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¿Adios, Mojados Inversos?

10 February 2017

It’s no secret that there are illegal alien gringos among us… I was one, at one time.  But with the prospect of undocumented Mexicans being forcibly returned from the United States becoming a very real possibility, questions about the opposite situation… deporting illegal US residents is something to think about.

The question of “illegals” in Mexico, when written about at all, has usually been presented as an ironic situation, the numbers supposedly being relatively unimportant, or pointing out that those illegals really were no particular problem.  But… given the deteriorating relationship between the United States and Mexico, this may not be seen as humorously by the Mexicans as it has been in the foreign media.

A rather alarming story making the rounds on some of the smaller on-line sites pegs the number of “estadounidenses indocumentados” at a half-million “non-productive” foreigners who “only create problems”.  The original story, on the business and investment site, Opportimes.com, attributes this estimate to Andrés Rozenthal, a private equity manager, former Mexican Ambassador to the United Kingdom and a Founding President of the Mexican Council on Foreign Relations.  Not the kind of person from whom one would expect alarmist statistics or wildly exaggerated claims.

Rozenthal said that of the estimated million US citizens in Mexico who are not tourists, “more than half” are undocumented.  He adds:

We have American migration to Mexico, but we never talk about it.  More than half live here undocumented.  It’s not known, but it is so… it’s people who came on a tourist card and stayed to live.

Sort of what I did, originally.  Obviously, I’m in no position to judge anyone who has done the same thing later (and never regularized their situation), but I wouldn’t be surprised if … especially if the US Administration starts massively dumping long-time undocumented residents of their country in Mexico, that there could be problems for these people.

No idea if the woman in the photo is legal or not, but this is not how to "blend in" and stay under the radar.

No idea if the woman in the photo is legal or not, but this is not how to “blend in” and stay under the radar.

Besides those who just never bother with “the paperwork” or do something patently illegal like go to work while on a tourist/visitor visa (my original sin… mea culpa, mea culpa, mea maxima culpa), there are the “border jumpers” who take advantage of the particularly generous time limit given almost automatically to visitors… 180 days being standard.  By leaving the country for a day, then returning, these are the people who claim to live here (and, in a sense, they do), while remaining, legally speaking, merely as visitors.  It’s an open secret, especially in “gringo ghettos” that many of these people have off-the-books small businesses here, or are working in the informal sector.

Considering that Mexico has a rather simple visa for “temporary residents” — but that the temporary resident either has to show familiar ties to a Mexican, be employed here, or have sufficient income to support themselves — there are those among the “border jumpers” who don’t qualify for legal residency, and may very well find themselves in danger of deportation.

Granted, most US deportees are fugitives, but it has happened in the past.  Francisco Madero, in a less inflammatory discussion of the phenomenon for Imagen Radio, points to the case of a New York woman whose “vacation” in Playa del Carmen ended in her deportation last year at the age of 70.

I don’t know the details of her deportation, but suspect she may just not have qualified for a Temporary Residency card, for income reasons.  Right now, the requirement is to show bank deposits of around US$1500 a month and a bank balance of US$25,000.  And even then, one is supposed to either take permanent residency after four years, or reapply.  And this is where it gets sticky for foreigners… since they have to apply for their residency visa BEFORE they enter the country, though a Mexican consulate.

“Too much paperwork” for some, and a “creative workaround” for others.  Expat websites and message boards have for years, suggested ways of getting around the income requirements… usually involving some way of artificially inflating bank statements:  making large monthly deposits for the year before one applies, and sometimes begging, borrowing, or otherwise acquiring the cash needed to show a larger savings fund than really exists.

If there is a “crack-down”, I expect the rather harmless retirees would be the last group to feel it, though it could happen.  How likely that is depends on the retiree communities themselves.  Rozenthal’s observation, may be over-estimating the numbers, but his interview with Opportimes.com  has been picked up by other outlets, with headlines like “En México vivan 500 mil estadounindenses indocumentatos, no son productivos solo generan problemas” (“500 thousand undocumented US citizens live in Mexico, non-productive and only causing problems“).

Contributing to Mexico is probably more than hanging out at one’s favorite restaurant, or even giving English classes (under the table), and one’s community is probably more than just one’s fellow “expats”… documented or otherwise.  Whether it is up to the expats to change the perception of the non-contributing, problem-causing gringo is something I can’t answer.

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