Illegal immigration to Mexico

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Illegal immigration in Mexico has been a problem, especially since the 1970s. Although the number of deportations is declining with 61,034 registered cases in 2011, the Mexican government documented over 2 unauthorized border crossings in 2004 and 2005.[citation needed] The largest source of illegal immigrants in Mexico is the impoverished Central American countries of Guatemala, Honduras, and El Salvador bordering Mexico to the southeast.

Migration Law of 2011

Prior to May 2011, Mexico's immigration policy was regulated by the highly strict General Law of Population of 1970, which had been portrayed in hypocritical light when compared to immigration policies as in the US states of Arizona or Alabama. However, on May 24, 2011, President Felipe Calderón signed the new and much more liberal Migration Law into law. The Mexican Senate and the House had unanimously approved the migration bill on February 24 and April 29, respectively. Some of the most significant principles in this new law included new rights for migrants. The new law guarantees that foreigners and Mexican nationals will receive equal treatment under Mexican law and decriminalizes undocumented immigration, reducing it to an administrative infraction, punishable with a fine of up to 100 days' worth of minimum wage.[1] Under this equality principle all immigrants, regardless of status, nationality, or ethnicity, are granted the right to education and healthcare and are entitled to due process. Elements aimed at promoting family unity were also added. Moreover, before the government takes action (e.g. deportation) with respect to migrant children and other vulnerable individuals (women, seniors, the handicapped and victims of crime), their specific needs must be prioritized and adequate services must be provided. Migrants are also granted judicial rights that they were previously denied, such as the right to due process. In addition, the law also calls for establishing a Center for Trust Evaluation and Control which will be charged with the task of training and certifying immigration personnel in hopes of curtailing corrupt practices. All Institute of Migration officials are to meet the same standards as the rest of the country's security agencies. Government officials found to be violating the law are now subject to penalties, including fines and imprisonment.

General Law of Population

With the Mexican government’s intent to control migration flows and attract foreigners who can contribute to economic development, the new migration law simplifies foreigners’ entrance and residence requirements. First, it replaces the two large immigration categories (immigrant and non-immigrant) with the categories of “visitor” and “temporary resident". The status of “permanent resident” is maintained. In the General Law of Population the two categories incorporate over 30 different types of foreigners—i.e. distinguished visitor, religious minister, etc.—each with its own stipulations and requirements to qualify for entry and stay. Under the new law the requirements are simplified, basically differentiating those foreigners who are allowed to work and those who are not. The law also expedites the permanent resident application process for retirees and other foreigners. For granting permanent residency, the law proposes using a point system based on factors such as level of education, employment experience, and scientific and technological knowledge.[2] The specifics for the points system were established in the Law's regulations—Articles 124 to 127 of the Regulations—published on the 28th of September 2012. According to Article 81 of the Law and Article 70 of the regulations to the law, immigration officials are the only ones that can conduct immigration procedures although the Federal Police may assist but only under the request and guidance of the Institute of Migration. Verification procedures cannot be conducted in migrant shelters run by civil society organizations or by individuals that engage in providing humanitarian assistance to immigrants.[3][4]

Mexican Texas

In the 1820s, many people from the Northern and Eastern United States entered Mexico illegally. Mexican Texas, then bordered by the U.S. states Louisiana and Arkansas, had the most settlement by American illegal immigrants. At the time, Mexican law prohibited Anglo Americans from immigrating. Mexican Texas had a population of 3,000 illegal immigrants by 1823; most of those immigrants were from the Southern United States or Appalachia. By 1825, Mexico and the Coahuila y Tejas territory legalized immigration under the condition that settlers convert to Roman Catholicism and not own slaves. However, as the settler population expanded to 7,000 and did not assimilate with Mexican culture, Mexico banned American immigration again in 1830. However, by 1835, American immigration increased to 1,000 per month. Texas became independent from Mexico in 1836.[5]

Foreign relations

In October 2004, the Hechos newscast of TV Azteca reported that the National Institute of Migration (INM) in Mexico raided strip clubs and deport foreigners who worked in such clubs without the proper documentations.[6] In 2004, the INM deported 188,000 people at a cost of US$10 million [7]


Illegal immigration of Cubans through Cancún tripled from 2004 to 2006.[8]

United States

The Mexican government has been accused of hypocrisy in terms of illegal immigration, criticizing the United States government for its treatment of illegal immigrants whilst their laws are considered harder in comparison.[9][10][11][12]


In 2006, Joseph Contreras profiled the issue of Guatemalan immigrants illegally entering Mexico for Newsweek magazine and pointed out that while Mexican president Vicente Fox demanded that the United States grant legal residency to millions of undocumented Mexican immigrants, Mexico had only granted legal status to 15,000 undocumented immigrants. Additionally, Contreras found that at coffee farms in the Mexican state Chiapas, "40,000 Guatemalan field hands endure backbreaking jobs and squalid living conditions to earn roughly [US]$3.50 a day" and that some farmers "even deduct the cost of room and board from that amount."[13] The Mexican National Institute of Migration estimated that 400,235 people crossed the Guatemala–Mexico border illegally every year and that around 150,000 of them intended to enter the United States.[14] The illegal immigration from Mexico's southern neighbors is proving to be a headache for both Mexico and the United States, which has seen an increase in illegal immigration from Central America while Mexican migration has fallen to about net zero. Most Central Americans in Mexico and the United States hail from Honduras, El Salvador, and Guatemala, with a small number from Nicaragua.


In recent years, many Asians from the far east have entered Mexico whether legally or illegally. Between 1995 and 2001 over 3,000 immigrants of Asian origin particularly Chinese, Korean and Filipino. Less than 30% entered Mexico on student or work visas. Those who settled and remained illegal would often end up working in factories and doing odd jobs only to make less income than the average Mexican national. By 2007-08, the number of Asian immigrants in Mexico had increased by that of 7,000 to 9,000.

See also


  1. "Se despenaliza en México inmigración indocumentada". La Jornada de Morelos (in Spanish). Archived from the original on May 25, 2010. 
  2. Gonzalez-Murphy, Laura. "Protecting Immigrant Rights in Mexico: Understanding the State-Civil Society Nexus," Routledge, New York, Forthcoming 2013
  3. "Ley de Migración, DOF 25-05-2011" (PDF) (in español). Retrieved 2013-11-27. 
  4. "Migratory Act : May 25, 2011" (PDF). Retrieved 2013-11-27. 
  5. Woodard, Colin. American Nations: A History of the Eleven Rival Regional Cultures of North America. New York City: Penguin, 2011. ISBN 1101544457. pp. 209-211.
  6. Alcocer, Sandra (October 13, 2004). "Las entrañas de los "table dance"". Hechos (in Spanish). TV Azteca. Archived from the original on December 2, 2006. 
  7. "Version de la conferencia de prensa de la comisionada del Instituto Nacional de Migración, Magdalena Carral, el dia de hoy en la auditorio del INM". National Institute of Migration (Mexico). February 10, 2004. Archived from the original on June 12, 2007. 
  8. Veledíaz, Juan (March 30, 2007). "Se dispara migración de cubanos vía Cancún". El Universal (in Spanish). Mexico City. Retrieved April 28, 2012. 
  9. Seper, Jerry (March 24, 2005). "Mexico accused of abusing its illegals". Washington Times. Archived from the original on December 31, 2006. 
  10. Seper, Jerry (May 3, 2010). "Mexico’s illegals laws tougher than Arizona’s". Washington Times. Retrieved April 1, 2012. 
  11. Hawley, Chris (May 25, 2010). "Activists blast Mexico's immigration law". USA Today. Retrieved April 24, 2012. 
  12. Waller, J. Michael, Mexico's glass house (PDF), Center for Security Policy, archived from the original (PDF) on December 6, 2006 
  13. Contreras, Joseph (June 5, 2006), "Stepping Over the Line", Newsweek, 147 (23), p. 72 
  14. Gorney, Cynthia (February 2008), "Mexico's Other Border", National Geographic, 213 (2), pp. 60–79