LOVE THY NEIGHBOR, EXCEPT IF HE IS MEXICAN.
Forced to flee their native country to escape rampant corruption, extortion and violence, Mexican immigrants find little solace at the doorstep of their North American counterparts.
Constant news images of beheadings and mass graves from Mexico gruesomely depict the deadly effects of unrestrained crime and corruption. The U.S. Department of State reports that a number of factors have led to Mexico’s high rate of crime such as low apprehension rates, the lack of training and funding for police forces, an inefficient judicial system, well-equipped criminal organizations and police collusion with organized crime.1 For many Mexican people looking to escape these dangerous circumstances, their only way out is often to seek asylum in the United States and Canada. Yet, in the past couple of years, the United States and Canada have lowered their acceptance rates of Mexican asylum applicants, in addition to taking proactive measures to restrict the ability of Mexican nationals to apply for asylum in their respective countries.
Violence in Mexico is so pervasive that my own friends and family in Mexico have been victims of death threats and extortions. Recently my aunt returned from Mexico and recounted how her niece was kidnapped and mutilated by the cartels. It appears that the criminals had kidnapped the girl because she was driving a new truck and they surmised that her family would be able to pay her ransom; the assailants collected the ransom money and mercilessly left the girl in pieces on the side of the road. Unfortunately, for many Mexican nationals, their stories are similar or worse.
Yet, while thousands are forced to flee their native country to escape rampant corruption, extortion and violence, Mexican immigrants find little solace at the doorsteps of their North American counterparts. During the 2010 fiscal year, the U.S. immigration courts received more than 3,000 defensive asylum applications but only 49 cases were granted.2 Moreover, of the thousands of Mexican immigrants who claimed fear of persecution at the border, only 149 asylum claims were affirmatively granted during the same year.3 A retired immigration judge explained that part of the problem in granting asylum to Mexican immigrants is that there is a disagreement among the courts on whether those who flee persecution from drug cartels should be eligible for asylum.4 I think it is clear that Mexican immigrants fleeing violent drug cartels should be granted asylum given the widespread inefficacy of the Mexican government in curbing the violence and in many instances, it is government officials who facilitate the criminals’ stronghold throughout the country.
Canada and the United States have chosen to implement stricter immigration policies rather than to offer a solution to the dangerous circumstances many Mexican immigrants are facing. Internationally, Canada and the United States are major proponents of human rights and democracy but at home, they ignore their neighbor’s problems that in many ways they helped create.
1 U.S. Department of State, Mexico Country Specific Information, (Feb. 23, 2011), http://travel.state.gov/travel/cis_pa_tw/cis/cis_970.html#country
2 U.S. Department of Homeland Security, 2010 Yearbook of Immigration Statistics, OFFICE OF IMMIGRATION STATISTICS, (Aug. 2011), http://www.dhs.gov/xlibrary/assets/statistics/yearbook/2010/ois_yb_2010.pdf.
4 Raisa Camargo, Mexico’s Drug War Refugees Rarely Secure Asylum In United States, LATIN AMERICA NEWS DISPATCH (Aug. 25, 2011, 1:34 PM), http://latindispatch.com/2011/08/25/mexicos-drug-war-refugees-rarely-secure-asylum-in-united-states/
5 GOVERNMENT OF CANADA, Visas and Immigration (April 14, 2011), http://www.canadainternational.gc.ca/mexico-mexique/visas/index.aspx?lang=eng&menu_id=5
6 Cambell Clark, Mexico’s Calderon will have a tough fight getting rid of visas, THE GLOBE AND MAIL (May 26, 2010), http://www.theglobeandmail.com/news/politics/mexicos-calderon-will-have-a-tough-fight-getting-rid-of-visas/article1582231/
7 Isabelle Zehnder, Mexico drug wars: Victims seek asylum in Canada; no warm reception, INTERNATIONAL HEADLINES EXAMINER (May 3, 2010), http://www.examiner.com/international-headlines-in-national/mexico-drug-wars-victims-seek-asylum-canada-no-warm-reception-slideshow-warning-graphic