"All Mexicans that acquired U.S. citizenship before 1998 automatically lost their Mexican nationality," explained Carlos Vidali, Mexican Consul General in San Antonio. Vidali said he advertised the looming deadline periodically on Spanish-language television, and Univision began a series of stories about the deadline last week, hence the long, semi-circular line of applicants who wanted to beat the March 20 cutoff date.

Vidali said those who have missed this opportunity to become Mexican citizens again might get another chance if a bill survives the current session of the Mexican Congress. The bill would allow another five-year grace period for expatriates to retain Mexican nationality.

There are advantages for immigrants who return periodically to Mexico on business or to visit relatives. For one thing, Mexican citizenship papers mean that travelers do not have to pay the $23 turista entry fee that is required to travel more than 20 miles past the border.

People who have immigrated to the United States and have children born here were allowed an opportunity to regain Mexican citizenship, which would pave the way for those children to eventually seek the same designation should the need or desire rise.

Vidali said the bill to open another window had passed the Congress and the scrutiny of the Senate, but had to pass again through the Congress for final approval, and was subject to being redrafted or adjusted in much the same manner as a bill would in the Texas Legislature.

The looming deadline spurred more visits to the consulate in the past 45 days than had occurred during 2002. "I ran daily advertising spots, and Spanish-language TV did stories, and that created the flood," Vidali said. Additional advantages are that Mexican citizens can get a job in Mexico without a visa and own land along the border and coastline. Currently, non-Mexicans are prohibited from owning property located within 12 miles of the coastline and within 33 miles of the Mexican border. The only other way to purchase property in the forbidden zones is to create a trust fund as a Mexican entity.

In light of the advantages of holding dual citizenship, the $16 fee for processing the paperwork seemed like a bargain. •


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