All you need to know about Iberian America

The Illegal Gringos

Published November 5, 2021 in Mexico - 0 Comments

A few months before I arrived to live in Mexico City, I remember talking with a Canadian guy named Darrell about it.

He was recommending to me some jobs I could pursue to support myself down here and mentioned how it could make my stay there legal also.

I looked into the opportunities he discussed later on.

But, during the conversation, he casually joked about how it'd be funny if I somehow ended up "illegal" down in Mexico.

"A twist, huh? An illegal American in Mexico for once."

Haha haha -- good joke, Darrell.

Though jokes become reality?

Some few odd days ago, I got talking with a friend of mine named Blayde.

He’s from the US also and lives in Mexico just like me.

And, similar to me, he has overstayed his FMM card in Mexico.

Technically, we’re both “illegal Americans" now.

Oh, excuse me one second – I mean “undocumented Americans.”

NOBODY IS ILLEGAL, RIGHT MEXICANS?!?

Anyway, we’re both “undocumented immigrants.”

Can we call ourselves immigrants, too?

We’ve both been in Mexico for almost 5 years with no plans on going back.

And I even had a pregnancy situation where this gal named Jovi said I got her pregnant.

If I did get her pregnant and assuming she were to keep it, I guess Mexico will never get rid of me!

I got me an anchor baby.

Hehe jaja hehe jaja hehe jaja….

Jokes aside, he was telling me today that Mexican migration agents have been going crazy on trying to deport “undocumented” foreigners.

Not just Americans like us but really anybody.

In the last year or two, Mexican migration agents have really been focused on Central American migrants coming from the southern border of Mexico near Guatemala as you can see here.

However, as you can read here, there’s been A LOT more foreigners coming to Mexico to live here.

Basically those looking to escape Covid regulations and others who are digital nomads that have found quite a few countries to still be restrictive on letting foreigners coming in.

With Mexico being one of the more liberal countries as to its regulations on visitors ever since Covid started.

And before Covid even started, you supposedly had as many one almost 1 million Americans living illegally in Mexico as you can see here.

"About 1 million Americans live in Mexico, according to the State Department. Many of them do so illegally. But it's much easier to navigate life in Mexico as an immigrant without proper documents than it is in the United States."

It wouldn’t surprise me if that number increased since Covid started and that 1 million number obviously leaves out the non-Americans from countries like Canada, the UK and others who are here illegally as of now.

Outside of when I lived in Roma some odd months ago, I haven’t personally noticed that big of a spike in foreigners living here.

Mostly because I live in neighborhoods where you don’t really ever see foreigners at all.

Outside my rare visit to a touristy area from time to time, I can’t recall seeing any foreigners for almost 8 months or so.

Still, because of the spike in gringos, you’ll also notice that many of them are illegally staying here past when they should have left technically.

On top of that, I’ve heard reports of Mexican migration agents updating their software systems to better handle the amount of undocumented folks in the country.

Though take that with a grain of salt because I haven’t confirmed that.

And, on top of that, you have folks saying that Mexican migration officials are at bus stations supposedly checking documents of people getting on the busses.

Something that Blayde told me today and is something I have seen reported online.

Still, given the increased interest and potentially increased capability of the Mexican government to find and deport foreigners, there’s been a lot more activity on that front.

Let’s break this topic down little by little from what I could find online.

A Message from Migration Authorities

For those curious, we'll start with a message from migration authorities that was passed around social media not too long ago.

This will get the ball rolling in at least understanding their perspective before going forward.

The US State Department Message

This is one of the more important things you’ll hear about when this topic gets brought up.

The US State Department has issued a warning about how we Americans need to carry our documents on us at all times or else we can be detained at any moment as you can see here. October 13, 2021

“U.S. citizens are reminded that if you enter Mexico by land and plan to travel beyond the immediate border area you must stop at a National Migration Institute (INM) office to obtain an entry permit (Forma Migratoria Multiple, or FMM), even if not explicitly directed to do so by Mexican officials.

When traveling in Mexico, the law requires that foreign visitors carry a passport and entry permit.  You may be asked to present these documents at any point.  If you do not present these documents, immigration authorities may lawfully detain you for up to 60 days while they review your immigration status.

Immigration check points are common in the interior of Mexico, including in popular tourist areas far from the border.

U.S. Citizens resident in Mexico should carry their resident identification cards at all times.”

What it means? Either Mexico told the US to release it or the US is getting a lot of folks getting deported.

And, as I said, you have had more gringos seeing activity from migration officials these days.

Gringo Experiences with Migration

First, you have this British guy named Ben Wein that was arrested by migration authorities in Chiapas when found on a bus without his passport as you can see here from an article on October 11, 2021.

Second, you have this Canadian guy named Daniel Mate also found in Chiapas on a bus without a passport but he actually had been overstaying illegally. He was deported as you can see here on an article from September 29, 2021.

Third, you have this article here on September 29, 2021 showing how some random Costa Ricans were not permitted to enter Mexico at the airport and deported back to Costa Rica without any good reason.

Fourth, you have this article here showing Mexico requiring a visa for now Ecuadorians starting September 4, 2021.

Fifth, you obviously have all of the efforts by the Mexican government to deport Central Americans and Haitians as you saw in the video above and as you can see in the first two articles of those British and Canadian guys.

Sixth, you’ve had numerous foreigners online saying that they have had experiences with migration these days in the streets asking for papers as you can see in these screenshots here.

And, on top of that, you have people saying online that migration is acting a lot stricter on gringos trying to get into Mexico like in these screenshots here.

So, based on everything reported online, what are some key things to take away before going into my thoughts on the topic?

Anymore Visa Runs?

Based on the information above, you would think visa runs are over in Mexico.

Is that true?

Well, it depends.

After all, everybody’s experience is different and some gringos get luckier than others.

You will find comments online of people saying that they got into Mexico just fine. 

On the flip side, you have people in the screenshots showed above that say otherwise.

With some folks online saying also that they either got denied entry into Mexico and banned for 2 years while many others are saying that they were only given 7 days.

On top of that, apparently Mexico is not as tolerant on those who leave Mexico only for 72 hours to come right back in for another 180 days.

That was a common theme among gringos doing visa runs as many have said that you’ll be less likely having problems coming back in after waiting 72 hours.

From what I could tell online, it seems that Mexico is much more serious these days on stopping visa runs as a way to get more people to become residents instead.

I imagine it’s likely because they want the tax dollars that these residents are less likely to pay if they’re only on a tourist visa.

But that’s my guess anyhow.

Either way, as it was said, Mexico only recently updated their computer software to better track those who are doing visa runs.

If I had to guess, the software isn’t perfect and hasn’t detected certain individuals doing visa runs just yet while others have been picked up.

That would explain the discrepancy between those who got back in easily doing a visa run and those who explain a more intense environment at the airport (outside of just being lucky with a certain migration officer).

Still, if Mexico continues this in the years going forward, I imagine we could see a lot less gringos doing visa runs.

What else could be said?

Copies Not Accepted

For the gringos who might be concerned about this, it should be reminded that you’ll most likely have your experience with migration at either touristy areas or when taking either a flight or a bus to another city.

If you don’t plan on living or visiting touristy areas and don’t plan on traveling around, then it’s not likely you’ll have any experience with one of these migration folks.

Having said that, you should also know that they apparently won’t accept copies of a passport or ID.

Meaning that you’ll be required to carry your ID on you as the US State Department says.

Obviously, this is worrisome for us foreigners who don’t want to risk getting our passport stolen.

On the flip side, while it’s not necessarily likely that you’ll be questioned if you aren’t traveling to another city, you should know that they can’t deport you right away for not having your documents.

Instead, from what I’ve heard, they will detain you and most likely hold you away for up to 3 days to determine your legal status.

However, from what I’ve heard, they technically have the legal right to detain you for up to 60 days if necessary.

So it could be a long vacation to a migration center if you don’t have your ID on you.

Corrupt Cops Looking for Bribes

On top of all of this, I’ve heard stories of corrupt cops running around touristy areas of Mexico City like Condesa or Roma Norte looking for a bribe.

In the last few months, it seems many will claim that there is some law that you have to wear a mask outside when no law exists actually in Mexico City.

Or maybe they’ll accuse you of something you didn’t do like pissing in the street like this one cop did to me years ago here.

Though, with this latest development, you also have stories of corrupt cops using this as an opportunity for a bribe.

From what I’ve heard, normal cops in Mexico don’t technically have the legal power to detain you due to your legal status.

That’s the job for migration authorities and apparently some other officials in Mexico have recently been granted that authority due to the migration crisis with Central American migrants.

Still, just know that not everyone asking you for your documents could be an actual migration authoritiy.

Could just be a corrupt cop looking for some money.

How much should you give them in such a scenario?

Honestly, I’ve heard of people getting away by offering as little as 5 bucks or 100 pesos down here.

But I’ve also heard stories of naïve gringos giving away as much as 300 because they are dumb with no understanding on how to bribe a cop.

My only advice here is to not carry much cash with you when going outside.

Then, if this happens, make him work for it a little bit.

And when he “offers a solution,” you talk with him some more and then show him all the money you got in your pockets.

If you never go outside with more than 20 bucks, then you’ll be out for 20.

“This is all I got. Take it or leave it.”

Almost all of them will take it.

And while 20 bucks doesn’t sound like much, I rarely have a day in Mexico where I need to carry more than that on me while outside unless I’m buying groceries or I just left an ATM machine.

Actually, I’m rarely outside with more than 10 bucks.

A Way Around Officers Limiting Your Time?

As you can see in this screenshot here, someone has the idea to just print out the FMM card online that comes with an automatic 180 days already written on it.

Would that work?

I could see it.

If the 180 days is already on it, an officer who might've given you less but doesn't give enough fucks about you might let it slide.

However, given the reports of how aggressive some of these officers seem to be acting and given the better software, I could see it not working.

Where said officer could still deny you entrance into the country (apparently it's happened to some already) or maybe make you fill out a new card that they can scribble a smaller number onto?

Of course, I could see some person bitching at the officer about how "I PAID FOR THIS CARD ONLINE!"

But the officer can technically deny you anyway.

So I imagine they can get away with having you fill out a separate card.

Still, I can see this strategy working for some.

Especially if migration becomes a little more relaxed over time.

But will that happen?

More Relaxed Migration?

Some might think that this is all temporary and migration will become more relaxed with foreigners staying here once the migration issues is resolved.

For example, you have this comment here online from someone who apparently has seen this attitude before from migration.

Personally, I think that's bullshit.

First, we've consistently had migration waves coming from Central America for many years now.

With climate change getting worse and the countries they come from not getting any better, I see this issue continuing longer than people think.

Second, I do believe that maybe we'll see less migration officers looking for illegal gringos in the future.

Perhaps with less intensity than now whenever a migration wave isn't happening.

But I do see the reports of gringos being stopped on the street becoming a lot less common when more of them leave after Covid restrictions on  travel are lifted even more than now.

Third, why would the Mexican migration officers stop being more restrictive at the airport?

While one might argue about the economic benefits that gringos can bring, I don't think that'll be convincing enough.

After all, it's their job to enforce immigration policy and they apparently have updated tools now to better see who is doing a visa run.

So I don't see them cooling down on that.

Still, for gringos currently in Mexico as of November 2021, there might be a longer term solution for you as we'll  get to next.

Temporary Solution: Regularization Program

It should be noted though that Mexico has been offering a “regularization” program for gringos who overstayed their FMM and have been in the country since Covid started.

There are various migration offices in Mexico – such as the one in Queretaro – that will help these foreigners get temporary residency.

While the exact requirements varies by office, none of them seem to have financial requirements to get the residency from what I’ve heard.

Though you will have to pay a minor fee for the application to go through and the cost of the fee varies by how long you want the visa to last.

It usually cost somewhere in the hundreds of dollars anyhow.

For those curious, here’s a really great article written by someone who got the temporary visa this way.

Finally, keep in mind that this program won't last forever so you better get on it NOW as I post this on November 4, 2021.

At any rate, what are my thoughts on all of this?

Final Thoughts

There’s a few things that come to mind.

First, I don’t really care too much.

I’m reaching a point in my life where I want to leave Mexico anyhow after almost 5 years here so that I can begin traveling through the rest of Latin America again.

I almost see it as maybe a sign that it’s time to pack the bags and hit the road since I’ve been delaying this plan of mine for quite some time now.

Second, you have the argument by some that this doesn’t make any sense economically.

When talking with both Blayde and my sister (who doesn’t live in Mexico) about this, they both said the same thing.

“Why would Mexico deport people who spend plenty of money in their economy?”

Well, to be fair, it’s not like spending money gets you to break the rules and not all of Mexico’s economy is based on tourism as you can see here.

“In 2019, contribution of travel and tourism to GDP (% of GDP) for Mexico was 17.3 %. Though Mexico contribution of travel and tourism to GDP (% of GDP) fluctuated substantially in recent years, it tended to decrease through 2000 - 2019 period ending at 17.3 % in 2019.”

Still, 17.3% is quite a number.

Though that number doesn’t likely accurately reflect the impact of specifically gringos who are illegal or doing the visa runs.

As said before, about a million illegal Americans are predicted to be in Mexico.

That doesn’t factor in the illegal folks from other countries like Canada, Germany, etc.

And while there are many more who live in Mexico legally or only visit briefly for tourism, I imagine that 17.3% number doesn’t reflect the amount of money spent by the illegal gringos on non-tourism goods and services.

Either way, I get the sentiment these foreigners are expressing.

It’s true.

We gringos – legal or illegal – do tend to spend more money on average than your typical Mexican.

Many who spend 2,000 USD a month when, as you can read here, your GDP per capita in Mexico is 8,346.70 USD per year according to this source here.

Which is 695 USD per month.

More than 3 times what so many gringos spend.

And that 2,000 USD number is obviously not entirely accurate to be fair for every gringo.

You got many who spend way more than that and you got others, like me, who spend around 700 bucks a month.

Still, despite how much each gringo spends individually, it’s still a net positive to the economy.

Especially when you consider how almost none of us “steal your jobs” while plenty of Mexicans do take jobs in the US working illegally so that they send USD back home away.

Not many gringos working illegally in Mexico to send pesos to grandma in rural Wisconsin.

Though, to be fair, you do have the few gringos who do work illegally down here but most of them, from what I’ve heard, are backpacker types who are working at hostels for a bed.

Either way, while I don’t necessarily like the attitude of “we give you money, we OWN this place,” I also get the argument they are making.

Technically, we are a net positive to the local economy when you only look at the fact that we don’t typically steal jobs, don’t send money back home, don’t use public services like needing the public education to teach our kids their language while also usually spending more money than several typical locals combined each month.

Having said that, there is at least one negative that comes with the extra gringos economically for the locals.

Third, It’s an argument you’ll hear among them anyhow in regards to how we drive up rental prices in certain neighborhoods.

Now, in general, that’s true.

Just today, I saw some Mexican dude offering a rental in Roma Norte of Mexico City and he said in the description that he “only rents to foreigners.”

When looking at his price for what he was offering, I could see why.

It looked considerably overpriced but probably at a reasonable price point for a foreigner.

That price being about 900 bucks.

Not insane but the place didn’t look THAT nice for 900 bucks.

Not even in Roma Norte.

Still, I don’t like the idea that it’s JUST foreigners who increase the rent in these areas.

Last time I lived in Roma Norte, I was living in some apartment building full of people.

Looking back at it, I’d say we had 5 foreigners total that I saw in my entire time there?

There were 3 French people (2 girls and 1 guy), 1 American and 1 older European chick from some random small country that I don’t even remember right now.

But keep in mind that foreigners came and went and the building in question had enough room for like maybe 15 people total?

Or something like that.

It had quite a bit of people living there.

The rest were Mexicans or richer Latinos from Venezuela.

And, when you live in Roma Norte, you see plenty of Mexicans who live in the area also.

Still, gringos who drive up the prices there but you have plenty of wealthier locals who do also.

Anyway, I get the argument made here.

Still, all things considered, I do think it’s short-sided on Mexico’s part to deport these folks given they do bring plenty of financial benefits that also support the people who they do business with in these areas like Roma Norte or elsewhere.

Fourth, I think I finally found a reason to wear a mask in public.

Because of COVID?

No. Fuck that noise.

But now I can disguise myself a little bit more easily.

With a mask on, perhaps I “pass as a local” a little more easily and would less likely be stopped.

Granted, I don’t live in touristy areas so this isn’t really an issue.

Fifth, another argument to not live in touristy areas of Mexico City!

So say I didn’t warn you.

The benefits of Lindavista, Pedregal de Santo Domingo & the roughest streets of Tepito can’t be overstated now!

Sixth, there is a certain irony though in all of this.

While it’s not clear if the crackdown on illegal gringos would’ve still happened if the migration crisis never happened as Mexico…

It is a question!

Did the migration crisis in Mexico with all the Central Americans kick Mexico into doing something about anyone illegal in the country?

Well, there’s a few things to consider.

For one, the US obviously had a role here in encouraging Mexico to stop the Central Americans for a few years now as you can read here.

With Mexican President AMLO acknowledged the crisis in September of 2021.

It then brings into question if Mexico could have updated their computer software as fast as they did and then focus on the illegal gringos at the same time if the Central Americans were neve pouring through.

Given I don’t know when they were originally planning on updating their software, I can’t say.

Though, from my perspective, it feels like Mexico was kicked into doing something quick about the crisis and, while making arrangements to handle it, decided to handle the illegal gringos at the same time (especially given the noticeable increase in illegal gringos due to the Covid situation).

That’s my impression anyhow.

Seventh, is Mexico becoming more hostile to foreigners?

Well, it depends.

Some longer term expats in Mexico say so as you can see here.

But what do I think?

I’d say your typical Mexican isn’t anymore hostile today than they were when I first began living here.

You obviously have always had some who do resent us and always have.

Either because of jealously regarding our dating or financial success here, racism or pre-conceived notions about us that came from watching too much TV and not enough time meeting actual gringos.

In the same way you got backwards folks in the US who hate Mexicans but have never met one.

Still, I do think Mexico, as a country, has become slightly less welcoming to foreigners in the last year since the Covid thing started.

Primarily because of the extra amount of desperate people (aggressive homeless folks, corrupt cops demanding a bribe, etc) that are extra aggressive in trying to fuck over foreigners.

And also this change in trying to enforce measures against visa runs.

Which, regardless of what you think about visa runs, simply taking action against them can be seen as hostile to foreigners in general since that naturally kicks out foreigners who would otherwise be a fair financial contribution to society down here.

Because, keep in mind, there are plenty of foreigners who don’t make exactly the amount needed for residency but still make considerably more than your typical Mexican.

It’s always been my perspective that that a Latin countries, like the Mexican government, are a bit unrealistic in how much money they think we gringos need to live a good life down here.

It’s even more ironic when you take into consideration that one of Mexico’s (and Latin America more broadly) biggest appeals is its cheap cost of living.

You really think Bill Gates is looking for residency in Mexico because of “cheap living?”

No.

Whose the type of person looking for “cheap living?”

Cmon, Mexico – you’re smart enough to answer that one, aren’t yeah?

Yup, it ain’t your millionaire CEO’s of America & England.

It’s backpackers, retired folks on 1,125 a month in social security, “digital nomads” making just below 12,000 a year and many others.

With, of course, plenty who make more than 12,000 a year but not necessarily enough for residency.

And, if we’re being fair, you do have plenty who make very good money but “cheap cost of living” isn’t necessarily the main appeal for them if they’re rich enough to afford a nice life in Paris.

Either way, simply trying to stop visa runs, as I said, can be seen a hostile action because it will discourage the amount of foreigners coming here.

Many who will just go elsewhere.

So, when answering if there’s most “hostility towards foreigners” in Mexico these days, I’d say your average Mexican isn’t anymore hostile whatsoever but some changes due to the Covid situation and migration crisis have encouraged some hostility there a little bit in my opinion.

Eighth, are the gringos & Latinos hypocritical on this subject? Eh, maybe.

I do see some hypocrisy here.

Primarily with those who favor illegal immigration to the US and are against deporting illegal Mexicans & Central Americans but cheer for the deportation of illegal gringos.

This is the same type of crowd who demands that gringos “assimilate” to Mexico but any calls for assimilation of Mexicans in the US would be called racist.

It reminds me of this article here where you have Latinos in Latin America who call for the deportation of poorer illegal immigrants from neighboring Latin countries but find the enforcement of US immigration policy to be bad.

“NOT IN MY BACKYARD!!”

George Carlin -- not in my backyard

Anyway, I don’t mind Mexico enforcing its immigration policies. I think it’s short-sided but I’ve spent enough time in Mexico to know that complaining about short-sided behavior doesn’t get you anywhere.

You just learn to laugh at it all and move forward.

And, while I see the enforcement of this to harm Mexico economically and not make much practical sense, I’ll always respect that Mexico is its own country that can enforce its own laws as it sees fit.

That’s just how it is.

Plus, if we're being honest, the fact that I'm about to walk out the door anyhow to carry on my journey to the rest of Latin America probably changes my tune a little bit also.

If I was starting my second year in Mexico after this news, maybe I'd spread false news about there being a femicide at the local migration office in Mexico City so that feminists can keep those guys busy protesting outside their door.

But I'm ready to kick ass in the rest of Latin America!

Will I ever come back?

Quite possibly. Depends on where I decide to settle down after my upcoming traveling is complete.

Anyway, that's all I got to say on the topic for now.

Either way, drop any comments below in the comment section.

Follow my Twitter here.

And thanks for reading.

Best regards,

Matt

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