The mexican asylum conundrum
According to the article, hundreds of Mexicans have shown up in Windsor and at Toronto’s airport during the past two weeks. This sudden influx has been prompted by increased “sweeps” by U.S. immigration officals and local Florida law enforcement types, fueled by immigrant counselling centres:
Windsor officials, who scrambled to arrange a meeting Thursday in a community center for some of the new arrivals so they could apply for social services, said they were overwhelmed by the sudden onslaught and deeply worried about the days ahead.
Already, they have filled a shelter with 30 single men and are now paying four motels to house families, said Maj. Wilfred Harbin, administrator for the Salvation Army here. Meals were being delivered to the families by taxi cab.
“We have no idea what we are going to do,” said Major Harbin, who said he had heard that as many as 7,000 Mexicans might be seeking refugee status in the coming weeks.
If the U.S. Immigration authorities are truly doing a sweep, perhaps the post-9/11 security protocolls at the Detroit/Windsor bridge could also involve using the rear view mirror of the black Dept. of Homeland Security Suburbans. If you see a family walking across the bridge to Windsor, carrying their lives in green garbage bags, more then likely they are in the USA illegally. There’s sufficient reason to stop them and ask questions, before they get to the warmth of Windsor, provided of course that US officials are actually interested in keeping their illegal immigrants out of Canada.
Same goes for Florida airports. If one cannot get on a plane without a passport or government i.d., how can illegal Mexican’s board a plane and fly to Toronto? If they present a Mexican passport to the Homeland Security officials at the airport security check-in, perhaps that officer could read the document and look for whatever visa is required for a foreigner to be in the USA. Why let them get on a plane if your government is “doing sweeps”, trying to catch these people? They’re proving quite easy to find by the sounds of it, presenting themselves at U.S. border crossings and security counters.
To win refugee status from the Refugee and Immigration Board of Canada, immigrants must show “a well founded fear of persecution” linked to their race, religion, nationality or political background, said Charles Hawkins a spokesman for the board. Last year, 53 percent of Haitians who applied as refugees were admitted here. But even those who are rejected will not be returned to Haiti: the government has put a temporary freeze on deportations there, given Haiti’s turmoil.
No such moratorium exists for Mexico. Although Mexicans who have lived in the United States are permitted to seek asylum in Canada, they will be deported to Mexico if they are turned down.
Several lawyers said they were pessimistic about these immigrants’ odds of being granted asylum, a process that can take 6 months to 2 years. Even so, most of the Mexicans here said they were hopeful. They spent Thursday looking for apartments to move into, cleaning out cars, filling out paperwork.
“Maybe they’ll have compassion for us,” Manuel Gonzalez, 46, said of his request for asylum. “All we want to do is live and follow the rules and work hard.” Referring to the help Canadian authorities have already given them, Mr. Gonzalez, who traveled from Naples, said, “What we didn’t have in the United States we had here in a second.”
Placing cynicism aside, we all read about the inability of many small businesses to hire staff in urban centres. In Calgary, for example, basic labour at a Tim Hortons is earning $14-$15/hour plus benefits. In Toronto, each block of retail stores would have a sign or two (or three) for part-time or full-time staff. Particularly now that university students have returned to the books.
Advocates for immigrants issued urgent warnings to Mexicans pondering similar journeys, and expressed fury at groups that were encouraging them. In truth, refugee status for Mexican citizens is relatively unusual in Canada. Only 28 percent of such claims by Mexicans were approved in Canada last year, compared with 47 percent of claims from all nationalities.
If our unemployment rate is so low that these jobs cannot be filled, we have to ask ourselves why we wouldn’t want our newfound friends from Mexico to come to Canada. Naturally, the already overloaded urban social /welfare infrastructure is not well served by an additional 7,000 immigrants, particularly if they all show up in, say, Toronto. But if they want to work – as these people seemed to be doing in Florida before they were “encouraged” by local officials to try their luck in Canada or risk being caught up in a sweep – perhaps we should avoid putting them on OHIP and welfare and running them through individual refugee hearings, only to eventually send them home.
Talk about a bad investment of tax dollars.
Imagine the cost of each application: two years of welfare, OHIP, a crown-appointed lawyer to help them apply for refugee status, etc. Then there’s the cost of each refugee panel, which, according to the NYT stats, will decide three times out of four that the Mexican in question doesn’t have a meritorious claim for asylum. Then the federal government pays to fly them home to Mexico, while the $14/hour jobs on Bloor Street and 4th Avenue SW remain unfilled.
Perhaps we should let them stay, and do what the Americans refuse to do: grant them all asylum. Canada’s a rich country, and Canadians are a lucky bunch.
It won’t kill us to have them stay permanently and become prosperous members of our society.