Canada becomes the ‘American dream’ for refugees from Mexico

Illustration: Science Photo Library via Getty
Illustration: Science Photo Library via Getty

Though farther away and often much colder, Canada has replaced the U.S. as the “true American dream” for many Mexicans.

Taking advantage of Canada’s suspension of visa requirements, an average of 40,000 migrants arrive monthly, double 2016 levels, according to Statistics Canada.

Canada is the country where most Mexicans reside abroad after the United States, with an official figure that exceeds 100,000. But the trend is rising.

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More than 25,000 day laborers and 20,000 students, in addition to tourists, came to Canada in 2018. In all, 13.4 percent more Mexicans crossed the border than the previous year, according to official figures.

Violence has continued in parts of Mexico. Meanwhile, a more liberal government has taken hold in Canada, where visa requirements were replaced by the simpler Electronic Travel Authorization.

That is contrast with the U.S., where the president ran for office stoking resentment over Mexican immigrants, and continues to push for border walls and tougher asylum policies.

Liduvina Castillo won refugee status in Canada three months ago after arriving in 2017 to flee threats in Mexico City.

“I came to Canada with my daughter because my husband was killed by policemen in an assault and I had to go on a hunger strike demanding justice. Finally, they imprisoned them, but they began to threaten and assault us by saying that it was a ‘gift from the South’, in reference to the South Prison,” said Castillo, who along with her 12-year-old daughter today walks freely and safely through the streets of Toronto.

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At some point she thought about emigrating to the United States, but was denied a visa twice. So with the help of a church in Cancun where she had arrived on the run, she bought two plane tickets to Canada. When she left the Toronto airport, she sat on a public bench with her daughter without knowing where to go. A Canadian Uber driver gave them accommodation and after learning their history put them in touch with a refugee center.

Castillo misses Mexico, but her eighth-grade daughter Amarachi is adjusting and says, “I feel safe and I can go out with my friends.”

Another Mexican woman from the interior of the country, identified only as Soledad, also fled to Canada after a family member was “disappeared.”

“I was very afraid. I could not talk about this,” she said, explaining that she began the refugee process as a victim of organized crime. “I no longer had life. I dreamed that they would go to my house and they wanted to kill me, but when I arrived in Canada I felt like when the sea opened to Moses, very safe and free; it was a miracle to enter this country.”

Francisco Rico, coordinator of the FCJ Refugee Center, said that for many Mexicans the United States may still be the long-awaited American dream, but Canada has become its “Plan B” in the face of obstacles to emigrating to the former. 

“We have seen an increase in Mexican migration to Canada,” said Rico. “We have also seen an increase in Mexicans without a work permit.”

The refugee acceptance rate is at 23 percent, he said.

Source: El Universal 

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