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Memo From Mexico | Mexico's Nationality / Citizenship Shell Game
Mexicans who have become American citizens—by taking an oath to renounce all allegiance to Mexico—may soon be able to regain their Mexican "nationality," according to recent Mexican federal legislation, now in the process of being ratified by the states.
Don't worry, say professional apologists like token media Hispanic Raoul Lowery Contreras. They claim there's a distinction between Mexican "nationality" and "citizenship." "Nationality" is just something nice that allows American citizens to retain links with the home country.
As Contreras has put it:
"The Mexican government has not passed a dual-citizenship law of any sort. What they passed was a law allowing former Mexican citizens who have become American citizens to reclaim their property rights and the right to travel on a Mexican passport. Such Mexican "Nationals" cannot vote in Mexican elections, for they are not citizens. They can own land along the coasts or borders of Mexico, rights denied American or other citizens.
There is absolutely no effort by the Mexican government to legalize voting in Mexico of American citizens of any sort, much less those of Mexican blood or former citizenship.
(Tancredo nice, but uninformed by Raoul Lowery Contreras, CalNews.com March 5th, 2002)
Nonsense, of course. Here are the facts:
In 1997, Articles 30, 32, and 37 of the Mexican Constitution were amended to make dual nationality possible. Previously, a Mexican who became a U.S. citizen automatically lost his Mexican nationality. Under the new amendments, such persons could regain their Mexican nationality.
These amendments offered a 5-year period (March 1998 to March 2003) during which Mexicans who had become American citizens could regain their Mexican nationality at a Mexican consulate. (Also, American-born citizens with a Mexican parent could "regain" Mexican nationality).
After the 5-year window expired, "former Mexicans" could still recover their Mexican nationality by journeying to Mexico to complete the paperwork.
Now the Mexican Senate and, in October 2003, the Mexican House of Representatives have voted to make the nationality recovery process permanent. It is quite likely this amendment will be ratified by the states.
In Mexican law, nationality is the pre-condition for citizenship.
"Citizenship" refers to those of Mexican nationality who have arrived at the age of 18 and are in full exercise of their rights as Mexicans—voting being the principal example. (Mexican Constitution, Articles 34, 35, 36).
According to the Mexican Constitution, Article 34:
"Citizens of the (Mexican) Republic are those men and women who, possessing the status of Mexicans [nationality], meet, in addition, the following qualifications:
- Having completed 18 years of age, and
- Having an honest means of livelihood.
"Son ciudadanos de la República los varones y mujeres que, teniendo la calidad de mexicanos, reúnan, además, los siguientes requisitos:
- Haber cumplido dieciocho años; y
- Tener un modo honesto de vivir."
Article 38 spells out that citizenship rights can be suspended to criminals serving time, fugitives from justice, vagrants, and those who have failed to comply with certain citizenship duties enunciated in Article 36 (registering on tax lists, enlisting in militia, and assuming various public charges.)
Nowhere in the Mexican Constitution does it forbid the rights of citizenship to Mexican nationals residing outside of Mexico.
In fact, plenty of evidence indicates that wasn't the amendment's intention.
Mexico's Reforma stated plainly that one of the advantages of double nationality was "to exercise the right to the vote." [Harán censo de mexicanos radicados en EU, Francisco Liñan, Reforma, March 27th, 2002]
An article in El Universal (Peligra nacionalidad de 3 millones de mexicanos, Universal, Feb. 6th, 2003) explained that the 1997 reform "permits persons born in Mexico, who assumed another nationality, to regain the Mexican nationality and have two nationalities. The objective is to make use of their citizenship rights as Mexicans."
According to the Mexican Department of Legislative Documentation the intention of the constitutional amendments to allow dual nationality was to prevent Mexicans living in the United States from losing their Mexican nationality if they became American citizens, so that "those who opt for a non-Mexican nationality can fully express their rights in their place of residence...."
More proof that the Mexican government supports dual citizenship and not just dual nationality: on March 31st, 2003, Mexican Foreign Secretary Derbez announced the possibility of negotiating directly with Saddam Hussein for prisoners of war—U.S. soldiers "who have the two citizenships" (que tengan las dos ciudadanías).
Maybe Derbez doesn't read Raoul Contreras!
The only real impediment to mass voting of dual citizens in Mexican elections is not any supposed technicality of Mexican law but the laws of physics. Because Mexico lacks an absentee balloting system, Mexicans living in the U.S. have to actually travel to Mexico in order to vote.
But any Mexican citizen is allowed to vote if he is duly registered in his local precinct (Mexico, remember, does have a better voter registration system than we do). American citizens who "regained" their Mexican nationality are not barred from voting in Mexico, as long as they go through the proper procedures and aren't disqualified for any technicalities under Article 38—like any other Mexican.
U.S. law, as it is currently practiced, is no help here either. Even the U.S. Embassy in Mexico publicly announced on its website that "Mexican citizens living in Mexico who are also dual nationals enjoy the same voting rights as other Mexicans." Isn't it great to know that the State Department is defending our citizenship abroad?
I personally have been told by dual citizens that they've voted. One voter who was born in the U.S. but whose mother had a fake Mexican birth certificate obtained for him here. Another routinely crosses the border with documents of both countries, to use whichever is appropriate.
It's not yet a widespread phenomenon. But that could all change. There are proposals, by migrant groups in the U.S. and by left-wing politicians in Mexico, to amend Mexican electoral law to enable millions of Mexicans to vote in Mexican elections while residing in U.S. territory.
According to one calculation, if the law were amended, there would already be 11 million individuals currently residing in the U.S. automatically eligible to vote in Mexican elections. This figure of 11 million obviously includes American citizens.
But they may not be satisfied with a mail-based absentee ballot system. (Which is how I vote in U.S. elections.) Several of the Vote Abroad proposals involve Mexicans in the U.S. voting—not as citizens of their home states, as American absentee voters do—but specifically as Mexicans living in the U.S.A!
It's been proposed, for example, that Mexicans in the U.S. vote as voters in designated electoral districts in the United States. California, for example, might have seats in the Mexican Congress, specifically representing Mexicans residing in that state.
The Mexican government hasn't already instituted voting for Mexican residents in the U.S., not out of any concern for U.S. sovereignty. If our own leaders don't care for U.S. sovereignty, why should Mexico's?
The real reason is the uncertainty it poses for internal Mexican politics.
Mexican politicians understand that formally opening the vote to millions of voters residing in the U.S. could drastically alter the political balance of power in Mexico. (Unlike GOP politicians who are clueless that immigration is altering the balance of power in the U.S.).
For years, the governing PRI party knew that most migrants would vote against it, so they never supported voting abroad.
Candidate Fox supported voting abroad, but President Fox has dragged his feet for three years. After all, now that Fox has been in power without noticeable improvement in the economy, they might vote against his party.
Of the three major parties, it is the leftist PRD party which is the most gung-ho for voting abroad. The PRD believes—probably correctly—that it would stand the most to gain by such a move.
So the PRD has come up with a proposal that would - I am not making this up - designate the entire U.S.A. as the 6th Mexican electoral "circunscripción". (Mexico is presently divided into 5 electoral super-districts or divisions - you can see them by going to http://www.ife.org.mx/ and clicking "Distritos Electorales" on the left.) Well, this proposal would add a 6th "cicunscripción" - currently known as the U.S.A.
But the clamor to open the polls to Mexicans north of the Rio Bravo is growing, and it's not impossible that soon a deal will be made to open the polls in Mexico's northern territories.
You could soon see millions of voters voting in both U.S. and Mexican elections.
In the words of Mexican congressman Manuel de la Cruz—an American citizen elected to the Mexican Congress this year—: "There are 23 million Mexicans in the U.S. that need a voice in Mexico." (Washington Times, Ken Bensinger, Mexican lawmaker sees voting in U.S., July 10th, 2003)
Mexicans may be getting a voice in Mexico. But do Americans have any voice in Washington?
American citizen Allan Wall lives and works legally in Mexico, where he holds an FM-2 residency and work permit, but serves six weeks a year with the Texas Army National Guard, in a unit composed almost entirely of Americans of Mexican ancestry. His VDARE.COM articles are archived here; his FRONTPAGEMAG.COM articles are archived here; his website is here. Readers can contact Allan Wall at firstname.lastname@example.org.