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June 1998, Volume 5, Number 6

Mexico: Dual Nationality, Manufacturing


Naturalized US citizens from Mexico on March 20, 1998 began to reclaim Mexican nationality, which they lost when they naturalized, by paying $12 and presenting a birth certificate at a Mexican consulate in the US. Losing Mexican nationality also meant losing the right to own land near Mexican coasts and borders and restricted inheritance rights.

A survey by Mexican consulates estimates that 7.3 million Mexicans live in the United States. The majority, 4.9 million, are considered legal residents; 2.4 million are unauthorized. About 80 percent of both categories -- over 5.8 million people -- are over 18 and could be allowed to vote in Mexican elections in 2000.

The new Mexican law distinguishes "nationality" and "citizenship," granting Mexican nationals living abroad economic and social rights as Mexican "nationals" but not officially recognizing them as "citizens" with the right to vote or hold political office in Mexico. However, Mexican officials say that dual nationals could vote in Mexican federal elections as long as they register and cast their ballots in Mexico. If absentee voting is permitted, Mexican nationals in the US could cast one to two million votes in Mexico's presidential elections; 35 million votes were cast in the 1994 elections.

Those reclaiming Mexican nationality note that their children will be able to attend Mexican universities, which have nominal fees, and they will be able to invest in "strategic" industries in Mexico, such as petrochemicals and telecommunications.

Dual nationals in the United States usually acquire that status in one of three ways: They were born in the US to immigrant parents from countries that recognize dual nationality; they continue to be claimed as citizens by another country even after they have become naturalized US citizens; or they were born to American parents in foreign countries that grant birthright citizenship. Mexicans who naturalize will now become dual nationals in the first way: they will no longer lose Mexican nationality.

The United States permits but does not encourage dual nationality or dual citizenship.

Two rivals for the governorship of the Mexican state of Zacatecas, Ricardo Monreal and Jose Olvera, began their campaigns in California, where thousands of Zacatecans migrate to do farm work. Cuahtemoc Cardenas, the mayor of Mexico City, was in Chicago the first week of May to inaugurate the first US branch of the Party of the Democratic Revolution (PRD). Cardenas called on the US and Mexico to discuss joint economic measures to curb the exodus of Mexicans to the US.

Texas Governor George Bush Jr. in a May 1998 visit to Mexico urged a faster push toward free trade to reduce illegal immigration: "so long as there is a big wage differential between Mexico and Texas, people are going to want to come to the United States to provide for their families and therein lies the hope of free trade."


Labor productivity in Mexican manufacturing (excluding maquiladoras) rose rapidly between 1988 and 1996, over seven percent a year compared to one percent a year between 1981 and 1987. However, most of the recent productivity gains occurred in large and export-oriented firms; maquiladoras and small manufacturing operations had no productivity gains between 1988 and 1993, according to a Banamex analysis. US manufacturing productivity increased an average of about 3.2 percent a year since 1981; the Mexican rate for manufacturing productivity increased 1.7 percent a year.

When the United States Department of Labor's National Administrative Office in April 1998 concluded that the Mexican government failed to protect the labor organizing rights of Mexican workers at the Korean-owned Han Young factory in Tijuana, the Mexican government reacted strongly, saying that the US was "supporting the demands of one side in this dispute, stirring up emotions and generating hopes that go beyond the terms of the North American Free Trade Agreement." Under NAFTA, a country may demand "ministerial consultations" if there are union-related violations of national laws.

Han Young workers in October 1997 formed an independent union that won an election, but the State of Baja California refused to certify the results. The independent union won a second election in December 1997, which was recognized, but no contract has been signed. The Han Young maquiladora welds chassis for a nearby tractor-trailer assembly plant owned by the Korean-based Hyundai company. On May 22, Han Young workers went on strike.

The US State Department warned Americans that crime in Mexico "has reached critical levels." The head of the Mexico City Council's tourism commission said that an average of 20 tourists a day were victims of crime last year. About 15 million Americans visit Mexico each year.

In May 1998, the US government charged three Mexican banks, including Bancomer and Banca Serfin, Mexico's second and third-largest banks, with laundering millions of dollars in drug profits,. The US lured 22 bankers to the US, where they were arrested and charged in "Operation Casablanca." The US seized 100 US bank accounts which allegedly held $122 million in laundered drug funds.

During their country's civil war, which ended in December 1996, some 45,000 Guatemalans fled to Mexico. About 10,000 remain there, and they and their 26,000 Mexican-born children are being integrated into Campeche in what U.N. officials call a model program for integrating refugees.

Fires in the Chimalapas cloud forest in Chiapas that began in May have sent smoke northward into the US; at least 17,000 acres burned.

The Inter-American Development Bank reported that in the mid-1990s Latin American workers completed an average of five years of school, compared with nine in East Asia and 12 in the United States.

William Branigin, "New Law in Mexico Allows Emigres to Call Two Nations Home," Washington Post, May 31, 1998. Banamex. 1998. Statistics and Dynamics of Manufacturing Productivity, 1981-97. Review of the Economic Situation in Mexico. Vol LXXIV, No 869. April. 123-127.