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  • Mexico’s Immigration Laws: The Untold Story

    There is no shortage of criticism of our immigration laws from detractors who contend that they are unjust and immoral. And though criticism of U.S. immigration laws can be fierce – particularly in the case of Arizona’s SB 1070, the Support our Law Enforcement and Safe Neighborhood Acts – Mexico’s much harsher immigration laws rarely get noticed.

    Upon Arizona’s passage of SB 1070,  critics attacked the law with claims of racial profiling. Among the opponents were the open border lobby, including the Mexican American Legal Defense Fund (MALDEF), other liberal interest groups, President Obama and Attorney General Eric Holder.  In addition to critics here at home, the bill also found an enemy in Mexican President Felipe Calderon.  He famously lectured our country in his address to Congress in 2010, declaring that the law “ignores a reality that cannot be erased by decree” and “[that it] introduces a terrible idea using racial profiling as a basis for law enforcement,” he said to cheers from some in the House chamber.

    The speech and Calderon’s remarks received considerable media attention, particularly from a largely sympathetic Hispanic media. But receiving far less scrutiny was how President Calderon and his country are dealing with illegal immigration.  Upon closer examination, Arizona’s SB 1070 looks like amnesty compared to Mexican law.

    The Law Library of Congress released a report in April 2006 titled, Immigration Law Sanctions and Enforcement in Selected Foreign Countries: Brazil, Egypt, Japan, Mexico, Sweden, and Switzerland. The report observed how Mexican law considers “[i]legal entry a federal crime … penalized with imprisonment for up to two years, a fine from three hundred to five thousand Mexican Pesos, and deportation.” Repeat offenders receive even harsher sanctions of 10-year imprisonment and a fine of up to five thousand pesos and deportation.

    Although Mexico recently reformed the Ley General de Población (General Law of the People) in January 2011, our neighbors to the south continue the policy of maintaining fines at the current level of five thousand pesos, or $418.10 in March 2011, for those who don’t follow deportation orders (Chapter 8, Article 117).

    Among the other findings of the Library of Congress, through its “enforcing arm, the National Institute of Migration –INAMI” (the equivalent of ICE here in the USA), the Mexican Police Force, may carry out the following:” (Chapter 10, Article 151)

    • Perform verification visits
    • Cause a foreigner to appear before immigration authorities
    • Receive and present complaints and testimony
    • Perform migration inspection operations on routes or at temporary points different from established inspection locations
    • Obtain such other elements of proof as may be necessary for the application of the Act, its regulation, and additional administrative provisions

    Lastly, “the authorities of the country, whether federal, local, or municipal, and the notaries public and commercial brokers are required to request that the foreigners whom they deal with prove their legal presence in the country” and illegal immigrants who wish to get married to Mexican citizens “must request authorization from the Secretariat of the Interior.”

    In contrast, let’s look at the far less complicated17-page Arizona legislation that caused so much uproar last year, even though it’s clear that many of the fiercest critics neglected to read it. Law enforcement officials can only check on the immigration status of an individual after a lawful stop, detention, or arrest for “any other law or ordinance of a county, city or town or this state.”  And they can only check on the immigration status if they have a “reasonable suspicion” that the individual is an alien and is unlawfully present in the United States.  Further, the Arizona law specifically prohibits racial profiling – race and ethnicity cannot be considered by law enforcement officials.  The Arizona law also states that:

    • “Except as provided by federal law, officials…may not be prohibited or … restricted…for the following purposes”: (8.F)
      • Confirming the identity of any person who is detained (8.F.3)
        • If the person is an alien, determine whether the person is in compliance with the federal registration laws prescribed by Title II, Chapter 7 of the Federal Immigration and Nationality Act. (8.F.4)
      • Transport any convicted alien who has been released from jail to the “custody of the USICE or the USCBP. (8.C)

    In other words, the law simply makes it a state crime to be in the state of Arizona illegally and requires law enforcement officials to check on the legal status of persons who have been detained or arrested for other reasons – but only if there is a reasonable suspicion that they are in the United States illegally.

    The law specifically defines who is considered an illegal alien. The person in question must meet both of the following: be present in “any public or private land in the state” and be in violation of 8 U.S.C. §§ 1304(e) or 1306(a). If a person is arrested in violation of this new law he is not eligible for “suspension or commutation of sentence” and, along with facing penalties for any other law he may have broken, must pay a fine of at least $500 for a first violation and twice the amount specified in the first sentencing. The entire bill can be read here.

    As our country tries to enforce the rule of law with sensible immigration laws, it is worth remembering how other countries are also grappling with the national security, economic, political and social concerns that come with illegal immigration.  With nearly sixty percent of illegal immigrants originating from Mexico, it is particularly helpful to remember that our neighbor to the south is dealing with illegal immigration in a much harsher manner than the United States, a fact that illustrates the hypocrisy of Calderon’s criticisms of Arizona’s new law.  


    Andres Celedon, an intern at The Heritage Foundation is a junior at the Georgia Institute of Technology, where he is studying public policy with a minor in history.

    Posted in Ongoing Priorities [slideshow_deploy]

    30 Responses to Mexico’s Immigration Laws: The Untold Story

    1. Al Eastman, Arizona says:

      I strongly wish that your organization makes the funding available to translate Mexico's Ley General de Población (General Law of the People) and post it on the Internet. Perhaps if more of our US Citizens had the opportunity to read this example of Mexican justice, they would not be so quick to condemn their fellow Americans for treating those who criminally cross our borders in a similar manner as our "democratic" neighbor to the South.

    2. netmarcos, Ohio says:

      Rational analysis is not welcome on this topic. Pointing out the rank hypocrisy and hyperbolic grandstanding by partisans and revolutionary elements within our movement is to be ignored where possible and its purveyors shunned and/or riduculed through critiques of unrelated minutia and ad homenim attacks.

      Shame on you for attempting to distract us from the passion and unfounded emotional hysteria of our glorious progressive vision with your simple facts verifiable figures. We don't need your dispassionate logic. We are immune to reality, but will do all that we can to avoid contact with it anyway.

    3. RPM, Texas says:

      You are comparing a federal law against a state law. While the state police of Arizona do not have authorization to carry out the acts you delineated, the federal authorities of this country do and as I understand it, are required to do so.

      Also, I guess in the interests of sensationalism, you have provided an assessment of the current state of immigration law in Mexico out of context of the entire law. I agree with Al Eastman and hope you translate all of Mexico's Ley General de Poblacion. It is no longer a federal crime to reside in Mexico illegally…and hasn't been since 2008. Also, don't forget that even though it is a law on the books in Mexico, how many times is the law actually applied? Doesn't everybody consider Mexico to be a lawless land? If so, then who cares what is on the books if no one is enforcing it?

    4. Jorge Blackmore, USA says:

      Mexico´s immigration laws, as well as similar laws of the countries of Central America, have being influenced, if not dictated, by the pressure and presence of the interest of The United States. Is so easy to confirm this as well as the US influence on many other governmental actions, decisions and ruling style in satellite countries. Mr. Celedon, if you´re interested in studying this topic. As a leading historic element, I suggest to check for correlation of dates of US bilateral agreements on immigration, and dates of these Mexican immigration laws. You´ll be surprised.

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    6. Bobbie says:

      Just because these happen to be illegals from one country of one race crossing America's borders illegally, doesn't make it racially profiling, President Calderon. It is what it is. RACIALLY INVADING!

      If this government were true to America, there'd be exceptionally sound rules and harsh punishment for illegals so civil minded people of human decency choose to come here! American government has given into violence, rage, murders, rapes and financial demands caused by the uncivil acts of illegals as American government, steals from but ignores their own. Principled leadership needed!

    7. Pancho3 says:

      The mexican mantra

      “Por La Raza todo. Fuera de La Raza nada” “For the race everything, outside the race nothing”

      All of the laws should be enforced equally, regardless of race, religion, and/or national origin. That is with the exception of mexicans, and they should be above the law and exempt from the law. And the only purpose that a tonto gringo serves is to pay taxes to support the superior and noble mexican.

      Anyone who disagrees with this philosophy is Xenophobic and a Racist.


      All animals are equal but some animals are more equal than others.

      George Orwell, Animal Farm, ch.10, 1945

    8. Carol,AZ says:

      Thank you Andres Celedon for your well researched article.

      We agree with everything you have said, here in AZ.

      However, the disconnect over the understanding for enforcement, here in America hasn't been misunderstood from AZ.

      We have just recently been told by HLS, to "stand down" on interdiction.

      This article can be read in detail by, Jana Winter, Fox News website/ dated: Ap /01/2011.

      This new order, has stated that the misson for our law enforcement agencies, is to keep the "numbers down" for interdiction during specific reporting times."

      By doing so, HLS can skew and twist the numbers and report that our border. "has never more secured."

      Another suggestion is ; instead of catching the bad guys, "to chase them and scare them back to MX."

      If this sounds like an urban legend to you and to the rest of America, you will understand it better, when you read the four pg report. I also hope H.F will publish it on point for futher exposure.

      AZ , and whistle blowers from the ATF, currently are forcing the investigation of ; Operation Gun Runner, and the resulting death of agent , Brain Terry.

      AZ, is currently suing the Fed Gov't for inaction for the protection of it's citizens and the rest of America.

      Numerous other organizations have lawsuits filed against : HLS, ATF, and ICE for the blocking of laws that include deportation, of known illegal criminal offenders and allowing back door amnesty.

      Numerous other groups and individuals are suing as the result, of American killed here and in MX.

      The American Ranching Assoc. and the list goes on.

      Your biggest enemy over all issues for law(s) that you have listed is your own government.

      Yes all other counrties are far stricker. They believe in protecting their citizens. There is no country in the world that doens't protect it's border unless they are lawless.

      FYI: listed are two/ of four/ recent short clips.

      It addresses just a small mirco-shot of what happens when the the rule of law is blocked with impuity here in America.

      If you care to follow the other links, they will come-up at the end of each video.

      Part 1 – The New Mafia

      Part 2-" "
      Part 3 & 4 the same using (iii) and (iv) for four.

    9. Jorge Blackmore, USA says:

      Why you don´t publish my comments. Of course you want your readers to ¨learn¨ the one side of the story. Freedom of press, the other law to promote ignorance and hate.

    10. John Berry, Baton ro says:

      Mexico has a "strategy' for trying to secure more rights and freedoms for their citizens in the US. They are not speaking of those who have come here legally but instead for those who believe US laws should not apply to them.

      Instead of offering good reasons why we should accept up to 40% of their population here without permission, they just insist on calling America names for not being entirely willing to do so.

      They raised a huge fuss over the US building a wall on our Southern border because it would effectively make it harder for their people to cross the border. They know this because they already used money given them to fight the Drug War to build one of their own against Guatemala. But if America builds one then they must be racist and xenophobic.

      They complain that we are being inhumane when we send them back home after all the difficulties they faced sneaking into our country. They complain that it is profiling to ask for their ID when everyone else is required to present ID to a law officer when requested.

      Mexico seems to believe that succeeding in breaking the law should mean that it no longer applies and their citizens should be rewarded for it.

      They say they want justice for the Hispanic People but demand special privileges be accorded to them based on race alone. That is not any kind of "justice".

      What do they consider justice? To give special advantages to them based on which country they are from or the color of their skin?

      If justice prevails, the law applies equally to everyone. Whether they like it or not, that means they get sent back to their own nation for breaking our laws.

      All nations have immigration laws, America is right to ours and they apply equally, even to those who shout that is is racist for that to be so,

    11. Catherine Wilson says:

      I came to the US legally. It took years and thousands of dollars. I am disgusted by this administrations actions concerning SB1070 and the lawsuits they have brought against AZ. I am disgusted when I hear illlegal supporters refer to them as 'immigrants', leaving out the word ILLEGAL. Immigration is a legal process, if you do not follow it and illegally enter you are NOT an immigrant, you are an illegal alien and should be treated as such.

      When I recieved residency in the US two years ago I was mailed a card from DHS. It has STRICT instructions, telling me I must carry this documentation with me 24/7 – I must produce it on request – no exceptions – and failure to do so could result in detention or my removal from this country. The law is applied to me, as it should be to them.

      • Josh Begley says:

        you are my hero, If they come here they should do it legally, they feel outcast because they are and if they did it the right way then we all would except them

      • Daniel says:

        Where are you from? It is really easy to criticize when you don't know what they've been through .

      • maggie says:

        Well stated!! Thank you for the information and THE CORRECT WAY to view this opportunity that you earned for yourself.

    12. Motsie Creel, Biloxi says:

      I have been telling people this for some time and they just ignore me. Why?!?

    13. Marilyn Davidson says:

      Catherine W- Your point is one of the most relevant – and often ignored by emotional arguments.

    14. rb, Oklahoma says:

      If I were an honest hard-working mexican wanting to come to America for a better life, I would be embarrassed to be associated with the criminal element that are calling themselves "undocumented" to avoid the real truth here, "ILLEGAL" is just that. But as a natural born American, I instead am the one being embarassed that my own President doesn't have the balls to protect me and my family from the flood of illegal "persons" entering this country. Obama is telling us that we should "embrace" their culture. Why the hell should I? They themselves are breaking the law to escape their culture, why should I embrace that? I thought the want to come here to become "Americans"? Isn't that the point? Or do they really just want our money and want to shove their culture in our faces and screw our system? Wake up Mr. President and stop the cancer eating away at this society. YOU need to enforce the laws of this country that were written long before you were born. This is not racism, this is what we should do to respect and honor our country.

    15. Carol,AZ says:

      To: Cathrine Wilson

      Thank you my fellow American and welcome!

    16. Floyd Heise says:

      RE "I strongly wish that your organization makes the funding available to translate Mexico’s Ley General de Población (General Law of the People) and post it on the Internet. Perhaps if more of our US Citizens had the opportunity to read this example of Mexican justice, they would not be so quick to condemn their fellow Americans for treating those who criminally cross our borders in a similar manner as our “democratic” neighbor to the South."


      It didn't take funding, it just took a few minutes on Google and Babel Fish to translate the whole thing. It loses a tiny bit in the translation, but is pretty clear.

      Like: Article 62. – To go into in the Republic the foreigners they will have to satisfy the requirements following:

      I. To present/display official certificate of good physical and mental health, sent by the authorities of the country of where they come, in the cases that the Secretariat of Interior determines;

      II. To be approved in the examination that carries out the sanitary authorities;

      III. To provide to the authorities of Migration, under protest to say truth, the information that are asked for to them;

      IV. To identify itself by means of suitable and authentic documents and, where appropriate, to credit its quality migratory;

      V. To present/display official certificate of its antecedents sent by the authority of the place where there are resided habitually, in the cases that the Secretariat of Interior determines; and I SAW. To fill the requirements that are indicated in their permissions of internment.

      And:Article 74. – Nobody will have to give occupation to foreigners who do not verify previously their legal one stay in the country and without to have obtained the specific authorization to serve that certain.

      Pretty clear.

      BTW There are 29 pages to the document. Much too much to translate here.

    17. Judy, Arizona says:

      Bravo for your work on this issue! This is my number one issue, and I've been a life-long hispanophile who majored in Spanish. This keeps me up at night. I could write a book about how I feel on this subject (maybe I will!). Bravo, John Berry, for your comment, too. I totally agree with a lot of these comments. Please, keep working on this, Heritage Foundation.

    18. Paul Kenehan says:

      Is it me or would alot of our un-employment go away if we sent all these NON AMERICANS packing and back from were come from? Its time this country stoped playing big brother to the world an took care of its own people!

    19. Stephen, NC says:

      The rank hypocrisy of Mexico is astounding. First it was Vicente Fox gallivanting to the U.S. periodically to attack our sovereign right to determine our immigration controls and laws, now it's Calderon. The latest sorry excuse for a Mexican president comes begging for financial aid while bashing us for not wanting to become Mexico redo. Perhaps even more disturbing is his being cheered on by Democrats and illegal alien huggers. Liberalism/Progressivism is a severe mental disorder, my friends.

    20. Steven, AZ says:

      Everyone needs to see the new feature-length documentary, Southern Exposure. It explores so many facets revolving around the subject of illegal immigration and is told in a fair and balanced maner. There has never been a documentary covering the issue that has as much depth and breadth and uncovers the back stories usually not heard via MSM. Visit http://www.southernexposuredocumentary.us to view the traailer and four webisodes.

    21. Unemployed WASP says:

      That's the complete hypocrisy of the situation. Mexico's own immigration laws are extremely harsh to Americans and everyone else that goes there illegally or overstays.

    22. Pingback: Immigration mexicvo | Valbook

    23. RLee says:

      The thing is who really wants to go to mexico illegally? Criminals? While mexico certainly has some beautiful areas, so does the US. mexico is just a giant cesspool of filth and crime. I'll pass…

    24. Daniel says:

      I understand how the American people feel about illegal aliens. I came to the USA when I was a kid, I came here legally and I received my residency thanks to my American grandfather , but what would American people do for their families if the USA government was as bad as Mexico's?

    25. Frank says:

      My wife is a legal immagrant from Europe. It took her a total of 8 years to go throught the correct process to be a legalized U.S. citizen. I can understand why she is upset with the policies our U.S. (non) Government are trying to force on us to let the illegal Mexicans or any illegal immigrants stay in OUR Country!

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