Mexico City (CNSNews.com) – Mexico’s new ambassador to Washington plans to make a top priority helping Mexicans living in the U.S. to get citizenship to avoid deportation if they commit crimes.
At a press conference last week Ambassador Carlos Manuel Sada Solana said obtaining citizenship “is a very important protection mechanism” for Mexican citizens with legal residence in the U.S. because without citizenship they could still be deported for criminal acts.
“A lot of people think that just because they are legal residents they are not vulnerable to deportation and that’s not the case,” the ambassador said, in remarks later published on a government website.
“Someone, in spite of being a legal resident, if they commit a crime tomorrow, they could be deported,” Sada said. “It’s not that way for someone who has citizenship.”
The new envoy said there could be up to six million undocumented Mexicans living in the U.S.
The 49 Mexican consulates in the U.S., which provide services to Mexican citizens including assistance obtaining birth certificates and drivers licenses, do not ask whether a person is living legally in the U.S.
“We never ask their immigration status,” Sada said. “For us, a Mexican is a Mexican in whatever location they find themselves in.”
He noted that Mexico has a “well-developed reaction mechanism” for providing assistance to Mexicans facing deportation proceedings in the U.S. The goal is that “no Mexicans are deported and that the corresponding legal process is followed.”
Sada’s appointment was unanimously approved by the Mexican Senate earlier this month. He replaces Miguel Basáñez Ebergenyi, who served for only seven months.
Some Mexican consulates in the U.S., with the help of outside groups, currently help Mexicans that want to obtain American citizenship, by providing space for citizenship promotion events.
One such group, The New Americans’ Campaign United for Citizenship, notes on its website that “Consulates are trusted sources of immigration information and are prime locations for community-serving events, such as naturalization workshops. They also have community outreach staff and daily contact with hundreds of Mexican nationals.”
In Texas, Catholic Charities of Dallas has held two naturalization workshops this year at the Mexican consulate in the city, according to Jenna Carl Jabara, the organization’s deputy director of immigration and legal services.
The consulate, she said, “has been a partner for us for a while on this.” Workshops have been held at the Salvadoran consulate as well. “We just give general immigration presentations and the benefits of applying for citizenship,” she said.
Obtaining citizenship takes between four to nine months from the date of application.
“It is pretty fast in the immigration context. It is something that works pretty quickly,” Jabara said.
The New York Times reported earlier this year that the number of foreign nationals applying for citizenship in the U.S. increased by 11 percent in fiscal year 2015 and by 14 percent between August 2015 to January 2016. But while Mexicans make up 2.7 million of the 8.8 million legal residents eligible for citizenship, the report noted that only 36 percent of them have chosen to be naturalized.
Mexicans have a low rate of naturalization in the U.S. because of the close proximity of the two countries, according to Gretchen Kuhner, director of Instituto para las Mujeres en la Migracion, which assists families separated by migration and deportation.
Kuhner, an American living in Mexico City, says more than 1.6 million Mexicans have returned to live in Mexico since 2008 due to deportation and the economic crisis.
“We’ve seen ‘dreamers’ that have gone to university in the U.S. and for some reason they are deported and they are devastated. They don’t even speak Spanish. They are devastated because they went to college in the U.S. and that’s what they consider to be their country. There is a lot of anger and frustration with Mexico and the U.S.”
“Once you have citizenship, you can’t be deported,” Kuhner noted. “Your children have more rights, there are more rights to education, and there is better healthcare. We want families to have the right to make the best choices for them.”