Illegal immigration to Mexico

Illegal immigration in Mexico has occurred at various times throughout history, especially in the 1830s and since the 1970s. Although the number of deportations is declining with 61,034 registered cases in 2011, the Mexican government documented over 200,000 illegal border crossings in 2004 and 2005. The largest source of illegal immigrants in Mexico are the impoverished Central American countries of Guatemala, Honduras, and El Salvador bordering Mexico to the southeast.

Texas in the 1830s

Immigration from the United States was banned in 1830 under the First Mexican Republic, in an attempt to stop large numbers of white Americans from setting up cotton plantations using slave labor (which had recently been banned in Mexico). A cotton price spike and the economic success of plantations in Mississippi (which also exploited enslaved people) created strong economic incentives for illegal immigration. Several areas in northern Mexico fought the central government and declared independence. With a substantial number of white American settlers, the independent Republic of Texas quickly sought (and achieved in 1845) annexation to the United States.

Migration Law of 2011

Prior to May 2011, Mexico's immigration policy was regulated by the highly strict General Law of Population of 1970, which had been portrayed in hypocritical light when compared to immigration policies as in the US states of Arizona or Alabama. However, on May 24, 2011, President Felipe Calderón signed the new and much more liberal Migration Law. The Mexican Senate and the House had unanimously approved the migration bill on February 24 and April 29, respectively. Some of the most significant principles in this new law included new rights for migrants. The new law guarantees that foreigners and Mexican nationals will receive equal treatment under Mexican law and decriminalizes undocumented immigration, reducing it to an administrative infraction, punishable with a fine of up to 100 days' worth of minimum wage. Under this equality principle all immigrants, regardless of status, nationality, or ethnicity, are granted the right to education and healthcare and are entitled to due process. Elements aimed at promoting family unity were also added. Moreover, before the government takes action (e.g. deportation) with respect to migrant children and other vulnerable individuals (women, seniors, the disabled and victims of crime), their specific needs must be prioritized and adequate services must be provided. Migrants are also granted judicial rights that they were previously denied, such as the right to due process. In addition, the law also calls for establishing a Center for Trust Evaluation and Control which will be charged with the task of training and certifying immigration personnel in hopes of curtailing corrupt practices. All Institute of Migration officials are to meet the same standards as the rest of the country's security agencies. Government officials found to be violating the law are now subject to penalties, including fines and imprisonment.

General Law of Population

With the Mexican government's intent to control migration flows and attract foreigners who can contribute to economic development, the new migration law simplifies foreigners’ entrance and residence requirements. First, it replaces the two large immigration categories (immigrant and non-immigrant) with the categories of “visitor” and “temporary resident". The status of “permanent resident” is maintained. In the General Law of Population the two categories incorporate over 30 different types of foreigners—i.e. distinguished visitor, religious minister, etc.—each with its own stipulations and requirements to qualify for entry and stay. Under the new law the requirements are simplified, basically differentiating those foreigners who are allowed to work and those who are not. The law also expedites the permanent resident application process for retirees and other foreigners. For granting permanent residency, the law proposes using a point system based on factors such as level of education, employment experience, and scientific and technological knowledge. The specifics for the points system were established in the Law's regulations—Articles 124 to 127 of the Regulations—published on September 28, 2012. According to Article 81 of the Law and Article 70 of the regulations to the law, immigration officials are the only ones that can conduct immigration procedures although the Federal Police may assist but only under the request and guidance of the Institute of Migration. Verification procedures cannot be conducted in migrant shelters run by civil society organizations or by individuals that engage in providing humanitarian assistance to immigrants.


In the 1820s, some people from the Northern and Eastern United States entered Mexico illegally. Mexico did have legal immigration through empresario contacts. The reason for this was to create a buffer between Mexico and the growing United States. At first they tried to convince Mexicans to move into Texas. However, Texas was dominated by the warlike Comanche Native Americans. Mexican families did not want to move to Texas and risk their families lives. Mexico then offered cheap land to Anglos from the United States. These legal immigrants had to agree to live under the Mexican Constitution of 1824. Mexican Texas was bordered by the U.S. frontier areas of Louisiana and Arkansas, had the most settlement by American illegal immigrants. When Mexico realized that illegal immigration was out of control they attempted to shut it down. Mexican Texas had a population of 3,000 illegal immigrants by 1823; most of those immigrants were from the Southern United States or Appalachia. By 1825, Mexico and the Coahuila y Tejas territory legalized immigration under the condition that settlers convert to Roman Catholicism and not own slaves. However, as the settler population expanded to 7,000 and did not assimilate with Mexican culture, Mexico banned American immigration again in 1830. However, by 1835, American immigration increased to 1,000 per month. Santa Anna did away with the Mexican Constitution of 1824. Many violations under his dictatorship led to tensions and eventually the outbreak of a revolution. Texas became independent from Mexico in 1836.

Foreign relations

In October 2004, the Hechos newscast of TV Azteca reported that the National Institute of Migration (INM) in Mexico raided strip clubs and deport foreigners who worked in such clubs without the proper documentations. In 2004, the INM deported 188,000 people at a cost of US$10 million


Illegal immigration of Cubans through Cancún tripled from 2004 to 2006.

United States

The Mexican government has been accused of hypocrisy in terms of illegal immigration, criticizing the United States government for its treatment of illegal immigrants whilst their laws are considerably harsher by comparison.


In 2006, Joseph Contreras profiled the issue of Guatemalan immigrants illegally entering Mexico for Newsweek magazine and claimed that while Mexican president Vicente Fox urged that the United States grant legal residency to millions of undocumented Mexican immigrants, Mexico had only granted legal status to 15,000 undocumented immigrants. Additionally, Contreras found that at coffee farms in the Mexican state Chiapas, "40,000 Guatemalan field hands endure backbreaking jobs and squalid living conditions to earn roughly [US]$3.50 a day" and that some farmers "even deduct the cost of room and board from that amount." The Mexican National Institute of Migration estimated that 400,235 people crossed the Guatemala–Mexico border illegally every year and that around 150,000 of them intended to enter the United States. The illegal immigration from Mexico's southern neighbors is proving to be a headache for both Mexico and the United States, which has seen an increase in illegal immigration from Central America while Mexican migration has fallen to about net zero. Most Central Americans in Mexico and the United States hail from Honduras, El Salvador, and Guatemala, with a small number from Nicaragua. Amnesty international indicates that 60% of women migrants are sexually assaulted while in transit via Mexico to the United States.

On 14 September 2018, US media reported that Jacklyn the 7-year-old from Guatemala had died while in custody of US Customs.

Public opinion

A 2019 survey sponsored by The Washington Post and Mexico's newspaper Reforma gathered information on public opinion regarding illegal immigration to Mexico. It was conducted through July 9 to July 14, 2019, among 1,200 Mexicans adults and was done across the country in 100 election districts by way of face-to-face interviews. According to the survey, Mexicans are profoundly frustrated with illegal immigrants following a year of increased migration through their country from Central America. The survey demonstrates that only 7% of Mexicans say that Mexico should provide residency to Central American immigrants, while another 33% support allowing them to temporarily stay in Mexico while the United States comes to a decision regarding their admittance. However, a 55% majority say that illegal immigrants should be deported back to their home countries. These findings disprove the perception that Mexico is supportive towards the swell of Central Americans. The data results instead suggest that Mexicans are opposed against the migrants traversing through their country, a sentiment shared by numerous supporters of President Trump. The Post-Reforma survey finds that more than 6 in 10 Mexicans say that migrants pose a burden on their country because they take jobs as well as benefits that should belong to Mexicans; and a 55% majority of Mexicans support deporting migrants traveling through Mexico to reach the United States.

The face-to-face survey was conducted among Mexican adults after a dramatic increase in Mexico's immigration enforcement following an agreement made in June with the United States. Among the less of half of Mexicans who are aware of the June agreement, 34% are opposed while 59% are in favor. Several analysts had predicted the base for the President of Mexico Andrés Manuel López Obrador to be disillusioned when he agreed to heighten Mexico's immigration enforcement. But the poll instead suggests that the new approach has subtracted very little from Obrador's popularity. He currently maintains a strong 70% job approval rating eight months after assuming office. A 54% majority saying that Obrador is standing up for the interests of Mexico in his dealings with the United States and immigration. Furthermore, 51% of Mexicans support utilizing the country's recently formed National Guard to repel the migration of illegal immigrants in Mexico. The Mexican National Guard was launched by López Obrador and has played a major part in the intensifying of immigration enforcement. A 53% majority of Mexicans have voiced their trust in the national guard, with two-thirds of Mexicans saying that they would like the national guard to be in their city, whereas 45% report that they feel more safe with the domestic force.

In July 2019, the governors of three northern Mexican states; Coahuila, Nuevo León and Tamaulipas, signed a statement announcing that they could not accept any more migrants. Governor Miguel Ángel Riquelme Solís of Coahuila stated, "The number [of migrants] that the federal government is talking about is impossible for us to deal with." Guatemalans are set comprise the largest group of migrants apprehended at the United States border this year. By nationality, it would be the very first time in modern history when Mexicans do not make up the largest migrant group.

The Post-Reforma poll finds that a mere 2% of Mexicans deem immigration their country's most important problem, with a 55% majority naming insecurity. Another 9% each mentioning corruption and unemployment, 7% cite the economy, and lastly 4% each who say that poverty, political and social problems are Mexico's primary concerns.

See also

Uses material from the Wikipedia article Illegal immigration to Mexico, released under the CC BY-SA 3.0 license.