Mexican Drug Cartels

Classification: Unclassified

Branch/Agency: CBSA


Recent media attention around members of drug cartels who have entered Canada since the visa requirement for Mexican travelers was waived.

Proposed Response:

If pressed:

If pressed on removals:

If pressed on fraudulent passports:


Mexican Organized Crime Members

Recent media articles in the Toronto Sun, La Presse, TVA Nouvelles and Le Journal de Montréal reported “400 criminals have recently entered Canada to traffic drugs.

CBSA conducted a thorough examination of its intelligence or report holdings and found nothing that suggested that there were 400 individuals in Canada with links to Mexican cartels. Its examination confirmed that 404 individuals were determined to be inadmissible to Canada for all types of criminality for the period of January 1, 2018 to May 27, 2019. The CBSA determined that a number of these cases were duplicate records, and the actual number of inadmissible cases was 238.

Of the 238, the following were inadmissible for:


The CBSA has the mandate to investigate, report, arrest and remove all foreign nationals and permanent residents who are inadmissible to Canada. 

A foreign national or a permanent resident may be inadmissible to Canada for a number of reasons, including criminality and organized crime grounds.

The Inland Enforcement Program of the CBSA will initiate an investigation when it becomes aware of a possible Immigration and Refugee Protection Act (IRPA) violation and will take appropriate enforcement action based on a prioritization framework, which ensures that cases involving the highest degree of risk are actioned and that persons whose removal may be imminent are not delayed. If the evidence gathered supports the inadmissibility, the CBSA will prepare a report setting out the relevant facts.

Depending on the type of inadmissibility and the status of the person in question, inadmissibility reports are reviewed by either a CBSA Minister's Delegate or the Immigration Refugee Board (IRB), an independent decision-maker.

Immigration databases do not track foreign nationals based on membership to a specific criminal organization, however, the CBSA can provide some details on enforcement actions in relation to Mexican nationals, criminality and organized crime in general.

On Fraudulent Passports

In total, 18 inadmissible individuals attempted to enter Canada using fraudulent Mexican documents.  With respect to organized crime members, as noted above, two individuals presented fraudulent Mexican documents at the POE, and had their passport seized.

CBSA Intelligence and Enforcement Branch indicates that the Mexican passport is a sought after document by organized crime members and criminal actors from other countries. The CBSA has developed strategies to respond, namely in the areas of early identification, effective targeting, intelligence and support to ports of entry. CBSA Liaison Officers work with airlines and local authorities to identify document fraud and abuse, ensure travelers are properly documented, and intercept those who are not. Since December 1, 2016, the CBSA intercepted over 7,400 Mexican nationals for being improperly documented, or for suspected fraud of travel documents.

On the Mexico Visa Lift

In 2009, Canada imposed a visa requirement on Mexico, which led to a 97% decrease in refugee claims from Mexico (9,500 claims in 2008 to 300 refugee claims in 2012). While successful in its intended goal of reducing refugee claims, the visa had become a major bilateral irritant as Mexico is Canada’s third largest trading partner, with more than 1,000 Canadian companies operating in Mexico (e.g. automotive, aerospace, agriculture).

To alleviate the bilateral irritant, the visa requirement on Mexico was lifted on December 1, 2016, with conditions that would need to be met prior to the visa lift. The conditions included ongoing airside access to airports in Mexico from which international flights (commercial, private, or chartered) operate to and from Canada, enhanced accountability for fraudulent intercepted passports, a service standard for providing documents for removals, launch of traveller awareness activities and established milestones and deliverables for re-invigorating the High Level Dialogue on Mobility.


Travelers Branch:

Prepared by:  Alyssa Herage, Director, Traveller Programs, 613-954-6319

Approved by:  Denis R. Vinette, Vice-President, Travellers Branch, 613-952-5269

Intelligence and Enforcement Branch:

Prepared by: Christian Lorenz, Intelligence and Enforcement Branch, 902-499-0836

Approved by: Jacques Cloutier, Vice-President, Intelligence and Enforcement Branch, 613-948-4111

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