US retirees in Mexico may be illegal immigrants

Published:  19 Jul at 6 PM
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Mexico’s recently revealed position as US expats’ favourite retirement hub may have concealed the fact that the majority are illegal immigrants.

After some 20 years lurking in the lower listings, Mexico’s now topping the charts of International Living’s best places for American retirees. In addition, the sheer numbers of US expats south of the border is increasing, as is the average age of the group. What isn’t being reported is that the majority of happily-settled elderly US citizens may actually be classified as illegal immigrants.

It’s easy for US retirees to live in the laid-back, inexpensive country without the proper documentation, having simply crossed the border and kept going until they reached their chosen beachside haven. A few official reports seem to suggest living illegally may be the rule rather than the exception. One study by Mexico’s National Institute of Statistics suggests as many as 91 per cent of resident Americans don’t have their papers in order, with the survey not allowing for dual nationals.

It’s perfectly legal to cross the San Diego border without showing identification or even stopping your car, with the adjacent city of Tijuana the next stop on your journey to your new country. Mexicans are generally happy to welcome American expats and their dollars, and the government is slow to deport US citizens unless they’ve been very, very bad people. Fines for not having the correct immigration papers range between $50 to several hundred dollars.

The system seemed to work fine until the Trump presidency kicked in, with its focus on a ‘big, beautiful wall’ and the deportation of unregistered Mexicans as well as their children who’d been brought to the country as babies. At least a million Americans live south of the border, although it’s suspected the total may be far higher, suggesting that should Mexico ever emulate Trump, chaos would result. Given that most Americans live in enclaves with their own people, it wouldn’t be difficult to trace them.
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