Mexico’s SB-1070

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The following is my translation of Alberto Escorcia’s post, “Ley General de Población, una SB-1070 a la mexicana“, which was originally published on Pateando Piedras under a Creative Commons Attribution-Share alike license. Photographs are by Don Bartletti of the Los Angeles Times, a photojournalist I’ve long admired.

Mexico’s “General Population Act” is similar to, or at least as racist as, Arizona’s SB-1070

The powerful arrival of SB-1070, even in its now more moderate form, represents a setback regarding the respect for human rights for those seeking work in other countries because of a lack of opportunities in their own. Stopping someone for merely appearing to be a “migrant” (who knows what that means or how it’s determined) is to be condemned because it represents an act of discrimination.

In Mexico we have protested against this law, and we are willing to demonstrate in the streets, but we haven’t even stopped to question our own treatment by local and federal authorities of migrants who pass through our country on their way to the United States.

Have we taken the time to review our own “General Population Act”, which has some of the same parameters as Arizona’s SB-1070?

The General Population Act (LGP) and its regulations governing the stay of foreigners in our country, requires that every authority must verify the immigration status of aliens applying for a process or service. Our foreign friends who have attempted to open a bank account or work even part time without carrying their documentation with them can confirm the enforcement of the act.


Groupo Beta undercover police agents grab a youth near an immigration checkpoint in Chiapas, Mexico. Along the rail line, Beta agents pursue robbers who prey upon hapless migrants. ( Don Bartletti / Los Angeles Times )

Just like in Arizona, getting a job in Mexico is risky if you’re undocumented. Article 74 of the Act states that:

No one should give employment to aliens who have not first verified legally in the country and without obtaining specific authorization to provide that particular service.

Supposedly only the National Migration Institute (INM) can detain those who do not prove their status, but just like in Arizona, they can solicit the help of local police and, if necessary, place the migrants in prison according to Article 94:

The authorities of the Federation, states and municipalities, will be auxiliary to the Interior Ministry in functions that correspond in terms of population registration.

Just like in Arizona, police are given the possibility to question immigrants anywhere in Mexico, and if they find any violation of the law, they are “the authorized personnel to carry out their duties for public safety,” says Article 152 of the General Population Act:

If in the course of the investigation a violation of the provisions of the Act is revealed, the regulations that merit their expulsion abroad of migrants will be carried out by the authorized personnel [including police].

The “charge” of appearing Central American

In Mexico operations against undocumented immigrants across the country who are classified in a discriminatory manner by having “Central American features” are common. They are persecuted, harassed and, if even if they are Mexican but have a strange accent different from that of the center of the country, they are classified as “non-Mexicans.”

It’s depressing the stories of the abuses subjected by citizens who travel “The Beast“, the freight train from Chiapas in the south to the border with the United States. Rape, extortion kidnappings, and if for some reason they ask help of the police, then they are doubly extorted.


Undocumented Central Americans crowd the tops of freight train cars in Mexico. They will be treated as lawbreaking foreigners if caught, but cargo rail lines have become a major passageway north to the U.S. border. ( Don Bartletti / Los Angeles Times )

We should pause a bit to think as we protest the treatment that they want to give us in Arizona, why are we not outraged by the treatment we give to immigrants across our country or those who settle here, such as our Argentine friends, in search of a better future.

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