As Mexico Sees It: A U.N. Report on Migrant Rights

Mexico is one of a few states that has filed a report with the U.N. Committee on Protection of the Rights of Migrant Workers. Copied below is an “overview” of Mexico’s migration issues, including Mexico’s view of migration into the USA. B. Overview of the migration situation in the country

15. Migration is a multidimensional phenomenon for Mexico, in that it is a country of origin,
transit and immigration.

16. As far as immigration is concerned, there are few migrants to Mexico. According to data from the 1990 population and housing census, there were some 340,000 foreigners living in Mexico in 1990, equivalent to 0.42 per cent of the total population. Information from the 2000 census shows a slight increase, with an estimated 493,000 foreigners, corresponding to 0.5 per cent of the country’s total population.

17. A large majority of migrants come from the United States (69 per cent), followed by Central America (9 per cent), mainly Guatemala (5.6 per cent), and South America (5.9 per cent). European migrants come from a vast array of countries, of which Spain accounts for the largest proportion (4.1 per cent), while the numbers of migrants from Africa and Asia are very small.

18. With regard to refugees, representative cases include Spanish refugees in the early 1940s, South Americans in the 1970s and Guatemalans in the 1980s, many of whom stayed on in the country as permanent residents even after the conditions of political conflict and violence that had forced them to leave their countries of origin essentially ceased.

According to INM data, of the Guatemalans settled in Mexico between 1996 and 2003 under the Guatemalan migrant stabilization programme, 25,196 remained in the country as permanent residents.

19. The volume of foreigners entering the country as immigrants or permanent residents (FM2) is relatively stable, ranging between 60,000 and 70,000 entries a year over the past 15 years.

20. According to National Population Council (CONAPO) estimates, there were 492,600 immigrants residing in the country in 2000. Their distribution by gender is balanced. In terms of educational levels, nearly a quarter (23.2 per cent) of foreign migrants
in Mexico have a university degree or similar qualification.

21. As regards their labour status, almost half (45.1 per cent) are of working age and economically active. The great majority (68.8 per cent) work in the services sector, a fifth (21.1 per cent) in the processing sector and a tenth (10.1 per cent) in the primary sector.

22. As a country of origin of migrants, most of Mexico’s emigrants go to the United States. From the outset, this emigration process has been primarily motivated by the search for employment opportunities. Mexican migration to the United States takes place in the context of a historically complex relationship bringing together two neighbouring nations whose situations differ profoundly.

The following are some of the principal characteristics
of Mexico-United States migration:

− A marked increase in the net annual flow of Mexican migrants entering the United States in order to settle there, from 235,000 in 1980-1990 to 390,000
in 2000-2002.

− A trend towards mass migration of Mexicans to the United States, with the United States population of Mexican origin almost tripling between 1980 and 2003,
from around 9 million to 26.7 million. Of the latter, an estimated 9.9 million were born in Mexico (emigrants) and around 16.8 million were born in the United States.

− Around 85 per cent of Mexican migrants in the United States have resided there for more than three years; only one in five has been naturalized. Mexicans are the largest migrant group in the United States and in 30 of the 51 states in that country, accounting for 30 per cent of all foreign residents.

− Mexican migrant populations in the United States are very diverse in terms of gender and age and, contrary to the traditional pattern (predominantly male and young), Mexican migration to the United States increasingly involves whole families. Thus,
there are 116 Mexican men for every 100 Mexican women, 55.4 per cent of the Mexico-born population living in the United States are men and 44.6 per cent are women and most migrants are young people of childbearing age, the average age being 34 years.

− Mexican migrants in the United States fall into diverse social and occupational groups,6 working primarily in the tertiary and secondary sectors and, to a lesser extent, in the primary sector (60 per cent, 36 per cent and 4 per cent respectively in 2003).

− Greater heterogeneity of migrants (greater proportion of migrants from urban areas, growing proportion of women, higher educational levels). In terms of schooling, 12.1 per cent have completed fourth grade, 29.8 per cent have completed
between fifth and eighth grade, 19.3 per cent have completed between ninth and eleventh grade and 38.8 per cent have completed twelfth grade or higher.

− The 6.4 million Mexicans working in the United States account for 4.4 per cent of that country’s economically active population. Seven per cent of the economically active Mexican migrant population in the United States occupy professional positions. Over half (53 per cent) earn less than US$ 20,000 a year, whereas non-immigrants average US$ 33,800 a year.

− The phenomenon of outward migration covers a wide geographical area, with some states in the centre (México, Puebla, Hidalgo and the Federal District), south (Guerrero and Oaxaca) and south-east (Veracruz) of Mexico becoming important areas for migration flows to the United States.

− The American states with the greatest number of Mexican migrants are: California (42.5 per cent), Texas (20.3 per cent), Illinois (4.9 per cent) and the rest of the states on the southern border (6.7 per cent).

− In the period 2001-2003, most temporary migrants were undocumented, in that 75 per cent did not have authorization to cross the border and 79 per cent did not have permission to work in the United States (compared with 48 per cent and 51 per cent,
respectively, in 1993-1997), yet 82 per cent of them were in work during this period.

− A reduction in the circular nature of migration and a trend towards increasingly long stays in the United States.

− Consolidation of large binational communities and of social and family networks of migrants that help strengthen ties between communities of emigration and immigration and to reduce the costs of migrating.

23. Mexico’s importance as a transit country for the international movement of documented and undocumented persons both inside and outside the region, whether as tourists, businesspeople or permanent migrants, has grown substantially in the past two decades.

Likewise, economic integration in North America and tighter links in a context of globalization and a greater free flow of goods and capital have increased the transit passage through Mexico of people, business and tourism coming above all from the United States, Canada and Europe.

Ninety-five per cent of transit migration to the United States takes place on the southern border, making the latter the nerve centre for the implementation of national migration policy.

24. Mexico’s southern border with Guatemala and Belize lacks a proper system for ensuring controlled, legal and orderly migration. The border infrastructure, in terms of entry ports, bridges and crossing points, is also ineffective and, in some cases, inadequate. As a result, the migration of Central American nationals in transit to the United States is a growing challenge for
the country.

The fact that Mexico borders the world’s biggest economic power, combined with growing economic disparities, a porous southern border and the
need for procedures that address risks and threats to national and international security, adds to the complexity of administering transit migration.

25. Central American emigration over the past three decades has changed steadily, from the mainly intraregional emigration of the 1970s to the extraregional migration of the 1980s and 1990s, but always with the United States as the principal destination.

Even Mexico, which played an important role in the 1980s in receiving Guatemalan refugees, has not seen major changes in its Guatemalan population, whereas emigration from Guatemala, El Salvador, Honduras and other countries of the region to the United States has surged. Mexico thus remains the obligatory country of transit for these ever-greater northward flows of migrants.

26. Undocumented migration, by its very nature, is extremely difficult to quantify. All that can be done is to make an indirect assessment based on INM statistics for cases in which migrants were secured and sent back.

27. The flow of undocumented migrants over the southern border increased by 41.4 per cent
in the period 2001-2004, from 144,300 cases to 204,000.

28. To avoid adopting an approach that treats undocumented migration as a crime, Mexico uses the term “secure” rather than “detain” in migration matters.

Under the General Population Act, a foreigner is secured when, because of his/her irregular situation in the country, he/she is housed temporarily in a migrant holding centre, pending clarification of his/her migration status and, if appropriate, a decision to send him/her back. The latter is an administrative penalty, applicable when a foreigner infringes migration law, and involves making the foreigner leave the country immediately.

29. Indicators show that the majority of irregular migrants are Guatemalans, followed by Hondurans and Salvadorans, and that most of them are headed for the United States. According to 2004 data, these three nationalities account for 95 per cent of all cases in which migrants are secured in Mexico.

30. In 2003, of a total of 187,614 migrants secured in Mexico, 86,023 were Guatemalans, 61,900 Hondurans and 29,301 Salvadorans. In 2004, the numbers
were 94,404 Guatemalans, 72,684 Hondurans and 34,572 Salvadorans. During the same period, 93,667 Guatemalans, 73,046 Hondurans and 35,270 Salvadorans were sent back and 10,089 foreigners were denied entry, of whom 4,822 were Brazilian, 1,076 were Ecuadorian and 601 were Venezuelan.

31. In all, 215,695 migrants were secured and 211,618 were sent back in 2004. Between January and May 2005, 107,349 foreigners were sent back to their country of origin. Undocumented migration is growing at an annual rate of 30 per cent.

32. The State does not have sufficient material and human resources to respond to irregular
migration flows of this magnitude. As a result, the Mexican Government is conscious of the
importance of working with civil society and with the countries concerned to tackle the phenomenon.

33. Based on article 42 of the General Population Act, Mexico documents legal migrants in transit as “transmigrant non-immigrants”, a status which allows them to stay in the country for up to 30 days. Between 1995 and 2004, the number of foreigners entering Mexico as transmigrants grew at an average rate of 8 per cent a year, with the rate peaking in 2000.

In 2003, the National Institute for Migration recorded a little over 20 million entries of persons to the country, of whom 98,418 were transmigrants. The number of local maritime visitors also increased steadily from 1998, the first year for which it was recorded, at an average rate of 16.5 per cent a year.

In 2003, there were 6,939,072 visits by local maritime visitors to Mexico. The two categories combined mean that a little over 7 million documented persons entered the country temporarily, an annual growth rate of 16.2 per cent. In 2004, 212,681 people were
documented as transmigrants.

34. According to article 41 of the General Population Act, foreigners may enter the country legally under any one of the following three migration categories: non-immigrant, immigrant or permanent resident:

− Non-immigrant: a foreigner who enters the country temporarily in one of the following capacities: tourist, transmigrant, visitor, minister of religion or similar,
political asylum-seeker, refugee, student, distinguished visitor, local visitor, temporary visitor or correspondent;

− Immigrant: a foreigner who enters the country legally with the intention of settling there in one of the following capacities: person of independent means, investor, professional, person occupying a position of trust, scientist, technician, family member, artist, performer, sportsperson or similar;

− Permanent resident: a foreigner who acquires rights of permanent residence in the country.

35. In 2004, almost 500,000 migration procedures were handled; more than 3,000 migrants were rescued by the 15 migrant protection Beta Groups, which work to protect and counsel migrants on both the northern and the southern border of the country; some 45,000 Guatemalan seasonal agricultural workers were registered; 215,000 foreigners were sent back to their countries of origin; and the rights of 2 million Mexican nationals who return temporarily to
Mexico every year were ensured.

36. As a result, one of the main challenges facing Mexico in the area of migration is to put in place a proactive migration policy that translates into the effective promotion and facilitation of migrant flows beneficial to the country, in keeping with domestic priorities, and at the same time helps to makes Mexico more competitive internationally: a coherent, long-term policy that creates certainty and facilitates the entry and stay of foreigners in Mexico.

37. The Ministry of the Interior, through the National Institute for Migration and in coordination with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, establishes visa policies for third countries, pursuant to reciprocal agreements on the abolition of visas signed with other countries and to unilateral decisions of the Mexican Government to exempt certain countries from visa requirements by virtue of the nature of their bilateral relations and the international situation.

Currently, 54 countries are exempt from the visa requirement for ordinary passports, whether
by agreement or by unilateral decision, and 71 countries do not need a visa in diplomatic and
official passports.

38. In granting visas, the National Institute for Migration handles freely regulated nationalities, regulated nationalities and nationalities requiring its prior consent to enter the national territory.

39. Freely regulated nationalities may enter Mexico using the Forma Migratoria de Turista, Transmigrante, Visitantes personas de negocios o Visitante Consejero (FMTTV) (migration form for tourists, transmigrants, visiting businesspersons or visiting advisers), which they can obtain at travel agencies, airlines or entry points.

40. Regulated nationalities, on the other hand, must be documented in advance by Mexican diplomatic and consular missions abroad.

41. It should be mentioned that the Government of Mexico has implemented a long-term visa programme. This programme has its origin in the authorizations granted jointly by the Ministries of the Interior and Foreign Affairs to Central American nationals, initially Guatemalan nationals, to enter Mexican territory as tourists and businesspersons, which were valid for five years and three years, respectively.

42. In order to create certainty for migrants from countries of the Latin American community, their nationals have been incorporated in the programme of long-term consular visas, which are valid for five years for tourists and three years for businesspersons. This programme operates successfully
as a catalyst for tourism and investment in Mexico.

43. Its aim is to simplify migration procedures so that the visa holder does not have to go to a consular mission each time he/she is to travel to Mexico.

44. Mexico is pursuing the consolidation of a policy of opening up to the rest of the world in the different spheres of human activity, and migration is not and cannot be an exception. This opening up is taking place in accordance with the principles of the migration policy designed by the Mexican Government, which embody the following concepts:

1. Absolute and unrestricted respect for the human rights of all persons who emigrate, irrespective of their migration status on entering Mexican territory;

2. Shared responsibility of migrants’ countries of origin, host countries and transit countries;

3. Legality, safety and order;

4. Combating of drug trafficking and people rafficking;

5. Non-criminalization of migrants;

6. Perception of migration as a tool for promoting national development.

45. Efforts are currently being made to shape a new culture in which men, women and children who are forced to leave their countries in search of better prospects can regain their dignity. For this reason, Mexico established the Integrated System for Migration Operations (SIOM) in 2004, making it possible to improve response times in rulings on migration procedures, support the authorities’ discretionality in ruling on each case and access online information on the various cases, facilitating its exchange with other countries.

In 2004, the number of migration procedures, namely, requests to enter, stay in and leave the country, increased by 138 per cent over 2003.

46. Mexico has a database with photographs of 10.6 million foreigners who have entered the country by air over the past year and a half. Through the Advance Passenger Information System (APIS), Mexico receives information in real time on passengers arriving at the country’s international airports before the aircraft has taken off from its place of origin.

Before passengers arrive, the migration authorities already know their name, registration document details, age, migration status, airline and flight number. Once on national territory, their passport is scanned and entered in the SIOM database.

47. In 2003, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and INM developed computer systems which in the medium term made it possible to maintain communication online, including all the information on visas and migration documents generated in embassies and consulates, the INM central office and its 32 regional offices. The link-up between SIOM and the databases of Mexican consulates abroad will be completed by the end of 2005.

48. Another stage in the modernization process has been the digitization of the National Register of Foreigners (RNE) and the migration archive, the second largest in the country. By March 2005, almost 500,000 RNE migration forms (FM1) had been digitized and almost a million files in the migration archive, thereby recovering and preserving Mexico’s documentary memory of migration.

49. In 2003, an Italian consulting firm, CERFE, hired by the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) and the International Organization for Migration (IOM), analysed the generation of migration statistics in Mexico and concluded that it was feasible for Mexico to join the Statistical Information System for Mesoamerican Migration (SIEMMES) in order to exchange information enabling it to determine and monitor the volume and characteristics of international movements both among countries of the region and to and from outside the region, as well as to generate reliable migration statistics, particularly gender- and age-disaggregated statistics, since
only migration statistics on the repatriation of Mexican nationals are currently disaggregated.

Women migrants

50. International women migrants have become an especially vulnerable population group, since their gender and situation of social, legal and political inequality are compounded by their migrant status. According to IOM, women now move around more independently and no longer because of the place they occupy in the family or under male authority.

Around 49 per cent of the 185 to 192 million migrants in the world are women. In some regions, the proportion is even higher.

51. The volume of Mexico’s population living in a state other than the one where they were born increased from just over 7 million in 1970 to 17.7 million in 2000 and the gender distribution of that population shows that the percentage of women increased from 15.4 per cent to 18.4 per cent and that of men from 14.4 per cent to 17.9 per cent over the past 30 years.

52. With regard to the net migration rate by place of birth, in 2000 the states which gained the greatest percentage of women migrants as opposed to men were Baja California, México and Morelos and those which lost the greatest percentage of women were Zacatecas, Durango, Michoacán and Nayarit.

53. CONAPO estimates that approximately 45 per cent of Mexicans living in the United States are women. Ninety-four per cent of female Mexican workers in the
United States are wage earners and their average monthly wage is US$ 1,100. Mexican women in that country work mainly in factories, workshops, domestic service, restaurants and small businesses, all semi-skilled occupations that in many cases do not provide employee benefits. The dollars sent back by such women account for 20 per cent of all remittances by Mexican nationals in the United States. These women generate around US$ 1.5 billion a year.

54. CONAPO also states that deported Mexican women are one of the most vulnerable groups among unauthorized migrants to the United States. Most of them are young, unmarried women with a higher educational level than men and coming from the traditional and northern regions of migration. They have no prior migration experience and travel in the company of relatives or friends, and they migrate in search of work.

55. Of the total 514,944 repatriations in 2004, 69,495 were of women aged over 18 and 11,170 were of migrant girls and adolescent girls.

56. Undocumented women migrants are particularly vulnerable. Women in this situation face a number of difficulties. For instance, many of them come from rural areas and move to cities in order subsequently to cross international borders. The testimonies of women transiting not only through Mexico but also through various regions of the world often mention the fact that they are asked for sexual favours in return for protection or to enable them to cross borders and checkpoints. Unfortunately, many of these acts are not reported to the authorities.

57. In her contribution to the document: “Reports, studies and other documentation for the Preparatory Committee and the World Conference against Racism, Racial Discrimination, Xenophobia and Related Intolerance”, the United Nations Special Rapporteur on the human rights of migrants noted that one of the main obstacles to remedying violations of the human
rights of migrants consists in the lack of information regarding the type of violations, the places where they occur and their characteristics. The under-recording of violations of the human rights of women migrants is all the greater because women migrants are more marginalized.

58. The National Human Rights Commission (CNDH) has pointed out that there are victims of domestic violence who do not report it because they are dependent on the migration status of their abuser and mistakenly believe that they could be deported.

Article 39 of the General Population Act does not provide for a person’s immediate expulsion upon dissolution of the marriage. Instead, it gives the Ministry of the Interior the discretionary power to authorize
the person’s stay in the country or a change in the person’s migration status. To view the Mexico report in English, French, or Spanish see the preview of an upcoming meeting of the Committee on Migrant Workers (Geneva)

By mopress

Writer, Editor, Educator, Lifelong Student

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