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Mexico: Constitutional Reforms on Expulsion of Foreigners

(Aug. 8, 2011) On June 10, 2011, Mexico issueda decree amending article 33 of the country's Constitution, an old provision from 1917 that granted the President “the exclusive power to expel any foreigner whose presence is judged undesirable from the national territory, immediately and without the necessity of prior legal action.” (DIARIO OFICIAL DE LA FEDERACIÓN (Feb. 5. 1917).) The superseding provision, which forms a new second paragraph in article 33, grants foreigners who are going to be expelled from the country under that article the right to be heard. The new provision states: “[t]he Executive of the Union, [after a] preliminary hearing, may expel a foreign person from the national territory on the basis of the law, which shall regulate the administrative procedure as well as the place and the length of time that the detention shall last.” (Decreto por el que se modifica la denominación del Capítulo I del Título Primeroy reforma diversos artículos de la Constitución Política de los Estados Unidos Mexicanos, DIARIO OFICIAL DE LA FEDERACIÓN (June 10, 2011).)

Commenting on this reform to EFE, a Spanish news agency, Senator Pedro Joaquín Coldwell stated that the “draconian” and “useless and insensitive” previous provision of article 33 on expulsion of foreigners was widely applied after the uprising of the Zapatista Army of National Liberation in the State of Chiapas in 1994, when dozens of foreigners were expelled from Mexico. According to Coldwell, although in recent times this executive prerogative has been used sparingly, it still remained in the background, a threat to foreigners who expressed criticism of the country's political affairs. Coldwell further stated that the newly worded provision will prevent the government from expelling foreigners without the right to an administrative or judicial hearing, and it will also guarantee foreigners access to proceedings in which they can defend themselves. (El Senado de México aprueba la reforma a la Ley de Derechos Humanos, RT AMÉRICA LATINA (Mar. 9, 2011).)

The Decree came into force on the day following its official publication; that is, on June 11, 2011. (Decreto, supra.)