Learning From Mexico's Immigration Policy
by Allan Wall 5/23/07
Almost everybody believes that the U.S.A. needs immigration reform. I’d like to propose that
we study immigration systems in other countries, to see
what we can learn from them.
It's arrogant to assume that we Americans have all
the answers, and that no other country can do anything better than we can.
Some of the biggest critics of our immigration policy are
Mexicans. So let's examine Mexico’s immigration policy and see what we
can learn from it.
We might even decide that Mexico has some approaches
to the issue that we could copy. Surely they wouldn’t
object to that.
Allan Wall recently returned from a tour of duty in Iraq. He currently resides in Mexico, where he has lived since 1991. He can be reached via e-mail at email@example.com [go to Wall index]
How can we summarize Mexican immigration/nationality policies? Here’s how: Mexico has an immigration system tailored to fit the interests of Mexico.
And what’s wrong with that?
The legal basis for Mexico’s immigration law is found
in the Ley General de Población [the
General Population Law]. PDF.
The cabinet-level department responsible for
immigration is the Secretaria de Gobernación,
loosely translated as the Interior Department.
According to Article 3, section VII of the General
Population Law, the responsibility of this department is
"Subject the immigration
of foreigners to the methods it deems relevant, and to
achieve the best assimilation of these [immigrants]
to the national environment and their adequate
distribution in [Mexican] territory." [Sujetar la inmigración de
extranjeros a las modalidades que juzgue pertinentes, y
procurar la mejor asimilación de éstos al medio nacional
y su adecuada distribución en el territorio.]
So the goals of Mexican immigration policy are assimilation and the distribution of immigrants throughout Mexican
Mexico has had immigrants from many countries, from
Latin America, Europe, Asia, the Middle East and even the U.S.A. And Mexico has done
a good job in assimilating these immigrants. Part of it
is because the immigration levels are so much lower than
in the U.S., and partly because the Mexican system does
indeed encourage assimilation.
According to Article 32 of the General Population
"The Interior Department
will establish, subject to the corresponding demographic
studies, the number of foreigners whose entrance to the
country may be permitted, whether by activities or zone
of residence, and will subject to the methods that it
deems relevant the immigration of foreigners, according
to their possibilities of contributing to the national
32.- La Secretaría de Gobernación fijará, previos los
estudios demográficos correspondientes, el número de
extranjeros cuya internación podrá permitirse al país,
ya sea por actividades o por zonas de residencia, y
sujetará a las modalidades que juzgue pertinentes, la
inmigración de extranjeros, según sean sus posibilidades
de contribuir al progreso nacional.]
So the Interior Department establishes immigration
quotas based on the demographic situation of the country, and wants
immigrants who will contribute to the development of the
Article 34 even explains what kinds of immigrants
Mexico is looking for:
"The Department of the
Interior may establish for the foreigners who enter
Mexico the conditions that it deems appropriate with
respect to the activities to which they will engage in
and the place or places of their residence. It will take
care thusly that the immigrants shall be useful elements
for the country and that they will have the necessary
income levels for their subsistence… and of the persons
who are under their economic dependence." [Artículo 34.- La
Secretaría de Gobernación podrá fijar a los extranjeros
que se internen en el país las condiciones que estime
convenientes respecto a las actividades a que habrán de
dedicarse y al lugar o lugares de su residencia. Cuidará
asimismo de que los inmigrantes sean elementos útiles
para el país y de que cuenten con los ingresos
necesarios para su subsistencia y en su caso, la de las
personas que estén bajo su dependencia económica.]
"Useful elements"?" Necessary income levels?" It sounds as though Mexico is being rather choosy.
Mexico wants immigrants who are (1) useful to Mexico and
(2) who have enough income to take care of themselves
and their families. How discriminatory!
OK, so what kinds of immigrants does Mexico not want? Well, that’s spelled out in the General Population
Law, Article 37. It states that
"The Department of the
Interior may deny to foreigners the entrance into the
country or a change in immigration status for any of the
(What if we did that? What if we
conditioned our immigration policy on how other
countries took in our people—starting with Mexico?)
"II. When the national demographic
equilibrium demands it."
(When it doesn’t upset Mexico’s demographic equilibrium).
"III. When the quotas referred to in
Article 32 of this law don’t permit it."
(See Article 32 above).
IV. "When it is considered harmful to the
economic interests of Mexicans."
(Shouldn’t we also limit
immigration if it’s harmful to the economic interests of ordinary Americans?)
(Mexico doesn’t want criminal
VI. When they have broken this [immigration]
law, its regulations or other applicable administrative
orders in the matter, or if they don’t comply with the
(What if we did that—instead of repeatedly amnestying illegals?)
And, just to make sure everything’s covered, Article
38 stipulates that
"The Department of the Interior is authorized to suspend or forbid the admission of foreigners, when
it is determined to be in the national interest."
That pretty much covers everything, does it not?
There are several myths and misunderstandings about
Mexican immigration policy.
Many Mexicans think that Mexico has no immigration
policy, that anybody can come into the country without
any kind of visa. I’ve been asked why the U.S. demands
visas and Mexico doesn’t! Reason: few Mexicans have any
contact with the Mexican immigration bureaucracy, the
Nacional de Migracion] and they’ve believed the
rhetoric of the Open Door Mexico.
Some Americans think Mexico has a lax immigration
system because it’s so easy for American tourists to enter Mexico.
Yes, it is easy. But the tourist only sees the tip of
the iceberg. Mexico has a whole range of immigration
options. The tourist visa is just the easiest level.
The system is carefully designed to keep out paupers, to discriminate between citizens and non-citizens, and
even to discriminate between native-born Mexicans and
Mexican immigration law recognizes several levels of
immigration status. The most temporary status is that of no-inmigrante, which includes, tourists,
transmigrants, visitors, religious workers, political asylees, refugees, students, distinguished visitors,
local visitors, provisional visitors and journalists.
All these individuals have the right to bring a spouse
or children. But they are responsible for them.
A more permanent status is that of "inmigrante," which includes rentistas (people with independent
means), investors, professionals, certain
administrators, scientists, technicians, artists,
athletes, spouses and parents of Mexicans, and family
members of such persons (once again, at the
responsibility of the head of family).
After 5 years of being an "inmigrante", one
may pass to the level of "inmigrado" which is
more permanent still.
There are restrictions on land ownership for
foreigners, as I have pointed out before. There are ways to get around
this, but when a foreigner buys or gets effective
control of Mexican property, he waives his rights to the
intervention of his country of citizenship in case of a
land dispute. And I have never seen the U.S. government
take any effective action to defend an American in Mexico in a land dispute.
As far as illegal immigration, the government of
Mexico detains and deports over a quarter of a million
illegals annually, most of them from Central American
countries, which are poorer than Mexico. All Mexican police are
required to enforce Mexican immigration law, and so does the Army, which
has already militarized the northern border. [Vdare.com note: Mexico's
northern border is, of course, American's southern border. Mexico has a southern border of its own, of course, and it faces
pressure from further south.]
Mexican immigration officials don't hesitate to use
racial profiling. In a previous article, I reported how
officials in the north of Mexico tried to deport Mexican Indians thinking they were Central
Americans. And, in a recent case, Mexican police
used tear gas to get some illegal aliens out of a trailer. What if our
immigration officials did that?
Not only that, according to Article 67, any Mexican
official who deals with a foreigner is responsible to
verify the foreigner’s legal status as part of the
transaction. The "sanctuary policy" practiced in so many U.S. cities would not get very far in
When Lilia and I were married, here in Mexico, I had
to ask permission of the Mexican government to marry her, and I had to prove I was here legally. Of
course, I love my wife and so it was worth it. But just
imagine, once again, what if the U.S. did that?
Legal foreigners living here in Mexico can pretty
much do anything we want. We’re free to travel
throughout Mexico to our heart’s content.
However, there are limits. It is strictly verboten for us to get mixed up in Mexican politics, even to
march in a protest demonstration.
The Mexican constitution has a particular and
well-known article which deals very clearly with the
status and expectations of non-Mexicans in Mexico. It’s
the famous Article 33:
Article 33—Foreigners are
those who do not possess the qualities determined in Article 30. They have the right to the guarantees of Chapter I of the first title of this Constitution,
but the Executive of the Union has the exclusive right
to expel from the national territory, immediately and
without necessity of judicial proceedings, all
foreigners whose stay it judges inconvenient. Foreigners
may not, in any manner, involve themselves in the
political affairs of the country.
Articulo 33. Son extranjeros los que no posean las calidades
determinadas en el articulo 30. Tienen derecho a las
garantias que otorga el capitulo i, titulo primero, de
la presente constitucion ; pero el ejecutivo de la union
tendra la facultad exclusiva de hacer abandonar el
territorio nacional, inmediatamente y sin necesidad de
juicio previo, a todo extranjero cuya permanencia juzgue
extranjeros no podran de ninguna manera inmiscuirse en
los asuntos politicos del pais.
Contrast that with the U.S.'s impossible deportation procedures, as chronicled by Juan Mann!
Article 43 of the General Law of Population (Ley
General de Población) states that:
"The admission to the
country of a foreigner obliges him to strictly comply with the conditions established for
him in the immigration permit and the dispositions
established by the respective laws."
Americans and other foreigners are regularly expelled
for overstepping these bounds. In 2002, 18 gringos were
expelled for participating in May Day marches. Later in the same
year, five American citizens were expelled for participating in a demonstration demanding the
release of some campesinos.
In contrast, the U.S. allows even illegal aliens to march openly in the streets
demanding their "rights."
Does the U.S. need an Article 33?
Mexico’s citizenship laws are spelled out in the
legal corpus known as the Ley de Nacionalidad. PDF
In order to become a citizen, the applicant must renounce his
home country citizenship, demonstrate that he speaks
Spanish, knows Mexican history and has assimilated to
note: A previous Mexican Government had a very bad experience with some Texans who failed to assimilate. Remember the Alamo?] And he must have lived in
Mexico for 5 years.
Certain classes of people, however, can get
citizenship in less than 5 years. For example, an
immigrant married to a Mexican, or parent of a Mexican
child, can get it in 2 years. An adoptee can get it in 1
And note this: Other preferences are based upon
ancestry or country of origin. An immigrant of Mexican
ancestry gets a preference and only has to wait two
years. Immigrants from Latin America or the Iberian
Peninsula (Spain and Portugal) only have to wait 2 years
All other things being equal, this would give an
immigrant from Spain a preference over an immigrant from
Germany, an immigrant from Argentina preference over an
American, and a Mexican-American would have preference
over an Anglo-American.
Hmmm! What would happen if the U.S. gave preference
to immigrants from the British Isles, Canada, and Australia? I imagine they’d call us racists. But
it's a fact: Mexico gives preference to persons of Mexican ancestry,
other Latin Americans and Spaniards.
In the U.S.A., a naturalized citizen can do almost
anything that a natural-born citizen can do, except be
president (and some people even want to change that).
But in Mexico, naturalized citizens are limited from
many positions government positions, which are spelled
out in the Mexican Constitution. A naturalized Mexican
citizen can never serve in the military during peacetime, can never be
a policeman, and can never be a pilot, captain or crew member on any vessel or
aircraft bearing a Mexican insignia. (Article 32) And a
naturalized Mexican can never be in charge of a port or airport.
A naturalized Mexican can never be president (Article
82), just as in the U.S. But he can also never be in the
Mexican Congress (unlike ours) (Articles 55 and 58), can
never be on the Supreme Court (article 95), and never be
a governor of a Mexican state (Article 116) nor serve in
the legislature or as mayor of Mexico City (Article 122)
The truth of the matter is, no matter how
well-assimilated a naturalized Mexican is, he will
always be a sort of second-class citizen.
And, while a natural-born Mexican can never be
stripped of his citizenship, a naturalized Mexican can
be (Constitution Article 37). A naturalized Mexican
citizen could lose his citizenship by acquiring another
nationality, working for a foreign government without permission,
accepting titles or decorations from a foreign
government or helping a foreigner or foreign nation in a
diplomatic dispute or before an international tribunal.
Hmmm again. In other words, the kind of thing a lot
of our Latino officials do all the time. But Mexican
law flatly prohibits that sort of thing.
If it’s good for the goose, isn’t it good for the gander.
Bottom line: although the Mexican elite constantly
attacks U.S. immigration policy, Mexico’s own system is
stricter, and explicitly focused on the interests of
There’s nothing wrong with that, it’s their country.
But our officials should not be intimidated one whit
when scolded by Mexicans about immigration.
In fact, we ought to turn the tables and ask Mexico
about its own immigration policy. And, frankly, we would
be wise to import many aspects of Mexican immigration
policy ourselves! CRO
This article was originally published at vdare.com
2007 Allan Wall