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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Long Road to the Voto Postal: Mexican Policy and People of Mexican Origin in the U.S.


In the spring of 2006, for the first time ever, tens of thousands of Mexican citizens living in the U.S. received absentee ballots to vote for the next president of Mexico, crowning a major transformation in Mexican policy. This paper, published in advance of the 2006 election, explores this form of transnational migrant empowerment as a major step in the redefinition of the terms of Mexican nationality and citizenship which allows for permanent residence abroad and even de facto dual citizenship and binational civic participation—and explores how the new policy may open a new dimension of minority politics in the United States. The arrival of distance voting in Mexico’s elections is part of a larger response to the rise of a new network of Mexican immigrant leaders, activists, and organizations in the U.S.—a network that the Mexican government helped develop and which is distinct from established U.S. Latino leadership. Both the U.S. and Mexico have repeatedly altered their basic policies toward the migration of Mexicans to the United States. This background paper places Mexico’s policy today against the backdrop of the various ends it has pursued, the means it has employed, and the results it has achieved over time. It examines the evolving civic orientation of both Mexican immigrants and U.S.-born Mexican Americans, touches on the role of issues such as guest worker programs, and pays special attention to the role of the Institute of Mexicans Abroad (Instituto de los Mexicanos en el Exterior—IME), a major new government agency.

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