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México-US Migration Differs Dramatically Depending on Direction Traveled


By Kim Curtis

He crossed the Rio Grande in a tractor-tire inner tube. She loaded her family onto an airplane.

He lived in the US illegally for 23 years before a judge told him to leave. She enrolled her kids in school and started house shopping. Both are immigrants who left home in search of a better life, but their similarities end there.

“It’s easy for Americans to move around the world,” said Rebecca Eichler, a US immigration lawyer who moved to San Miguel de Allende in January with her husband and two children. “It’s very, very easy to move to México, and it’s nearly impossible for Mexicans to go to the US.”

Leo Rivas and family learned that the hard way. When Rivas was four and his brother was six, their widowed mother left León and headed to Los Angeles. His mother hired a “crazy, mean-looking guy with tattoos” to help them find their way, Rivas said. “She was desperate.”

Rivas is now a professor at Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México (UNAM) in San Miguel, which is cosponsoring Eichler’s presentation along with Caminamos Juntos, a nonprofit that helps recent deportees adjust to life in México.

“It wasn’t painful at all,” Eichler, a board member of Caminamos Juntos, explained about her immigration process. She filed a two-page form, verified $20,000 in savings, and paid about $200 per family member. “We had [residency] cards in hand maybe two months after we arrived.”

Mexicans seeking a life in the US must have a relative or employer to sponsor them. The sponsor files a 12-page form and pays about US$535. When the application is reviewed, the immigrant files another lengthy form, pays an additional US$550, undergoes a medical exam, gets fingerprinted, submits to a background check, then waits six months or more.

The US limits immigration from any one country to seven percent of available immigrant visas, so applicants from México have longer waiting times. For one sibling to sponsor another, the current wait is about 20 years. In addition, if an applicant has lived in the US illegally, even as a child, their chance of success is further reduced.

That’s what happened to Rivas. He lived in Los Angeles before a passport was required to enter México and frequently traveled back and forth to visit friends and family and to surf. Each trip was a felony. After a judge threatened him with deportation, he left and never returned.

“The difference is in standing in the world,” Eichler explained. “It’s in the interest of México to attract American money. They make it easy. Everyone wants to go to the US, so [they] put up barriers to make it harder.”

In “Journeys Across the Border,” Eichler and Rivas will discuss immigration issues at UNAM San Miguel, Mesones 71, Wednesday, November 14, 9–11am. The public is invited to this free presentation.



“Journeys Across the Border: An Immigration Lawyer’s Story”

Rebecca Eichler and Leo Rivas

Wed, Nov 14, 9–11am

UNAM, Extension San Miguel

Mesones 71

415 120 3461

Free admission



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