Mexican Senate OKs change geared in part to US-born kids of undocumented Mexicans

A Mexican flag waves in front of the National Palace in Mexico City's main square, the Zocalo, on April 24, 2023. The Mexican Senate approved a change to make it easier for U.S.-born kids of Mexicans to register their Mexican citizenship.

A Mexican flag waves in front of the National Palace in Mexico City's main square, the Zocalo, on April 24, 2023. The Mexican Senate approved a change to make it easier for U.S.-born kids of Mexicans to register their Mexican citizenship. (Marco Ugarte, Associated Press)

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MEXICO CITY — The U.S.-born children of Mexicans deported from the United States can have it tough on moving to Mexico.

They're constitutionally entitled to Mexican citizenship as the offspring of Mexicans, similar to U.S. law governing those born abroad to American parents. The regulations, though, can be so onerous that some are unable to get the paperwork necessary to prove their Mexican lineage to Mexican authorities, putting them in a sort of limbo — ostensibly Mexican but unable to exercise their rights as Mexican citizens.

The requirements can be so difficult that it puts some "in a state of helplessness," said Mexican Sen. Mayuli Martínez Simón of the right-leaning National Action Party. Unable to prove they're Mexican, she said when addressing the Mexican Senate on the issue last week, they can't tap benefits they'd otherwise be entitled to as Mexican citizens, including access to public education and health care.

In a bid to remove the obstacles, the Mexican Senate unanimously approved change on April 23 backed by Martínez Simón that simplifies the process. The action, which goes to President Andrés Manuel López Obrador for his consideration, comes as U.S. politicians increasingly worry about illegal crossings into the United States from Mexico via the southern border. It also comes amid vows by former President Donald Trump, vying for a second presidential term, that he will carry out mass deportations of undocumented immigrants if elected.

With the change, Martínez Simón said, "We'll be protecting a significant category of Mexicans born abroad."

The new guidelines would apply to anyone born abroad to Mexican parents. Sen. Olga Sánchez Cordero, of the leftist Morena party, said undocumented Mexicans abroad, in particular, can have a tough time securing the paperwork needed to register their foreign-born kids as Mexican citizens.

To be sure, U.S.-born offspring of undocumented Mexicans facing deportation would be able to remain in the United States as U.S. citizens. But practically speaking, some leave to Mexico with their parents. According to a 2021 roundtable discussion hosted by ITESO, a Jesuit university in Guadalajara, Mexico, at least 600,000 people in Mexico are "stateless." Some singled out the requirement governing verification of foreign birth certificates, which would change per last week's Senate action.

"Congress addressed a historic debt with migrant families who ... have been displaced with their daughters and sons who were born in the United States and now find themselves living in Mexico," the Identity and Education Group said in a statement after the Mexican Senate vote. GIE, the organization's Spanish initials, is a Mexican group that had pushed hard for the change.

The Identity and Education Group estimates there are more than 180,000 children in Mexico without a Mexican birth certificate, nearly 97% of them born in the United States. At the same time, it estimates that the Senate change, if signed into law, "will impact" more than 600,000 children and teens who are in Mexico stemming from the deportation of a family member.

Per the change approved by the Mexican Senate, Mexican parents of U.S.- and other foreign-born children would no longer have to get their foreign birth certificates formally certified at a Mexican consulate in their kids' birth country, as is currently the case. That requirement, supporters of the change say, can be burdensome and costly, particularly for undocumented immigrants. Under the shift, Sánchez Cordero said, foreign-born Mexicans would only have to present their foreign birth certificates along with the Mexican birth certificates of their parents to register their Mexican citizenship.

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Tim Vandenack covers immigration, multicultural issues and Northern Utah for He worked several years for the Standard-Examiner in Ogden and has lived and reported in Mexico, Chile and along the U.S.-Mexico border.


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