Mexican President Andres Manuel López Obrador presented Thursday a plan to guarantee rights and protection for the estimated 11.3 million Mexicans living in the United States, nearly half of them without documents.
During his daily morning press conference, the president emphasized the need to give “support to our migrant compatriots.”
Noting that the emigrants were driven by “necessity” to seek opportunities north of the border, he called them “exemplary” citizens for the more than $30 billion in remittances they send back to México annually.
“It’s a fundamental support for the popular economy, for the economy of communities. That’s the reason for our commitment to support them, to protect them and support them,” he said.
Joining López Obrador in front of reporters was Foreign Secretary Marcelo Ebrard, who said that México planned to devote 3.93 million pesos ($205 million) to the effort.
He said that at least 2,163 people will be part of the program and possible as many as 2,800 if the number of mobile consulates is increased.
Currently, 11.8 million Mexicans live outside of México, according to official figures.
More than 97 percent of them reside in the US, with the largest concentrations in the states of California, Texas and Arizona.
While 8 percent of them have visas, 17 percent are dual citizens and 27 percent are legal permanent residents, the remaining 48 percent of Mexicans in the US are undocumented.
“These are the most vulnerable, the ones we have to support the most,” Ebrard said.
Among the complaints of Mexicans abroad are the deficiencies of Mexitel, the official digital platform for consular procedures.
The plan presented Thursday includes enlisting more attorneys to represent migrants and creating mechanisms to involve expats in development projects in México.
Ebrard also pledged to streamline the workings of consulates and the Foreign Affairs Secretariat to reduce delays and red tape for routine procedures such as passport renewal and casting absentee ballots.
There will also be an emphasis on the defense of Mexican culture abroad that is “different from the narrative presented in film, television and series of the last 20 years, which always tends to be very negative,” the foreign secretary said.
México will coordinate with Spain and other Latin American countries on cultural activities in the United States to promote the Spanish language and the shared Ibero-American culture.
“The government wants Mexican citizens of the United States to have identity and rights,” Ebrard said.
The administration of Lopez Obrador, who assumed the presidency on Dec. 1, is addressing the migration phenomenon in a structural manner by investing in disadvantaged areas.
Though Lopez Obrador has persuaded Washington to support the idea of investment in Central America as a way of stemming migration, President Donald Trump continues to insist on the need for a barrier on the US-México border.
“It is their decision, but I believe that walls are not required,” Ebrard said in response to a question.