Mexico's Defense of Illegal Immigrants

Mexico is waging an aggressive diplomatic battle to protect its interests and the interests of its citizens who are working and residing illegally in the United States. While it is appropriate for a foreign government to protect the rights of its citizens abroad, it is not appropriate to encourage them or counsel them to violate the laws of the foreign government where their nationals are living, nor is it appropriate diplomacy to interfere in domestic policy making and implementation of a foreign government.

The appropriateness of the Mexican government's actions regarding the illegal immigration of Mexicans into the United States became a controversial issue in 2004 when it published a guide book in late 2004 for illegal border crossers1 that not just warned them about the dangers of crossing desert areas but also provided tips on how best to make the crossing. In addition it provided guidance on how to avoid coming to the attention of immigration authorities once the Mexican illegal alien was in the United States. Despite the controversy over this guide book, there was no apparent action by the U.S. government to protest this action.

The Mexican government has also established a network of local Mexican community advisors across the United States to interact with the Mexican government both through its consular representatives and directly with Mexico City2. It appears from press accounts that this arrangement is not simply a sounding board for the Mexican government to stay informed on local conditions, but rather a two-way communications channel for the Mexican government to provide policy advice to Mexican communities in the United States. In fact there are several U.S. domestic political issues in which the Mexican government is apparently attempting to mobilize Mexicans and Americans of Mexican ancestry to influence the national and local laws of the United States.

Besides the Mexican consular network of 55 consulates in 24 states plus Puerto Rico and Washington D.C., the Mexican government also works closely with established Mexican ethnic advocacy groups in this country such as the Mexican American Legal Defense Fund, National Council of La Raza, League of United Latin American Citizens, etc.

The Mexican Agenda

Among the U.S. domestic issues on which the Mexican government is actively exerting influence outside of normal diplomatic channels both through its broad network of consular offices and through the new structure of overseas communities are the following:

  • Driver's licenses. Mexican consular officers and Mexican community activists have aggressively been lobbying state legislatures to adopt laws that allow illegal immigrants to obtain state driver's licenses. This effort has been successful in a number of states but met with a setback in 2005 when the REAL ID bill was adopted as part of the Iraq-Afghanistan Supplemental bill. This action led to Mexican President Fox's announcement on May 12, that his government would take unspecified actions to oppose the new U.S. law and his intemperate comment that "Mexican immigrants...are doing jobs that not even blacks want to do there in the United States."
  • Mexican Consular IDs — Matricula Consular. Shortly after the September 11 terrorist attacks on the United States and the government's heightened security concerns, the Mexican government began to aggressively seek recognition of identity cards issued to Mexicans residing in the United States by local governments. Because Mexicans who are legal immigrants already have identity documents such as the 'green card' and legal nonimmigrants have documents such as a Mexican passport and U.S. visa or U.S. Border Crossing Card, the object of this ID campaign clearly was to provide an identity document to Mexicans illegally residing in the United States. The campaign was not just to issue the matricula consular to these illegal aliens, but also to get those documents accepted by local governments for law enforcement purposes and provision of services.
  • In-State Tuition.The network of Mexican consular officials and local support groups has also aggressively lobbied state government to adopt laws that allow Mexican and other illegal aliens who have graduated from U.S. high schools to be able to benefit from the taxpayers' support of higher education by enrolling at in-state resident tuition rates.

FAIR has aggressively opposed those efforts of the Mexican government because they accommodate the presence of the illegal aliens, encourage their continued law breaking, and invite others to come illegally into our country.

Lack of U.S. Government Response

Like the lack of any active effort of the federal government to enforce the nation's immigration law in the interior of the country, the federal government has also apparently chosen to turn a blind eye to this aggressive effort of the Mexican government to shape U.S. governmental policies to facilitate the status of Mexicans living here illegally.

Mexican Foreign Minister Luis Ernesto Derbez has threatened the U.S. government and individual U.S. citizens with various lawsuits. When Arizona citizens approved Proposition 200 in November 2004, restricting access to state benefits for illegal aliens, Derbez threatened to sue the State of Arizona in U.S. District Court, disregarding the necessary legal standing.

In March 2005, President Fox stated that the Minutemen project showed a disdain for the rule of law north of the border. Senator John Kyl (R-AZ) suggested that President Fox respect the right of the United States to defend its borders and refrain from interfering with U.S. sovereignty.

Perhaps emboldened by President Bush's reference to the Minutemen Project in Arizona in April 2005 as "vigilantes," Mexican President Fox criticized the citizen activism as demonstration of lack of respect for the law, and Mexican Foreign Minister Derbez threatened to bring criminal charges in the World Court against the Minutemen. This posturing elicited one of the few responses from Washington, although not from the administration. Senator John Kyl (R-AZ) commented that the Mexican government should respect the right of the United States to defend its borders and refrain from interfering with U.S. sovereignty.

Increasingly, the Mexican consular officials have become more actively outspoken on U.S. domestic issues that are not in accord with their campaign to protect Mexican illegal aliens from law enforcement activities. A case in point is the public condemnation by New York consul general Arturo Sarukhan who, according to press accounts3, in July 2005 publicly criticized Suffolk County Executive Steve Levy for actions that he said "had increased tensions in the community," by applying the communities housing laws against overcrowded housing to evict Mexicans who were living far in excess of legal levels in rented houses.

The absence of any response by the federal government to this pattern and recent instances of unacceptable intervention in U.S. domestic affairs, led FAIR to raise the issue with the U.S. Department of State. The text of a July 11 letter from FAIR President Dan Stein to Secretary of State Rice is below. As long as the Mexican government continues to pursue an agenda in the United States that is at odds with national interests, FAIR will continue to assert the need for the administration to defend those interests.

FAIR July 11, 2005 Letter to Secretary of State Rice

The Honorable Condoleezza Rice
Secretary of State
2201 C St. N.W.
Washington, DC 20520

Dear Madam Secretary,

We have watched with growing concern the developing pattern of involvement in domestic policies of the United States by representatives of the Mexican government with no public comment by the Executive Branch. These activities include efforts to persuade local governments to recognize the Mexican consular identity card as a valid identity document for local governmental purposes, to persuade state governments to issue driver's licenses to Mexican nationals who are in our country illegally and other activities, and most recently interference in enforcement of local housing laws.

These are actions which, if performed by a representative of the United States government in Mexico would be met with immediate official statements of disapproval as infringing on the sovereignty of the country.

I am convinced that a U.S. response to these provocative actions is overdue as demonstrated anew by the recent action of Mexican consul general Arturo Sarukhan as described in the enclosed news account in the July 6th edition of Newsday.

Madam Secretary, this latest incidence of Mexican interventionism in internal policy issues is an affront, and I implore you to take appropriate action to bring to the attention of the Mexican government that this unacceptable behavior will not be permitted. You should know that our 135,000 members and supporters throughout the country are incensed by the lack of Executive Branch action to rein in the activities of the Mexican government in our country. They will not be satisfied unless there is public evidence that their concern is being heeded.


Dan Stein

[1] "Guia del Migrante Mexicano" (Guide to the Mexican Migrant).

[2] Originally established as the Presidential Council for Mexicans Abroad, this organization has developed into the National Council for Mexican Communities abroad.

[3] See Newsday, July 6, 2005, "Mexico backing day laborers"

Updated 7/05