With its sputtering economy relying on remittances from U.S.-based workers, Mexico is promoting dual citizenship as part of President Joe Biden’s amnesty program for millions of Mexicans living illegally in America.
“We have been proposing that our countrymen who have been working for years should be regularized, contributing to the development of that great nation,” Mexican President Andres Manuel López Obrador said hours before Biden was sworn into office on Wednesday.
Amnesty and dual citizenship – also known as dual nationality – is an especially big deal for America’s southern neighbor. More than 5 million Mexican nationals live and work illegally in the U.S., constituting the largest share of this country’s illegal population.
“Legalization of Mexican nationals in the United States here illegally will secure their presence, and increase their wages and therefore their ability to send money back to [their]country,” says Andrew Arthur of the Center for Immigration Studies.
Remittances from the U.S. to Mexico topped $37 billion in 2020, exceeding income from tourism and oil exports, and constituting 3.8 percent of Mexico’s total gross domestic product, which has been shrinking.
Lopez Obrador has urged his countrymen in the U.S. to keep shipping money home. Calling remittance-sending Mexicans “our living heroes,” he implored them “not [to]stop thinking about their loved ones.”
Seizing on Biden’s amnesty proposal, Lopez Obrador wants dual citizenship as part of the package “to respect [Mexicans’] right to be recognized, that they get dual nationality.” But the arrangement has drawbacks, exposing qualifying Mexicans to taxation in both countries while denying them the right to vote in Mexico.
As always, it’s about the money, and Mexico’s leader sees dual citizens in the U.S. as a win-win proposition for his country’s stumbling economy.