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The majority of illegal immigrants in Mexico come not from Central America, but from the US.
On this particular day at the immigration office, she is upgrading her status to official “immigrant” after the five-year waiting period.
“I come and go and do what I want,” Rudd said. “It’s so easy to own property. Compared to the U.S., it’s a breeze.”
Though Rudd says she has gone through the process legally, those who are in the country illegally and later decide they want to become citizens have little to fear.
If it is discovered someone is living in the country without the appropriate documents, as long as they have not committed a crime they are required to pay a fine and then can begin the process of regularization to get on track to citizenship.
“To be undocumented in Mexico is not a criminal offense,” said Jorge Durand, a professor of the study of social movement at the University of Guadalajara and author of more than a dozen books on Mexican migration.
According to Mexico’s immigration law, illegal entry into Mexico, violating terms of a visa or trying to get back into the country after being deported could result in a fine equivalent to 20 to 100 days of minimum wage in Mexico — or between $83.60 and $441.00. (As of January 2010, there were three different minimum wages, the equivalent of $4.41, $4.29 or $4.18 a day depending on place of residence.)
The one violation that may carry a prison sentence is aiding in the transport of illegal immigrants into Mexico. This could result in 12 years in jail and a hefty fine of 10,000 days of minimum wage pay — $41,800 to $44,100.
But, generally, those in the country illegally are fined, told to make their status legal and sent on their way.
“Right now, our goal is to make it easier for foreigners to come here,” Perez said.