Memo From Mexico | More Hypocrisy: How Mexico Handles Its Own Illegal Immigration
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How are Central Americans treated in Mexico? Just fine, according to President Vicente Fox,

"Every year more than 250,000 Central Americans cross the [Mexican] border. They are treated with respect, and are offered a better place to stay and new opportunities." [Newsflash: HR4437 Rejected!—By Mexico's Meddling Government]

But Jose Luis Soberanes, president of the CNDH (National Commission of Human Rights) doesn't agree with Fox.

Soberanes has reported that Central American and even Mexican migrants in Mexico are subject to abuse at the hands of police and military personnel, and that immigrants are detained in municipal prisons.

According to Soberanes, "the Mexican government mistreats 'indocumentados' that cross its territory, it keeps them in jails, in overcrowded conditions, many times without food, without medical attention and overall, violating their human rights."

Mauricio Farath, another CNDH official, reported that in some Mexican states, Central Americans "go to the municipal jails, where they stay for days and weeks. In some small rooms there are dozens of them and they do not separate the men and the women." [CNDH: Aquí se criminaliza a los ilegales, Victor Ballinas Enviado, December 21st, 2005]

Later, Jose Luis Soberanes put it this way

"We demand that they [Americans] treat us well, and we are incapable of treating Central Americans well."

[Exigimos que a nosotros nos traten bien, y somos incapaces de tratar bien a los centroamericanos.] (Presidente promete 'pelear' por los paisanos by Jose Luis Ruiz, Universal, March 29th, 2006)

In 2005, Mexico detained 240, 269 illegal aliens in its territory. Of that total, 42% were from Guatemala, 33% from Honduras, with most of the rest being from El Salvador.

All three of those countries are poorer than Mexico (more on that later).

I recall some years ago in the state of Quintana Roo in southeastern Mexico. There were quite a few Guatemalans on the bus I was traveling on. At a checkpoint, the Guatemalans were unceremoniously yanked off the bus and their papers rifled through. It seemed like an everyday occurrence.

Mexico is certainly within its rights to control its own immigration policy. Mexico has the right to detain and deport illegal aliens. (For that matter, Mexico has the right to expel legal aliens if it so desires).

According to Mexico's Ley General de Población, Article 123, illegal aliens can be fined and sentenced to up to two years in prison.

"Se impondrá pena hasta de dos años de prisión y multa de trescientos y cinco mil pesos, al extranjero que se interne ilegalmente al pais. "

Usually though, they're just deported, as Article 125 allows. [PDF]

The Mexican immigration agency is the INM—Instituto Nacional de Migracion). But it is not the only agency that enforces immigration law. The Mexican military helps. And so do local Mexican police. In fact, by law, all Mexican police, regardless of unit or level, are required to enforce immigration law.  

(On that point, we could surely learn from Mexico).

Enforcing the law is one thing, abuse of authority is another. And that's what frequently happens to Central Americans in Mexico. The illegal aliens are victims of both corrupt authorities and private criminals. Corrupt officials often shake them down for bribes. Some are robbed, raped or even murdered. Not much is done about it.

In a recent AP piece Mark Stevenson reports that

"Undocumented Central American migrants complain much more about how they are treated by Mexican officials than about authorities on the U.S. side of the border, where migrants may resent being caught but often praise the professionalism of the agents scouring the desert for their trail." [Few Protections for Migrants to Mexico, AP April 19th, 2006]

Most illegal Central Americans enter Mexico to pass through to the United States. But some stay and seek work in Mexico. Some Mexican employers now prefer Guatemalans to Mexican workers. (Guatemalans doing work Mexicans won't do?)

Just to put things in perspective, consider the economic differences between Mexico and most of her Central American neighbors.

Mexico's GDP per capita is $10,100 (higher than the world average of $9,300.) Here, in descending order, is the GDP per capita of each Central American nation:

Costa Rica $10,100 , Belize $6,800 Guatemala $5,200, El Salvador $5,100,

Honduras $ 2,800, Nicaragua $2,400

As you can see, except for Costa Rica, which ties with Mexico, all the others have a lower GDP per capita than Mexico.

Another useful socioeconomic barometer is the UN's Human Development Index (HDI) which takes into account life expectancy, education and adjusted real income. The list goes from #1 Norway to #177 Niger, the U.S. is #10. Mexico comes in at #53 (a better score than some eastern European countries).

Mexico's Central American neighbors, with one exception, have worse HDI scores than Mexico: Panama (56), Belize (91), El Salvador (104), Honduras (116), Guatemala (117).

Among Central American nations, only Costa Rica, at #47, scores higher.

(Isabel Lyman is a VDARE.COM friend and home school activist and her parents came from Costa Rica).

So with the exception of Costa Rica, all the Central American nations are poorer than Mexico.

There are even illegal alien flows between the Central American nations. Costa Rica has its own illegal immigration problem with illegal aliens from Nicaragua. And when I visited Belize, I met an illegal alien from El Salvador.

We always hear how Mexico is poorer than the U.S: Well, most Central American countries are poorer than Mexico. It doesn't stop Mexican authorities from detaining and deporting their citizens, does it?

What about profiling? Recently near Mexico City, police shot Mexican construction worker Robert Lugo. Because Lugo had dark skin and work clothes, the police mistook him for a Central American. (Mexican police kill man in illegals raid WorldNetDaily, April 19th, 2006

Several years ago, I wrote a VDARE.COM article about seven Mexican Indians who were mistaken for Guatemalans, imprisoned for 10 days, and almost deported to Guatemala.

Illegal alien stories regularly appear in the Mexican media. Here are a few recent ones:

  1. In Chiapas a few months back, local police were chasing Guatemalan illegal aliens. They shot an illegal and his Mexican smuggler (both lived). Fifteen illegal aliens were detained. [Balean policies a inmigrantes guatemaltecos Siglo, Feb. 13th, 2006]


  1. In a tragic accident in April, 80-85 Central American illegal aliens were riding in a truck which crashed into a trailer (both drivers and some of the illegals fled the scene). Known casualties: 9 of the illegal aliens died, 16 were wounded. [Mueren nueve indocumentados en acidente en Chiapas, 26 April 2006, Universal]


  1. A 15 year old illegal immigrant girl from El Salvador arrived to a Mexican metropolitan area and wound up working as a prostitute. Her pimps kept control of her by threatening to report her illegal status if she didn't do what they said. Finally, she was fed up with her harsh treatment and sexual abuse. She escaped and turned herself into immigration authorities. The immigration authorities imprisoned her, incommunicado, in a cell in the basement of a government building, with a man as her roommate. The press didn't discover it for two months. [Siglo – Mantienen incomunicada a una salvadoreña By Luis Alberto Morales Cortés, April 30th, 2006]

Now this ought to win some kind of award for sheer chutzpah: Bush, Fox and Canada's Harper recently met at a summit in Cancun.

Fox was both agitating for Mexican illegal aliens in the U.S. and boasting about fighting illegal immigration in Mexico:

"On our southern border, we are very active in patrolling, in construction of [immigration] stations, to stop the illegal migrants that enter Mexican territory and return them to their country, always with full respect for their human rights."

"En la frontera sur estamos muy activos en el patrullaje, en construcción de estaciones para detener a los migrantes ilegales que entran a territorio mexicano y regresarlos a su país, siempre con el pleno respeto a los derechos humanos", dijo Fox. [Privilegian la seguridad en Norteamérica Natalia Gomez Quintero y Jose Luis Ruiz Universal,  March 31st, 2006]

So why is it good if Mexico controls immigration and bad if the U.S. does?

So, while demanding rights for Mexicans illegally in U.S. territory, Mexico defends its own territory by detaining illegal aliens from countries poorer than Mexico. Many Mexican officials abuse these illegal aliens.

And yet, you don't see Central American illegal aliens marching through the streets of Mexico, demanding their "rights."

You don't see the governments of Guatemala and Honduras meddling in Mexican internal politics.

Why not?

Because they all know that Mexico wouldn't tolerate it.

But up north, Uncle Sam tolerates illegal aliens in the streets demanding legalization and constant meddling in U.S. politics by Mexican officials.

No wonder they don't respect us!

American citizen Allan Wall (email him) resides in Mexico, with a legal permit issued him by the Mexican government. Allan recently returned from a tour of duty in Iraq with the Texas Army National Guard. His VDARE.COM articles are archived here; his FRONTPAGEMAG.COM articles are archived here his "Dispatches from Iraq" are archived here his website is here.

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