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Tourists, refugees, and deportees…

23 February 2017

There is nothing wrong with this person’s question, and it’s admirable that the person is seeking to improve their Spanish… much as I did, by reading children’s books.


Still, it raises a question.  The person identifies as a “tourist”, and one can assume either they are not in a position to obtain a library card (perhaps they’ll use the books in the library, which is fine), or… given the source (a facebook page for foreigners residing in Mexico City) they mean they have only a Forma Migratoria Multiple (FMM) and not a residency visa of any sort.

While it gives the visitor an extremely generous time limit (allowing them to say in the country up to 180 days) and is a bargain at about 25 US$, as opposed to the $160 US$ a Mexican has to pay to APPLY for a visitor’s visa for the United States),  it isn’t really meant as a residency permit, although we’re well aware that tens of thousands of foreigners who “live” here are staying 18o days at a time, leaving for a day or so, and returning in expectation of another 180 day “temporary” stay.  And so far, if the person overstays their 180 days, ni modo… at most a modest fine.

We’re now facing a situation where efugees who are had passed through Mexico (in less than 180 days, most of them) expecting to leave this country for the one north of us, but are “stuck” here.  As a short term solution, the refugees are being given temporary residency (a different status than that of a visitor), and/or work permits.  AND, our own immigration service has a policy of simply looking the other way if some of these refugees are working off-the-books without a visa allowing for “actividades lucrativa” (i.e. a work permit), on the premise that a refugee earning some income takes some of the burden off the overwhelmed social services (mostly ad hoc) that are available for them.

Add in the additional burden of increased deportation from the United States (never mind the absurd proposal to deport non-Mexicans who have entered the United States though Mexico back to … not their home country… but Mexico) and social services will be overwhelmed.

Not that it’s the fault of the would-be library patron, but I’m wondering how long our generosity will hold out.  Will “border jumpers” (those who take advantage of the FMM to maintain a home here, with a short absence of a few days every year… like most people who take a vacation do) need to establish residency… obtain a “gringo card” (our residency visas really are green)?  For many, it’s an impossiblity, as those who have no particular business in Mexico, other than wanting to live here (usually because it costs less than living in a richer country) have to show some reason for being here… either a job, or enough income not to become a potential burden on the State, or some familial ties to Mexico, or any of the myriad reasons aliens are permitted to live in another country (a well founded fear of persecution at home being one).

I have no real problem with tourists (or those “permanent tourists”) using facilities like the libraries (actually, I encourage it) but what about our health services, or roads, or police protection, or….

Will we become as nasty as our neighbors to the north?  I have seen descriptions by reputable people calling the FMM-holders who stay on (or just never bother to even go through the motions of border jumping) and those that never renew their temporary immigration visas as “illegal aliens”.  While I hate the term, it’s understandable that these people will be seen that way.

I’ve wondered about the impact on US policy, and the reaction in US media should Mexico begin deporting some of these people… mostly elderly and generally nice people who just don’t quite meet the financial requirements (or have fudged the figures on their initial visa request) to “live their dream” of retiring here.  I’d hate to see that, though I suspect the financial fallout other than in a few small sectors of service providers in “gringo ghettos” would be far less than the effects on US agriculture and the service sector should the US begin massive deportations.

What I do expect is that public services  will be demanding more proof of legal residency beyond a telephone bill and foreign passport, and private service providers, like banks (which generally will not open accounts for FMM holders, leading to any number of complaints on the “expat” sites I check)  and rental firms, may follow suit.

I would also not be surprised if the automatic grant of 180 days on FMMs became a thing of the past.

But then, I remember I moved here because Mexico is NOT the United States, and — so far — has not bought into the idea that every stranger is a danger, and is a country of good manners:  fish and visitors may stink after three days (let alone 180), but it’s impolite to say sFo.

One Comment leave one →
  1. Peter Melvoin permalink
    23 February 2017 7:57 pm


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