone inquiries a month from Mexican citizens there. 

“Now I get four in less than 10 minutes” from Mexicans asking about work authorization and permanent residency in Canada, she told the news service.

And dozens of would-be migrants in a Reynosa shelter who were deported from the United States said they now see Canada as their more viable option, in what might suggest at least a partial shift during President Trump’s first months in office.

“For those without documents, I think [the United States] is over. Now it’s Canada’s turn,” said Cenobio Rita, a deportee who spoke to Reuters.

It remains unclear how many of the 61,500 Electronic Travel Authorization (eTA) forms granted to Mexican citizens for short-term visits to Canada between December and late February were allotted to vacationers or other types of visitors, as opposed to people hoping to stay to work. That should become clearer in June, when the allotted visit period for many travelers begins to end.

Mexicans who hope to secure work authorization there, but lack skills in high-demand fields, may be disappointed, lawyers say, noting that without an employer’s sponsorship, authorization is hard to get for those visiting on a tourist visa. As The Christian Science Monitor’s Sara Miller Llana noted in January, the 250,000 immigrants accepted by Canada per year are mostly selected through a point system that favors young people with skills in high demand.

When undocumented foreigners have arrived unexpectedly in Canada like they do in Europe or the US across the Mexican border, they haven’t been welcome. In 2010 when a cargo ship carrying 492 Tamil asylum seekers docked, a majority of Canadians wanted the ship turned away, polls showed.

“There’s nothing unique about the Canadian psyche; human beings get quite upset when they feel their territorial space is being violated,” [Calgary political scientist and conservative strategist Tom] Flanagan says.

And though the government of Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has positioned itself as the antithesis of Mr. Trump on immigration, the elimination of the visa requirement for Mexicans was no historic reversal: The restriction imposed by Mr. Trudeau’s conservative predecessor, Stephen Harper, was a means of cutting down on the thousands of asylum claims filed by Mexicans there.

Even those granted eTAs may not ultimately be allowed to enter Canada, as immigration officials suspicious that a visitor may want to overstay can ask leading questions of would-be immigrants. And those convicted of crimes abroad are deemed inadmissible by authorities.

Official Canadian data obtained by Reuters showed that 313 Mexicans with eTAs were turned away when attempting to enter Canada in January – more than the annual totals in 2012, 2013, or 2014.

When asked whether Canada was seeing an uptick of migrants from Mexico, Camielle Edwards, a spokeswoman for Immigration and Refugee Minister Ahmed Hussen, told Reuters the ministry would “carefully monitor migration trends regarding Mexican travelers to Canada, including asylum claim rates.”

This report contains material by Reuters.

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