March 5, 1997
By Yolanda Reynolds
For some United States citizens of Mexican descent, a recent change to the Mexican Constitution permits dual nationality. Ambassador Enrique
Berruga, representing the Mexican Federal Foreign Ministry, was recently in San Jose to explain the implications of this new legislation and the process for acquiring the bi-national status for Mexican people living abroad.
Ambassador Berruga explained that the establishment of bi-national status for Mexicans living abroad guarantees treatment that is similar to that for resident Mexicans. The new provision would assure the right to work, the right to free public education, the right to share in familial rights involving ejido property, the right in own coast-land within 50 miles of the beaches and the right to inherit property.
Teresa Castellanos, a San Jose resident involved in a Santa Clara County program to naturalize legal immigrants, explained to La Oferta that for many Mexican expatriates, Mexican dual nationality would fill a void and sadness that many felt when their months of residency abroad stretched into years and their resident status in Mexico was lost by their physical absence. It will also reduce their reluctance to become American citizens.
Berruga explained that this new legislation, embodied in Article 30 of the Mexican Constitution, was largely crafted to reunify Mexican families. Until recently, siblings, by Mexican law, would be forced to be treated differently – one child could inherit property from their parents while the other could not, because they either resided abroad or had become a citizen of another country.
Within the last decades the movement of people from one country to another has greatly accelerated. Some of this has occurred by necessity and some due to their search for opportunity.
Berruga explained that some people leave their homeland only for employment and have every intention of returning upon retirement. In fact, many do return. Without this new legislation, they would have found themselves deprived of an inheritance because it was effected while they were out of the country.
Berruga explained that bi-national status for Mexicans was reviewed and discussed by the Mexican legislative for two years before its congressional approval in 1996. It was then unanimously approved by the all of the three major political parties. The new legislation is undergoing ratification by the states of Mexico. Berruga said that 18 of the 21 Mexican states had ratified the proposed constitutional amendment and therefore it will formally become a part of the Constitution.
To qualify for Mexican nationality, the person must have been born in Mexico or have at least one parent of Mexican nationality, even if they were born abroad. The length of time that one has lived out of Mexico is not considered in meeting the test for eligibility.
Application forms for Mexican bi-national status will be available at Mexican Consulates and would be made within the years 1998-2002. In San Jose, the Mexican Consulate is located at 380 North First St.
Citizenship standards within Mexico will remain in place, with the addition of the right of dual citizenship. Currently the privileges of citizenship allow a person to vote at 18 years of age; the right to run for ofﬁce; the right to petition the government and the ability to serve in the military. As in many other countries, the presidential ofﬁce holder must be native born. In Mexico, members of the Supreme Court are also required to be native born.
Berruga explained that there are 27 secondary laws and three articles that must undergo adjustment in order to accommodate the revision to the Mexican Constitution that will allow dual citizenship to its people.
There are many Mexicans who feel strongly that dual nationality is of some interest as is dual citizenship – but they say that what most concerns them is their ability to vote in important Mexican elections while abroad is more important.
Berruga explained that the ability for Mexicans to vote abroad is expected to be a reality by the year 2000, at which time the next presidential election is scheduled to occur. On-going discussions regarding voting abroad, he explained, have encompassed three concepts. One, which reflects the status quo, would allow only those Mexicans living in the homeland to be eligible to vote. Another concept is that voting be limited to those who cannot vote in any other country’s election. For example, those with dual citizenship, such as those residing in the United States or elsewhere abroad, would be restricted front voting in Mexican elections. Another though is that those eligible for bi-national and dual citizenship would be allowed to vote in their adopted country as well as their ancestral home, Mexico.
El Alianza Metro News publisher George Villalobos pointed out that, with the numbers (estimated at 10-million) of Mexicans living in the United States in many years they could wield a swing and decisive vote in tight Mexican elections. (Mexico has a voting population of approximately 90 million).
He further pointed out that many Mexicans living abroad might not be as informed as is desirable regarding candidate’s platform, character and the issues faced as those actually residing in Mexico. Particularly regarding state and other local issues in their actual place of origin within Mexico.
Berruga indicated that, if voting is allowed abroad, it has been decided that it would be limited only to the election of the President of Mexico. He also explained that Mexican officials were studying the logistics involved in implementing elections abroad. He reminded those at the meeting that, in the United States alone, the voting process would have to be able to deal with the real possibility that all 10 million Mexican nationals would exercise their right to vote. At this time, the thought is that the consulates would become the polling stations. Since each voter would have to be certiﬁed and handed a ballot, election lines could be very, very long. These changes in the Mexican Constitution will likely have a major effect on Mexicans and Mexico, as well as, in the US. but no one knows for sure in what way.
Although there are numerous media outlets now serving the Mexican community in the United States, news coverage of Mexican issues and events will be even more crucial. Mexican presidential candidates and party leaders will have to accommodate the added costs and time for campaign swings throughout the many areas of the United States that have high concentrations of Mexican immigrants. © La Oferta Newspaper.