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April 2017, Volume 23, Number 2

Canada, Mexico

Canada is a rarity: an industrial country that receives fewer immigrants than desired. Canada aims to accept 300,000 immigrants a year, and usually receives about 275,000.

Since 1967, Canada has used a point system to favor the admission of young immigrants with education and knowledge of French and/or English. So-called economic immigrants are almost 60 percent of all those admitted to Canada, that is, at least one member of the family passed the points test.

In 2015, the government revised the point system, increasing the maximum number of points to 1,200 and granting up to 600 points for having a Canadian job offer. The Express Entry system allows employers to select from the foreigners who are registered in a job bank. Foreigners who are not selected within a certain period must re-apply.

In 2015, among 272,000 immigrants, some 66,360 foreigners were selected as economic immigrants, including 36,300 who were in the top two priorities, fluent in English or French and with a college degree. Another 22,700 had construction or similar skills, and 2,200 were selected as laborers, often foreigners with specific language skills destined to work in remote areas. Most of those selected as economic immigrants were family members of the person who scored sufficient points.

More recently, the government reduced points for a Canadian job offer and increased points for foreign graduates of Canadian universities. Canada had 350,000 international students in 2015-16, and aims to have 500,000 by 2025.

Canadians generally accept high levels of immigration, but with foreign students now a quarter of all students at McGill, there are worries that they will crowd out Canadians. About half of Canada's foreign students are from China, often from affluent families aiming to secure a foothold in Canada, and the behavior of some such as racing expensive cars on city streets has raised concern.

Canada accepted 40,000 Syrian refugees between November 2015 and March 2017. Many were sponsored by private citizens. The government provides welfare support for 12 months, and about half of the Syrian refugees sponsored by private citizens found full- or part-time jobs after a year in Canada, a higher rate of employment than those without private sponsors.

Mexico. Mexican President Pena Nieto cancelled a scheduled meeting with President Trump on January 31, 2017 that had been planned to discuss trade, migration and security issues such as drugs and guns at the border.

Trump said that he would re-negotiate the North American Free Trade Agreement to slow the exodus of manufacturing jobs from the US to Mexico, which could threaten Mexico's booming auto industry. Mexico is the world's seventh largest producer of autos and the fourth leading exporter. About 80 percent of Mexican exports go to the US.

Mexico-US trade totaled $584 billion in 2016, and Mexico had a $60 billion trade surplus, including a $7 billion surplus in agricultural trade that reflects Mexico exporting high-value commodities such as fruits and vegetables to the US and the US exporting lower-value corn to Mexico, over 13 million metric tons of yellow corn and a million tons of white corn worth $2.6 billion in 2016. Mexico produced about four million tons of yellow corn and 22 million tons of white corn.

The spectrum of opinion on how Mexico should deal with Trump is framed by two extremes. Some Mexicans urge the Mexican government to defy Trump on the border wall and NAFTA re-negotiation; they want Pena Nieto to stand up for the rights of the 12 million Mexican-born US residents and the additional 18 million Americans of Mexican descent.

Others say that Mexico should engage with the US on all issues of mutual concern, including migration, in order to preserve jobs in auto and other Mexican industries that are integrated into the US supply chain. Mexican auto assembly workers earn $2 an hour, while Mexicans employed in border-area factories that make auto parts and other goods often earn 155 pesos a day or $1 an hour.

The US is concerned about Central Americans transiting Mexico en route to the US to apply for asylum; Mexico could help by policing its southern border. Mexico's Southern Border Program has since 2014 deterred entries from Guatemala, but an estimated 400,000 Central Americans a year are believed to enter Mexico en route to the US. In 2016, Mexico returned 143,000 Central Americans to their countries of origin; it is not clear how many attempted to re-cross the Guatemala-Mexico border.

Mexico has its own border-related concerns, including quick entry for legitimate travelers and goods while deterring the entry of drug money and guns. Mexico does not systematically check vehicles arriving from the US, and worries about guns flowing south: 70 percent of the guns seized in Mexico between 2009 and 2014, some 73,000, were from the US. The US Treasury estimates that drug trafficking is a $64 billion a year business in the US.

The Mexican government in February 2017 provided its 50 US consulates with $50 million to help them to defend Mexicans facing deportation from the US. Some migrant advocates want Mexicans facing deportation to fight their removal orders in the hope of clogging US immigration courts.

Trump's migration and trade policies are affecting Mexican elections in July 2018. The leftist Morena party led of Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, former mayor of Mexico City, is given a good chance of winning because of AMLO's strong anti-Trump stance. Morena is slightly ahead of the conservative PAN and governing PRI in polls. AMLO did not win the presidency in 2006 and 2012.

Mexico received $24.5 billion in remittances in 2015 and a record $27 billion in 2016, with over 95 percent from the US. Some 1.3 million Mexican households are "economically dependent on remittances" according to the Bank of Mexico.

Mexico began to transfer more money to its 32 states in the mid-1990s and $88 billion in 2016, and state-level corruption has risen. Many state governors have been charged with corruption, including Veracruz's Javier Duarte, who disappeared in October 2016 with $2.5 billion spent by his administration to buy, for example, 140 US properties. Corruption is believed to cost Mexico five to 10 percent of its GDP.

The US provided $300 million for Mexico to reform its legal code in ways that bolster human rights. However, a bill submitted by an ally of Pena Nieto in February 2017 would reverse many of the rights enshrined in 2008 reforms, including giving the military power to enforce laws. Violence is rising, approaching the peak levels of 2011 and encouraging a law-and-order approach to security. Mexico is often a leading voice for human rights in international forums, but Mexican police and the military often torture suspects at home with impunity.

There are an estimated 10 million indigenous people in Mexico, defined as those who speak an indigenous language or who live in a household with someone who does. Over 80 percent of the indigenous lived in households with below-poverty level incomes in 2006, compared with 40 percent of non-indigenous Mexicans, largely because the indigenous are concentrated in rural areas of poorer states and have lower levels of education.