Friday, May 21, 2010
There has been a great deal of talk about Mexico's poor treatment of Central American immigrants that enter in to Mexico from the south, since President Calderon's speech before the US Congress yesterday. I would like to talk about how Citizens of the USA living in Mexico of which there are about a Million, are treated under Calderon's immigration policies.
I have been traveling and visiting Mexico since I was a child. Over a decade ago I "bought" coastal property in Baja and built a small house. I still live in the US but spend a lot of time at my second home in Mexico. When I say "bought" property, it is really not buying. This is one of the first differences between our cross border relationship regarding Mexico and the US. If you are a Mexican citizen, illegal or not, trying to buy a home in the US, there is little REAL restriction in place to stop you. If you ask an American bank for a loan, there is no mechanism in place that will flag you as illegal. If you pay property taxes, the American city you live in, accepts it. You are an illegal alien in the US with a US Home.
If you buy a property in Mexico within 60 miles of the Ocean (Which is most of the property Americans are interested in), you must lease the land. It is what is called a Fidecomiso, an automatically renewing lease after a period, sometimes 99 years. It is similar to "buying", but you are not a Mexican citizen, so you are treated differently. In order to get a Fidecomiso, you must get a Mexican Visa, which makes you a legal resident, but not a citizen. It is permission to reside, but not work. You must pay between 200 and 500 dollars for the Visa, open a Mexican bank account, prove you have over $1000 in the account, supply a letter from your home town from your police department that says you don't have a criminal record, and you must declare what your religion is. And of course you must pay about $300 in property taxes each year. You also must repeat this process every year.
I have several American neighbors in my Mexican neighborhood that have failed to follow these rules, either by confusion, or out of frustration just ignored some of the many bureaucratic hoops you must jump through. Here is what happened to these so-called "Illegals" from the US.
One of my neighbors, a retiree, came south and rented a home. The following year he sold his RV and sold his Minnesota Home to live in Mexico 9 months out of the year to enjoy the warm climate. In the Summer he visits his kids back home. As the US housing bust began to effect the Mexican economy, local governments and the local immigration department was under pressure to bring in more taxes and fees. One day the Mexican police showed up on his door step with immigration officials and announced that he and his wife were being deported. They were told that his personal property would be forfeited in 30 days. After some negotiating he was told if he checked in with Mexican border patrol as he leaves the country, he would be allowed to drive himself to the border within 24 hours, otherwise he would be driven to the border.
The solution was for him to drive to the US, apply for a Mexican Visa, pay an exorbitant penalty for two years of late fees, at which time he was allowed to return to his home in Mexico. This is not an isolated incident. This is actually one of the lucky ones, when you consider the many stories of American's losing their homes altogether like the events in Punta Banda. I also know many people that have lost their homes, some worth $500k and up.
What if you want to work "Illegally" in Mexico. I know another friend who retired at 60 in my neighborhood. After a year of enjoying retirement on the beach, he decided he liked working and especially working for money and decided to start doing home repairs for his fellow NorteAmericanos. Everyday he would fix plumbing and re-wire outlets for the other retirees in our neighborhood. Somehow a local Mexican contractor that lost a bid to him, went to the local labor board and reported him as a gringo stealing his job. The police showed up at his house with a government official to appear before a magistrate for working without a work permit. The above Mexican Visa that I mentioned was not enough for him. You have to apply for a right to work permit. ...And surprise, construction jobs are protected because they are considered popular jobs amongst the local labor force. So, long story short, he was never granted a permit.
The person, that had planned to have him work on her house, paid a local Mexican repairman to do the work and she paid him and was quite satisfied with the work. Until she got word from the local government that she had failed to pay Social Security taxes for the worker. Apparently the responsibility for paying Social Security payments and other labor related fees is the burden of the person who hired the worker, even for minor home repairs.
I love Mexico and I love the Mexican people, but President Calderon's government is a stickler for detail when it comes to foreigners abiding by immigration law,...even to the point of deporting Americans by force. To many Mexican government officials Americans are wealthy sources of income and tax revenue and there is a long history of suspicion and unequal treatment of Americans who come to Mexico. Ironically, the process of filing for residency and many other "Rights" as a visitor in Mexico is different for you if you happen to have Mexican sounding name. Yes, you heard that right, by law, if you have a Mexican sounding name, but have never been to Mexico, you have certain special treatment that is not offered to the Smiths and Joneses. This would be what President Calderon would call "Racial Profiling".
As President Calderon spoke, I couldn't help but notice. If he were driving down a street in Phoenix, what officer would profile him and recognize this American University educated man as Mexican. In Mexico he might be referred to as Gachupine or Criollo in the complex Mexican Caste system that has for centuries kept so called "White Mexicans" of mostly European blood in power with few exceptions for the last half millennium.
In this case, he comes to our country and lectures us about Racial Profiling here, when his country has politically floundered for most of its entire history in part because of racial and cultural divides that he clearly ended up on the winning side of.
What we saw yesterday, was the equivalent of Bill Clinton playing the part of "The first black President". A White Mexican President comes to America and stands next to a black President of America and lectures our country that Arizona is not fair to "victims of color" like Obama and LIKE HIM. This was meant to curry favor back home with his voters to make him appear to be less Criollo, less elitist, less European, and more Mestizo or more "Mexican".
Calderon knows its a double standard and he doesn't care. It's politics and it was all made possible by Obama and his tactics of racial divisiveness and the culture of victimhood. It was another bow to a foreign government by Barack Obama. Obama, who provided the key role in killing Bush's Immigration reform gave Calderon the nod and Calderon stepped up and played his part. It was a win win for two self serving politicians and their respective political careers, but a lose, lose, lose for Americans, Mexicans, and North Americans in general who are struggling for a better life.