Mexico and the World
Vol. 8, No 5 (Fall 2003)
Mexico And The United States: 2003:
The Role Of Civic Society To Advance Civil Government In Transnational
Mexican- U.S. Affairs
Greetings to colleagues on this panel and to the distinguished
audience assembled here at UNAM-San Antonio on this day of October
17, 2003, at this Conference entitled "Mexico 2003,"
which as I understand will be published by the Federal Electoral
Supreme Court (TEPJF-- Tribunal Electoral del Poder Judicial de
It is a pleasure to be at this
important meeting as the "outside" analyst; and I am
pleased to recognize UNAM's Ramón de la Fuente for having
conceived of and convened this forum to carry out the first major
assessment of the meaning of the 2003 national election at the
midpoint of the presidency of Vicente Fox. As rector, Juan Ramón
de la Fuente has led UNAM into a major role in the development
of Mexico's new Civic Society, which has been confused with "civil
1 Clearly I am the only participant here who is not a Mexican
political or Civic Leader. The last time that I served as outside
analyst was at the 2001 Conference of former mayors of Mexico
City, at which time I participated with the distinguished former
mayor who is with us here today--Manuel Camacho Solís.
It is important
here to make the distinction between civil society and Civic Society.
Mexico's civil government was firmly established by leaders such
as Benito Juárez to end the roles of Church and military
in government. By the 21st century Mexico's civil government has
gained the guidance of enlightened citizens who make up non-governmental
Civic Society. This Civic Society is accomplishing several goals:
-It serves as the civic conscience
necessary to insist that civil government (a) be responsive to
citizen demands, (b) set goals and be publicly accountable, and
(c) be subjected to monitoring by organized citizen groups.
-It makes contributions to national,
state, and local development that government cannot make owing
to its bureaucratic and too often "statist"-oriented
UNAM's leadership of Civic Society
in mediating among politically contentious forces has been vital,
for example, in defusing tension about the framework of how national
budgets will be developed. In effect, UNAM has developed a team
that analyzes the national budget-making process from the point
of view of Civil Society, negotiating reasonable solutions to
seemingly intractable political intrigue.
I congratulate my distinguished
colleagues on this panel who have emerged as Civic Leaders in
the Federal Electoral Institute (IFE) and the Federal Electoral
Supreme Court (TEPJF). Together with the political and university
leaders represented here today, they have transcended mere political
ideology to lead Mexico into full democractic elections in 2000
and 2003. These Civic Leaders merit a round of applause from all
of us. Please join me in this applause.
I take up in this paper five
aspects of U.S.-Mexican interlocking domestic relations. Although
the ideas may not appear to be fully related, I hope that by the
end my logic will become clear.
Mexico has added new dimensions
to the organization of society by adding two powers to the usual
three (executive, legislative, and judicial) that oversee national
life in most nations. The two new powers are the Federal Electoral
Commission (IFE) and the Federal Electoral Supreme Court (TEPJF),
each of which is independent and not subject to veto by Mexico's
other four independent powers. If the USA had had an IFE and a
TEPJF, if probably would not have its current president and very
possibly not be involved in the unilateral quagmire of Iraq.
Although Chile and Costa Rica
have a fourth power lodged in the Contraloría General,
only Mexico has five powers, thus becoming a model for the world.
The IFE that oversaw the elections of 2000 and 2003 is especially
important because its members are nonpartisan, universally respected
Citizens of irreproachable standing, named by the Mexican Chamber
of Deputies, which itself has had to step aside from "politics
as usual" to select this august body.
The great gain for Mexico produced
by the role IFE plays is that its members have represented each
of the major political parties, yet maintained Civic Objectivity.
The danger for Mexico's future
is that one or more of the major parties may not be included in
IFE's membership, thus threatening its gains as a fully representative
and respected body of Civic Society. Let us hope that the fines
levied by the IFE on the PRI and PAN for illegal 2000 campaign
activity do not result in the PRD being omitted from membership
when the IFE 's General Council soon comes due for renewal.
The TEPJF may face dangers as
some political parties may seek to limit its independent role
as the agency of Civic Society empowered to assure that all parties
operate as legally organized and do not violate their own rules
of internal election of officers and accountability to party members.
Mexico faces the problem of abstentionism, as seen in the 2003
election. This problem can be seen from three angles:
(1) As the inevitable consequence
of any mid-term election in this case magnified by the absence
of any compelling "cause" such as the 2000 voting of
PRI out of the presidency after 71 years;
(2) As caused by the proliferation
of political parties, eleven of them diluting issues and confusing
voters with too many options;
(3) As caused by the fact that
many Mexicans are "trapped" in the USA and can no longer
return to their home town with ease because of the 2001 attack
on the Twin Towers. Although this aspect may be small in the Mexican
total vote, it is large in the fact that Mexicans in the USA feel
that they are not included in the electoral process of Mexico.
This third factor has been compounded
by the fact that the many millions of Mexicans without documented
status permitting them to be in the USA cannot leave for any purpose
if they hope to be eligible to pay a fine to the U.S. Citizenship
and Immigration Services (USCINS, formerly INS) to "adjust"
their status and be able to work while they await full "legalization."
If they leave and are detected to be returning, they cannot pay
a mere fine but must remain outside the USA for five to 10 years
before they are eligible even to apply for admission in any status
To permit these Mexicans to vote
in Mexico, provision needs to be made for IFE either to (a) establish
voting from and/or in the USA and/or (b) develop legal representation
in the Mexican Congress and state legislature for Mexicans who
have dual nationality. Just as Romania allows elected representatives
from abroad, voted into office at polling places in the USA, Mexico
could consider the same method to give its citizens a voice in
Although many political party
campaign platforms have advocated giving Mexican abroad the right
vote in Mexico's elections, other Mexican leaders have argued
that such voting could antagonize relations with the USA. In my
view, voting by Mexican from and/in the USA would not be a problem
because U.S. citizens themselves can vote in U.S. elections from
anywhere in the world, usually by absentee-mail ballot.
Because the Mexican Congress
has made commitments several times to allow voting by Mexicans
living in the USA, but has not focused on developing a feasible
method that can be implemented, I offer the following method to
be considered by the distinguished legislators here with us today.
I give only a brief overview and do not go into the details, for
which the solutions have been developed.
Mexico could adopt an absentee voting plan that allows ballots
to be mailed to IFE post office boxes in U.S. border cities for
easy pick up by IFE; or an IFE mailing office could be established
in the USA. Mexicans with a passport or driver license issued
by any U.S. state could vote in an IFE approved absentee-ballot
method, and have their signature verified by a U.S. notary public2.
Expansion of this program could be undertaken with relative ease
by converting the Mexican Consular Identification Card to a passport,
as is discussed below in Section 4.
Beyond voting, it is my view
that Mexico could best protect its citizens in the USA, and protect
itself against often-irrational unilateral U.S. actions, by establishing
full-scale lobbying offices at the national, state, and local
levels in the USA. This is not only necessary but also feasible.
2 Notaries are chartered by each
U.S. state, who verify and record information on credentials of
identification , and maintain their records open for public inspection
. The cost averages US$ 6. The role of U.S. notaries (who only
verify that the signatory has signed) is very different from that
that of Mexican notaries .
Although some Mexican leaders
still seek to follow the corollary of the country's 1930 Estrada
Doctrine3, the problem is that the affairs of Mexico and the USA
have become deeply intertwined. Because in this age of globalization
-U.S. remittances to Mexico now
exceed US$13 billion yearly,
-Los Angeles is the "second
largest city of Mexico,"
-the Mexican economy is "dollarized"
to at least 76%,
-millions of Mexicans have worked
half their life in Mexico and half in the USA,
it is evident that Mexico could
re-establish the effective type of lobby with which it won Mexico's
place in the North American Free Trade Area (TLCAN).
Indeed foreign lobbying is encouraged
in the USA in order that U.S. policymakers can receive input from
foreign nationals to balance that received from U.S. businessmen
who have invested in foreign countries. All that the USA requires
is registration of foreign lobbyists with the U.S. government,
stating which country they represent.
3 According to this corollary,
traditionally Mexico does not allow any other country to intervene
in its internal affairs, and Mexico does not interfere in the
affairs of other countries.
What is desperately needed by
Mexico is not to turn inward and become "lost" in its
internal politics, but to organize the country's method of influencing
policy in the USA--regulations as well as legislative policy.
For example, what I call Mexican
Los Angeles4, is "administered" by a Consul General
who does not have the power, budget, or staff needed to protect
fully Mexican citizens as well advocate new U.S. policies and
regulations needed to advance the rights and living standards
of Mexicans, especially undocumented ones. With a population greater
than many Mexican states, there is no "governor" of
the Mexicans, no cabinet, legislative or judicial system, no police
force, and no Mexican federal subvention system.
To begin to resolve such problems,
I urge that Mexican Civic Leaders, such as those assembled here
today, consider how Mexico might organize an Office of Mexican
Affairs in the USA. Such an Office is needed to coordinate the
various levels of lobbying issues involved in U.S.-Mexican international
economic and social relations--"international" issues
which have now intersected with domestic issues in both countries.
Such an Office needs to be staffed by persons with broad knowledge
about both countries, ready to negotiate with the decentralized
forces of the USA: government officials, congressional leaders,
captains of industry, and labor union leaders as well as key foundation
president, and university professors. This Office could sponsor
the development of position papers needed to place Mexico at the
center of U.S. policy, rather than the periphery.
4 See James Wilkie, "Afterword
" in James Wilkie and Clint E. Smith, eds., Integrating Cities
and Regions : North America Faces Globalization ,PROFMEX web journal
Mexico and the World 2:4 (1997), http://www.isop.ucla.edu/profmex/current_past.html
. For a revised view of my concept, see Olga M. Lazin's article
which follows in this same issue of Mexico and the World.
Need to develop a revised U.S.-Mexican
Treaty on Double Taxation is important not only to expand provisions
affecting big business but also to add coverage of individuals
ranging from independent contractors to day laborers. What is
needed is to end double withholding taxes on individual wages.
There is urgent need to "Totalize"
U.S.-Mexican Social Security Accounts so that workers can benefit
by combining their social security payment in both countries to
be able to win the pension that otherwise is unavailable to them.
The USA has agreements with 20 countries in the world (including
Canada and Chile in this hemisphere), but no agreement with the
country that is most important to it. With Totalization, many
Mexicans living in either or both countries would receive payments
directly to them, proportionate to the amount of credits earned
in each country.
After research in the records
of the U.S. Social Security Administration (SSA), it is my independent
estimate that Mexicans living in Mexico should receive at least
US$ 27,000,000,000. (SSA estimates that the amount is at least
$30,000,000,000.) These amounts exclude interest. Once we agree
on the amount, it could be paid by SSA via the Mexican Social
Security Institute (IMSS) to persons and their families, according
to protocols that we develop for them to demonstrate that the
head of family paid into the U.S. Social Security System. Payment
will be made regardless of the fact that the work was performed
with U.S. incorrect or fictitious social security numbers.
Issues such as double taxation,
double withholding, and social security coverage are complex and
need to be developed by Mexican lobbyists working both with elites
and grass-roots leaders in the USA and Mexico. Although such issues
overlap many ministries and agencies in both countries, they all
have financial implications that fall under the negotiating aegis
of the Secretary of Treasury (SHCP).
The USA invites lobbyists to
be active to represent the many citizens of the world's nations
resident in and contributing to the U.S. economy--if the lobbyists
duly register with the U.S. government. Mexican citizens in the
USA also expect that Mexico will lobby on their behalf, especially
in California, where already 38% of the population use Spanish
as their primary language. Indeed in Los Angeles, the Mexican
Consulate serves as the convention center for Central American
and South American citizens, who realize that when Mexico speaks
it helps all Latin Americans, indirectly if not directly.
The movement of U.S. banks into
Mexico offers possibilities to "bancarizar"5 the country's
popular sector. There are more Mexicans of the popular sector
"bankified" in the USA than in Mexico, and this merits
change. The U.S. banks in Mexico are following the same pattern
as in the USA, first offering to open free bank checking and savings
accounts, then offering credit cards and consumer credit, and
finally seeking to issue small business credits and home mortgage
loans6. Perhaps some member of this group, such as my good friend
here Diputado Francisco Sáurez Dávila, can take
advantage of the experience in banking to develop regulations
that will speed up integration of the popular sector into the
5 Once persons are provided access
to bank services and benefits, they are "bancarizado"
6 Some banks , such as Bank of
Ameica and Washington Mutual, even permit up to four families
"living under the same roof" to pool their income in
order to qualify for a home loan, thus buying property jointly.
Mexican consulates in the USA
led the way in opening the possibility of Mexicans without U.S.
immigration documents to join the U.S. formal economy by issuing
since November 2001 more than 1.5 million high-security Consular
Identification Cards. With each of these cards, the consulates
distribute the booklet La Matrícula Consular y los Servicios
Bancarios, written by PROFMEX Vice President Raúl Lomelí.
This non-profit booklet is distributed
without charge because it is sponsored as a public service by
U.S. banks (and other institutions such as newspapers, food markets,
and airlines). It provides a simplified guide to Mexicans on how
to use their Matrícula Consular to join the formal U.S.
economy. It explains that the Matrícula is one of the major
documents that can be used to:
- open a checking account and
- send funds inexpensively to
- obtain a U.S. Federal Income
Tax Identification (ITIN), Number (in lieu of a social security
number for which they may not be eligible), and
- open a saving account that
earns interest, thus beginning to establish the credit history,
- gain a credit card and bank
loans, based on credit history.
The massive opening of bank accounts
by Mexicans of the popular sector now living in the USA were expected
to result in initial deposits of US$ 300, but the result has turned
out to average $US 3,0008. With this money moved from under the
mattress at home and into the bank, home invasions by criminals
have declined dramatically, and Mexicans without immigration documents
have begun to join not only the formal economy but to integrate
into the U.S. legal systems.
A person with a bank account,
a car loan, and a home loan as well as paying federal and state
income taxes to establish a basis for becoming a documented migrant
is hardly "illegal." Indeed, it is very difficult for
the U.S. government to deport such a person, the concept of illegality
not being a case of black or white, but rather mitigated by the
extent of community roots.
This month Blue Cross of California
began accepting the Matrícula Consular as primary identification
for obtaining health insurance. As Blue Cross expands this program
throughout the USA, it will be increasingly difficult for Project
USA to argue that the Mexican popular sector in the USA is an
enormous cost to U.S. tax payers.
7 (Los Angeles: PROFMEX-LEAP
Publications; 1st Edition, 2002; 2nd Edition, 2003.)
8 Deposits to the bank accounts
of Mexicans new to the banking system total at least $1,000,000,000
monthly, according to the Dallas Morning News , Sept. 30, 2003.
Although the long-term goal has
been delayed to gain amnesty for all of the Mexicans with many
years of having lived in the USA, there are many important steps
that can be taken in the meantime. Even while lobbying efforts
are redoubled to achieve the full civil and human rights of legal
status in the USA for law-abiding Mexicans, legal documents can
be improved to assure some basic ability to participate fully
in modern life.
Because many U.S. states require
that Mexicans present "non-falsifiable" documents such
as a verifiable U.S. document or a verifiable foreign passport,
Mexico's Secretary of Foreign Relations Luis Ernesto Derbez suggested
at our Monterrey Tec meeting of August 28th that Mexico could
consider converting the Consular Identification Card into a passport.
This can be done relatively easy in Los Angeles, where the Consulate
General's Office has been fingerprinting all applicants (which
is not required for issuance of passports by the USA) for its
file on each recipient. By replacing the Matrícula with
the standard-size international passport with several pages, and
by recording the data on the applicant in a central Mexican data
base the conversion could be completed at relatively low cost.
Mexican citizens with a passport issued by their consulate in
the USA could be enabled not only vote in Mexican elections in
the absentee manner suggested in Section 1, above, but also gain
a driver license in many states of the USA, where they cannot
not presently gain one.9
The present tendency among some
anti-immigrants to deny a driver license effectively seems to
be aimed at creating a system of apartheid, with popular-sector
Mexicans reduced to immobility. The slogan of anti-Mexican groups
could well be: "Work, work, work, and if you try to gain
mobility by driving a car you will be arrested and charged with
three serious crimes." (a) driving without a license; (b)
driving without auto registration (which cannot be obtained without
a driver license); and (c) driving without auto liability insurance
(which cannot be obtained without a driver license). With no driver
license, driver training and testing are considered moot, and
when Mexicans are stopped for violating traffic laws for which
they have never been tested, they go directly to jail. 10
9 Only 13 of the 50 U.S. states
allow Mexicans to obtain driver licenses with the Matrícula:
Delaware, Idaho, Indiana, Iowa. Michigan, New México, North
Carolina, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, Utah, Washington, and
Wisconsin, according to the Mexican Secretariat of Foreign Relations,
Oct. 13, 2002. One anti-Mexican group in the USA claims that other
states permit driver licenses to persons regardless of any documented
status in the USA: Alaska, Connecticut, Louisiana, Montana, Nevada,
Ohio, Rhode Island, and West Virginia, according to FreeRepublic.com
Conservative News Forum, Sept. 9, 2003, http://220.127.116.11/focus/f-news/984033/posts.
10 In the fast changing U.S.
legal scene, two states apparently may or may not accept the Matrícula
and/or permit driving without documented status in the USA: Nebraska
and South Dakota, as reported by the Los Angeles Times, Sept.
10, 2003. California's law accepting the Matrícula as a
valid identification to obtain the driver license is scheduled
to go into effect Jan. 1, 2004, but anti-Mexicans seek to repeal
that law before hand. [NOTE in March 2004: Upon taking office
in November 2003 after Governor Gray Davis was recalled in October
2003, Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger won repeal of the Matrícula
as valid ID until greater security is established, which he seeks
to do with State Senator Gil Cedillo.]
For U.S. states to deny the driver
licenses to Mexican immigrants in this highly mobile 21st century
is to deny a basic human right to enjoy mobility--the mobility
to get to work, take the children to school, seek health care,
and live with effectiveness in a complicated modern society.
Let me conclude by bringing together several ideas in this paper
and putting them into larger contexts.
First, Mexico has achieved a fully democratic society only if
the autonomy of IFE is guaranteed to include enlightened leaders
of the three major political parties.
Second, Mexico's political leaders
should resist the tendency to focus inward on life inside the
D.F. and look beyond to the "provinces," especially
those in the USA. Mexicans in the USA are increasingly frustrated
by a lack of representation in Mexican legislatures and their
inability to appeal to the government for moral (if not financial)
support. They want a voice in Mexico's electoral system, which
they see as only fair given the importance of the remittances
they send home to Mexico.11
Third, we need also to encourage
the shift from the Consular Identification card to the Mexican
passport, a relatively low cost for high gain.
Fourth, Mexico could benefit
by establishing an effective Office of Mexico Affairs in the USA
to coordinate lobbying on behalf of its citizens, especially for
protection against double-taxation and Totalization of social
Fifth, we can apply in Mexico
at least one gain that Mexicans have made in the USA. Given the
success of Mexicans entering the U.S. banking system, let me propose
here that we revise the non-profit PROFMEX banking guide for distribution
in Mexico, thus helping the Mexican popular sector to join the
formal economy of Mexico.
11 Although at one time it was
widely believed that persons voting in the USA could not vote
in other countries, such is clearly not the case. With or without
dual nationality, voters in the USA have the right to vote in
the USA and/or the countries where they eligible to vote.
The examples of successful programs
analyzed here suggest that there are many ways to enhance the
living conditions in the USA of Mexicans who lack immigration
If we work together to create
an effective bi-national Civic Society, we can reach new and expanded
ways of helping to make civil government in both countries increasingly
receptive to solving "bi-national domestic relations,"
previously considered to be "international relations."
Mexico's national elections of
2000 and 2003 need to be consolidated to protect the integrity
of IFE and TEPJF; and the elections offer a breakthrough to examine
the future of democratic society, regardless of an arbitrary border,
which now "traps" many Mexicans in the USA.