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New Mexican Nationality Bill Allows Expatriates to Be Citizens

By James F. Smith
Los Angeles Times

A Mexican law that takes effect Friday will allow millions of Mexican-born Americans and their children to hold Mexican nationality as well as U.S. citizenship.

Analysts say the law could have far-reaching practical effects - even potentially reshaping the flows of people and money between the United States and Mexico - and might set off cross-border political repercussions as well.

The Nationality Act revokes the previous rule that took away Mexican nationality from those who became citizens of another country. Furthermore, the new act broadens eligibility for nationality to include children of Mexican-born people. And the law is retroactive: Those who would have met the revised terms in the past may now claim back their Mexican nationality. Those eligible have five years to apply.

The law permits Mexican dual nationality but not dual citizenship, a distinction that will prevent dual nationals from voting in Mexican elections or holding high office here. Some Mexican Americans are now pushing for full voting rights in Mexican elections.

Among the most significant changes in the new law is the removal of investment restrictions imposed on foreigners in Mexico, which some expect to unleash greater capital flows by Mexican nationals to Mexico.

For example, Ramona Dominguez de Felix now plans to buy her coastal retirement home. Foreigners are barred from buying property within 100 kilometers of the frontier or 50 kilometers of the coast for national security reasons - a law written with Mexico's loss of half its territory to the United States in the 1800s still very much in mind.

"This will enhance the economic mobility of both countries, especially in the regions near the border," said Miguel Angel Gonzalez Felix, a senior Foreign Ministry official who helped craft the law and some of the constitutional reforms.