Academic journal article Migration Letters

Nationals, but Not Full Citizens: Naturalisation Policies in Mexico

Academic journal article Migration Letters

Nationals, but Not Full Citizens: Naturalisation Policies in Mexico

Article excerpt


According to its official historiography, Mexico is a mestizo ('mixed') nation: that is, one produced by the miscegenation and ethno-cultural fusion of both indigenous inhabitants and Spaniards. In some way, this could give an idea of a nation naturally prone to inclusiveness. What is more, during the 20th century Mexico was presented as a country of 'open doors', where victims of political persecution could find refuge. But in contrast to such ethos of inclusiveness and openness, and despite recent developments that included the acceptance of multiple citizenship, some groups within Mexico are subjected to very important restrictions in their rights, which amount to an open, legally-sanctioned discrimination. This is the case of the Mexicans by naturalization.

Why such restrictive measures applied to such a small group of Mexican citizens that, in principle, should be entitled to same rights as any other citizen? How such restrictions based on the foreign origin of a citizen, are related to the core ideas that sustained the political regimes in Mexico after the 1910 Revolution?

Nation, nationality, and citizenship in Mexico

After its independence from the Spanish Empire in 1821, and like all other post-colonial societies, Mexico had to deal with the key question of membership. That is: who are the Mexicans, and who foreigners? Which are the conditions for acquiring, and losing, Mexican nationality/citizenship, and which rights and duties should be attached to it?

Decisions, regulations and policies on these issues were adopted rather slowly and according to the political necessities of the moment (see Pani, 2012a, 2012b). For instance, the Apatgingán Constitution of 1814 - which is considered as the first of Mexico, despite being issued before its independence - did not offer clear guidelines regarding who 'the Mexicans' were, or how such citizenship should be acquired. The first Constitution issued in an effectively independent Mexico (in 1828) did not specify these points either.

In fact, nationality by birth was not regulated until 1836, when maletransmitted ius sanguinis was adopted as the main principle; but this would change several times during the century.1 The current system for citizenshipby-birth acquisition, which combines both ius soli and ius sanguinis, was set in 1934 only (Cisneros Chávez & Moraga Valle, 2012; González Martín, 1999, pp. 19-34; Hoyo, 2015b, pp. 2-4).

In contrast to citizenship-by-birth, naturalization was tackled right after independence. The first decree in this regard was issued in 1823 and was followed by a more detailed law in 1828 (Cisneros Chávez & Moraga Valle, 2012; González Martín, 1999, pp. 19-34; Hoyo, 2015b, pp. 2-4; Pani, 2012a, p. 632). This is an indication of the preoccupations of post-independence regimes about the remaining Spaniards in Mexican territory - who, by the way, were also subjected to mass expulsions (see e.g. González Navarro, 1994; Pani, 2012a; Pérez Vejo, 2009).

How important have been naturalised citizens in Mexican history - or as a matter of fact, all foreign-born inhabitants of it? This question is difficult to answer, because statistical data on immigration and naturalisation for both 19th century and most of the 20th, is notoriously fragmented and unreliable; is currently unavailable due to limits to public information access; or it simply does not exist (see e.g. Rodríguez Chávez, 2010; Rodríguez Chávez, Salazar Cruz, & Martínez Caballero, 2012; Yankelevich, 2015). This lack of data makes it impossible even today, to differentiate between three groups of foreign origin: resident foreigners as such; naturalised Mexicans; and Mexicans-by-birth born abroad who automatically acquired such nationality due to the ius sanguinis principle.

However, the specialists agree that all foreign-born inhabitants of Mexico - that is, the sum of all three groups mentioned above - have never been more than 1% of the total population (Cobo Quintero & Rodríguez Chávez, 2012; Gleizer Salzman, 2011; 2015, pp. …

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