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Talk to a legitimate Mexican refugee and you’ll see: Canada is a friend

Martha Batiz is a Mexican-Canadian writer based in Toronto

Mexican political analyst Denise Dresser recently wrote that Canada's government "seems ready to throw embattled Mexicans under the bus just to appease Mr. Trump," and that when we "open the door to a Syrian," we have "just slammed it in the face of a Mexican." She expects Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to be the knight in shining armour defending us, poor Mexicans, from the angry monster in the White House.

But the truth is that the situation in Syria is different from that in Mexico. The Syrian refugees accepted into Canada have endured a long screening process. They haven't just travelled here saying that they're on vacation and then file bogus refugee claims. That's certainly what many Mexicans did in the past and are doing again.

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Syrian refugees are escaping a full-fledged war. Mexico's war against drugs is brutal, but the last time I checked, there's no Aleppo in Mexico yet. So we cannot compare the two. It's true that Mexico has dangerous places, but people are still free to move from one city to another in search of safety. There are still many places where a decent, hard-working person can start over. Thus, for most it's not imperative to flee the country.

Those Mexicans who have crossed the border into the United States have done so in search of jobs and a better life. Now that the situation there has become increasingly hostile, many are setting their sights on Canada. Applying for refugee status means that you cannot stay in your country because your life is under direct threat. Those people who have come here from Syria fit that description. Most Mexicans do not.

Canadian taxpayers foot the bill to help refugees. I couldn't be happier or more proud of this. Unfortunately, Mexicans have cried wolf too many times in Canada. Canadians are generous and trusting but, in my experience after 14 years, they do not tolerate deceit. Mexicans filing bogus refugee claims by the thousands have managed to harm their reputation, alarming screening officials.

Mexicans who deserve protection are accepted into Canada, as are so many other refugees. But for that to happen, they need to sincerely require protection. It horrifies me when I see pages on Facebook where Mexicans living in Canada advise their fellow countrymen to come "… illegally, whatever, who cares?" and say, "Everyone has a right to search for a better life." And they attack those who, like me, protest and say, "Don't do that; come legally."

Why do I feel this way? I categorically disagree with the idea of entitlement. You don't have a right to invent a story in order to be accepted into Canada. No one does. There are laws and there's a process, and those should be followed.

So, Ms. Dresser, I don't welcome your attack. Canada is still Mexico's friend and partner, and is not slamming its door in the face of Mexicans. Mr. Trudeau's approach with the new U.S. leader has been cautious, and that shows that his intention is to protect his own country's affairs. Mexican politicians should be doing the same for Mexico, instead of expecting the leader of a foreign nation to do it for them.

There's no question that the Trump presidency has created many challenges for Mexico, and that Mexico itself has a lot of violence: there are shallow mass-graves being discovered almost daily, and human rights abuses and corruption run rampant. But you know what? That is for us, as Mexicans, to address and fix. So how about we continue figuring out how to do that, while making sure those Mexicans who are persecuted and in danger can escape to safety by not flooding Canada with bogus claims. That way, no door will be slammed in any deserving person's face. And Ms. Dresser will be able to go back to doing what she does best: criticizing corrupt Mexican politicians.

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