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Families could be collateral damage from new visa rules for Mexican nationals, relatives say | Radio-Canada News

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After putting his eldest son to bed on Wednesday evening, Sebastian Ibarra walked into the living room of his home in the North Okanagan district of British Columbia and saw a message from his wife asking him if he had seen the news.

He did a quick search online and learned that the federal government was reimposing some visa requirements for visiting Mexican nationals to reduce the number of asylum claims in Canada and stem the flow of people crossing the border into United States.

Surprised, Ibarra said he was thinking about his parents and brother, who are supposed to visit him from Mexico this summer.

“I was disappointed,” he said. “The system (is) trying to find a scapegoat rather than finding a permanent, long-term solution to this problem.”

Ibarra is among those whose loved ones are affected by Ottawa’s new rules, which take effect Thursday at 11:30 p.m. ET.

Several people who spoke to CBC News said they understand the need to improve the country’s immigration system, but they believe changes introduced this week could turn visitors, tourists and separated families into collateral damage.

WATCH | How Canada’s new visa requirements affect Mexican nationals:

What the new Canadian visa requirements mean for Mexican nationals

While CBC Radio-Canada journalist Louis Blouin described Canada’s new visa requirements for Mexican nationals as a “half-measure” that doesn’t go as far as the Stephen Harper government’s policies that have been invalidated by the liberals in power, Blouin asserts that these measures could create a tense diplomatic situation with Mexico.

Ibarra, then 19, arrived in Winnipeg from Mexico in 2006. He completed his undergraduate studies at the University of Manitoba and his master’s degree in British Columbia before accepting a job on the Island -of Prince Edward. In 2021, he and his wife returned West so that their sons – Xavi, 5, and Niko, 2 – could be closer to their maternal grandparents.

Now in his 30s, Ibarra said he is very familiar with the country’s immigration system. He went through several visa renewals, work permits and permanent residency applications before becoming a Canadian citizen 2 and a half years ago.

Two men, brothers, sit together at a table outside and smile for a photo.
Ibarra, left, is pictured with his brother, Antonio Ibarra Jimenez. (Submitted by Sebastian Ibarra)

Her parents are 70 years old and her brother is a graduate student with a 1-year-old child. Ibarra said he can’t see them taking the time to apply for a visa and pay the fee just for a summer visit.

“I think maybe spending time with my family this summer will definitely be affected by this,” he said Thursday in a telephone interview.

“And I recognize that I am a privileged person who is looking to spend free time with my family, hoping to invite them over and spend time with us,” he said. “There are other people who may not have seen their families in a long time due to financial constraints, (like) international students here in Canada who may be looking forward to spending the summer with their parents in Mexico.”

On Thursday, Immigration Minister Marc Miller said Ottawa would reinstate visa requirements for travelers from Mexico to reduce the number of asylum claims and the number of people crossing the border from Canada to United States.

More than 25,000 Mexicans sought asylum in Canada last year, making Mexico the largest source of asylum applications. according to statistics from the Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada. There are currently more than 28,000 backlogged applications from Mexico filed with the Commission.

The American government has asked Ottawa to reinstate the visa requirement. Conservative Leader Pierre Poilievre and Quebec Premier François Legault had also urged Ottawa to reduce the number of asylum applications.

WATCH | Mexican visa policy could violate refugees’ rights, advocate says:

Canada’s new visa policy for Mexico threatens refugee rights, advocate says

Luisa Ortiz-Garza, organizer with the Migrant Workers Alliance for Change, says Canada is failing to meet its obligations as a signatory to several refugee conventions by imposing new visa requirements for Mexican nationals. “People fleeing persecution and (seeking) asylum should be able to come here and claim that protection,” says Ortiz-Garza, who lived in Canada for more than a decade without papers before obtaining permanent residency.

Alberto Garcya, a Mexican national with a Canadian work permit, said he can understand the reason behind the rule change, but he worries the requirement will impact visitors and tourists who don’t have intend to stay in the country long term.

“I think there’s a lot of collateral damage, and that’s what’s sad or negative,” said Garcya, whose parents in Mexico will now have to apply for visas to come visit him and his daughter.

Diana Castillo, a Canadian citizen, said she thinks the government made the right decision in ensuring that people who intend to stay permanently follow the rules, as she had to do when she emigrated from Mexico.

“We know what it’s like to wait and have to follow the protocol and the rules and have everything to get permanent residency and then citizenship. So it’s a long process, but everyone should try to follow it ” Castillo said. in an interview from Vancouver International Airport on Thursday.

“It’s still a little sad because it will put restrictions on people who come to visit us just for the holidays, but I think it’s a necessary step to take.”

Ibarra said he believed Canada had bowed to political pressure coming from the United States during a presidential election year.

“There may be pressure from the rank and file of some parties to take a tougher stance on some of these issues that have unfortunately become too political and too hot-button,” he said.

“It’s an old saying: when the United States sneezes, Canada catches a cold.”

40% of people coming from Mexico will need a visa

According to the federal government, about 60 percent of people coming from Mexico will not need a visa under the new rules.

Mexican citizens traveling to Canada can apply for an electronic travel authorization if they have held a Canadian visa within the last decade or have a valid U.S. visa.

Any electronic travel authorization issued before Thursday evening is invalid unless the person also has a valid Canadian work or study permit.

Individuals traveling to Canada without a work or study permit must reapply for authorization or apply for a visitor visa.

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