The Undocumented Americans in Mexico

By: Daniel Nardini

Lawndale News Chicago's Bilingual Newspaper - Commentary I remember when I was in Guadalajara, Mexico, a long time ago, I met a lady who was working in a private tourist booth with pamphlets and information on Guadalajara and Jalisco state. She told me that she was originally born and raised in California, but that she had moved to Mexico because she loved the country, the climate and the people. So working as a tourist information operative was for her ideal. This lady of course was living and working legally in Mexico. But how many Americans are living and working in Mexico illegally? No one, even the Mexican government, is sure about that answer. According to the U.S. Census data from 2010, there are 738,000 Americans living legally in Mexico. Most of them are retirees from the United States.

However, there are thousands or tens of thousands living and working in Mexico as undocumented. If this may sound impossible, consider the logic. Mexico is right next door. Its costs are lower than in the United States. There are established American communities in Mexico that are willing to hire Americans. Just as equally important is the fact that the Mexican economy is actually growing despite the high crime rates in the country. Many Americans choose to work in the tourist industry, or do menial jobs along with study Spanish in the many Spanish academic institutions in that country. In many of these cases many Americans have over-stayed when their tourist visas ran out or are working without official work papers.

Yes, the Mexican authorities do take it seriously that those people who live and work in Mexico without permission can be arrested and deported. However, one does not find the same level of xenophobia and “go after them” issues we are seeing here in the United States. Why? Many Mexicans realize that depending on the people who live and work in Mexico, many Mexican people believe that it is a necessary evil to help their economy. Others, who have been deported from the United States for being undocumented, are not as quick to judge considering they were doing the same thing as many of these undocumented Americans are doing in Mexico.

But I think that the other important thing is that so far the whole thing about undocumented from the rest of North America has not become an issue as it has in the United States. Could it become one? Yes, that may indeed be possible. And given the level of hatred and xenophobia taking place in this country it may cause a backlash in Mexico. Let us hope that this does not occur.

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