Mexican Consul Defends Country As Refugee Seekers Flock To Canada

Mexican consul defends country as refugee seekers flock to Canada

CanWest News Service
Published: Monday, September 24, 2007

WINDSOR – The consular agency of Mexico in Leamington, Ont. defended its country's reputation Sunday after several recently-arrived Mexicans blamed their homeland's corrupt government, powerful criminal gangs and economically poor conditions as grounds for being granted refugee status in Canada.

“We are a democratic country,” Mexican consul Alberto Acosta said Sunday of his homeland. “We have elections to elect all the authorities… We have laws, we have the constitution, we have all the laws every country has.”

But many of the 200-plus Mexicans who have been bleeding across Windsor's border by the busloads in recent weeks say they're migrating north to avoid deportation to their native land, which they consider inhospitable because of its criminal and corrupt elements.

Melina Ochoa, 28, who arrived in Windsor Monday with her 31-year-old husband Javier and three children, said she had lived in the United States for the past nine years after fleeing a life of destitute and danger in Mexico. As authorities in Florida, where the Ochoas lived until recently, started cracking down on illegal immigrants such as herself, Melina said the family couldn't risk being sent back because of the “insecurity and the violence, the kidnappings” in Mexico.

“There are a lot of kidnappings,” Ochoa said, sitting on the balcony of a Windsor motel with her family and a handful of other Mexicans all hoping to start a stable new life in Canada.

“What would you rather have?” Ochoa's husband Javier asked, “Safety or money?”

Mexico's government agent in Leamington, southeast of Windsor, said his fellow nationals can achieve both in their homeland. Mexico, Acosta said, with its population of over 100 million, is not any more or less dangerous or stable than any other Central or South American country with a large population.

He admitted there are problems with poverty in the country's more rural areas, driving many Mexicans to look for employment elsewhere.

“That doesn't mean the people are dying because they have no money and they have nothing to eat,” Acosta said. “It's not true. In Mexico, the people can eat, the people are not starving as in Africa.”

Acosta said there is nothing his office can do to help the recent arrivals – estimated to be about 220 to date and projected to grow to up to 7,000 – gain refugee status.

“The consulate is not going to intervene in any way,” Acosta said, explaining that claiming refugee status would be a matter between them and the Canadian government.