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What are the hidden costs of the Mexican visa requirement?

There is no doubt the visa requirement imposed in July on Mexicannationals by Immigration Minister Jason Kenney will achieve its aim byreducing refugee claims from that country.

There is no doubt the visa requirement imposed in July on Mexican nationals by Immigration Minister Jason Kenney will achieve its aim by reducing refugee claims from that country.

The question is…at what cost?

In 1998, 1,160 Mexicans made refugee claims in Canada. By 2008, the number had increased dramatically to 8,110.

The Immigration and Refugee Board (IRB) estimates that in 2008-09 it will spend about $4,400 to decide each of the 17,000 refugee claims it will consider from all countries -- a total cost of $74.8 million.

In 2008, the IRB finalized 5,689 refugee claims from Mexico. Of these cases, only 678 were accepted, roughly 11 per cent. Accordingly, Canadians shelled out about $25 million to assess these cases. Admittedly, in many of these cases there were other costs to the Canadian taxpayer that were incurred as well, such as detention costs, removal costs, and social assistance.

In the 10-week period before the rule came into effect there were 1,287 Mexicans arriving to make refugee claims here. In the following 10 weeks there were only 35.

It is clear that, on one side of the ledger, Kenney saved Canadian taxpayers more than $25 million dollars.

But on the other side of the ledger, what will it cost Canadians in terms of tourism or trade dollars when fewer Mexicans arrive here because they were refused a visa, had no time to apply for one, or decided simply not to bother with us at all?

Mexico is one of Canada’s NAFTA partners and is Canada’s fifth largest export market. Canadian companies export $4-5 billion worth of goods to that country each year.

Mexicans, as a whole, especially those who have visited here before, are not happy about being denied free access to this country simply because some have chosen to seek asylum here. It is unclear how much this sentiment will end up costing Canadians.

In the meantime, Kenny is going to have to handle the political, fiscal and legal fallout of his decision.

Two cases in point.

In the first one, Jose Gonzalez-Salas, a Mexican supreme court judge, claims to have been refused a visa in July to travel to Canada with his wife and daughter. He was required to submit an employment letter confirming his position and wages. After doing so, he was refused a visa purportedly because of insufficient income. That decision has since been reversed but the bad taste it left still lingers.

In the second, far more tragic case, a Mexican woman and her two daughters were deported back to Mexico in late 2008 after the IRB rejected their refugee claims in Canada. They feared death at the hands of drug lords whom the woman’s husband had become entangled with. In June, one of the two daughters was found dead in Mexico after taking a bullet to the forehead. Last month the mother and the surviving daughter were allowed to return to Canada, but only after repaying the costs of their previous removal – about $3,400.

Undoubtedly, there will be additional political and financial costs to Kenney’s decision.

Undoubtedly, they will be hard to calculate.

– Guidy Mamann practices law in Toronto at Mamann, Sandaluk and is certified by the Law Society of Upper Canada as an immigration specialist. Reach him confidentially at 416-862-0000 or at metro@migrationlaw.com.

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