Article 1 of the Constitution establishes equal guaranties to all those within the territory of the United Mexican States and prohibits all discrimination based on ethnic or national origin, among others, that supports equal human rights to nationals and foreigners. In addition, Article 133 establishes that international treaties signed and ratified by Mexico will be supreme law of the entire union, which allow application of many contemporary rights, apart from not being contained in domestic laws and regulations linked to migration. The Mexican government has signed and ratified key international instruments for the protection of migrants’ rights, such as the International Convention on Protection of the Rights of All Migration Workers and Members of their Families, in force in Mexico since July 1, 2003.
In order to harmonise with the aforementioned, in July 2008, Articles 119 to 124 of the General Population Act, that penalised undocumented migration in Mexico, were repealed. On that same day Articles 118 and 125 of the same law were amended to reduce the undocumented stay of foreigners in Mexico to an administrative offense instead of a crime as stipulated before. This was clearly defined in the 2011 Migration Act, Article 68.
Similarly, in October 2009, the Official Gazette of the Federation (DOF, for its initials in Spanish) published the agreement by means of which were issued new rules for the operation of migration stations of the National Institute of Migration, that established with greater clarity the quantum of due process to improve the protection of migrants’ rights that were in custody of the Mexican State, while their legal status is decided pursuant to applicable immigration regulations. Rights of foreigners housed at migration stations were expressed in the 2011 Migration Act in Articles 106 to 111, which states, among other aspects, that they must receive medical, psychological, and legal assistance, if required; have separate housing facilities for men, women, children and adolescents, or families; be able to obtain information regarding their process, right to consular protection, to request refugee status, regularisation, assisted return, visitation, and maintain family unity throughout the process. Additionally, this Act includes the rights of foreigners with regard to deportation or assisted return processes (Article 119 to 123).
In January 2010, the DOF published the agreement by means of which the INM’s new Immigration Criteria and Formalities Manual was issued, which incorporated specific criteria for status regularisation, as well as for stay due to humanitarian reasons granting a work permit to foreigners that had been victims or witnesses of some crime in Mexican territory, and the ease for the documented stay of Guatemalan and Belizean border workers and local visitors, in Mexico’s southern border states.
In February 2010, the DOF published the circular by means of which is instructed the procedure for the care of unaccompanied migrant children and adolescents. This formalised the creation of Child Protection Officers (OPIs, for its initials in Spanish), and strengthened the capability of Mexican institutions to protect the higher interests and human rights of this especially vulnerable group. Guidelines included in the 2011 Migration Act, Articles 73, 74, and 112.
The new 2011 Migration Act makes special emphasis on various topics related to the rights of migrants. In this regard, it includes a specific chapter on rights, Articles 6 to 15, which indicates that regardless of their migration status, immigrants will have among others, access to educational services, medical care, civil registry, the right to the preservation of family unity, access to justice and due process, information, and to submit complaints regarding human rights matters.
It also establishes in a special chapter, Articles 66 to 76, issues related to migrants that transit in an irregular manner through the national territory, in which it is expressly stipulated that the migration status of a foreigner will not impede the exercise of his/her rights and freedoms acknowledged in the Constitution, the international treaties and covenants to which the Mexican State is a party, as well as the Law itself. It limits their detention only to immigration authorities, and grants the quantum of due process, consultancy, and legal representation. Legal status is given to migrant protection groups such as ‘Grupos Beta’ and the authorities are obliged to develop specific actions to protect vulnerable groups: children adolescents, women, victims of crime, disabled persons, and the elderly. In addition, INM is forbidden from performing status verification actions in migrant shelters run by civil society organisations.