Mexican Immigrants Following Homeland’s Presidential Race

Daniel Hernandez, Los Angeles Times, June 15, 2012

Ramiro Romero owns an auto upholstery business in Lynwood, has sent three children to college and is a first-time voter in a country in which he hasn’t lived for more than 30 years: Mexico.

“As a mexicano, we haven’t lost our roots, our culture, and that makes voting a civic necessity,” Romero, 56, said one morning at his bustling workshop on Atlantic Avenue.

“We want a prosperous Mexico. We want a Mexico that’s not in the top ranks for violence but in the top ranks for its economy, so we won’t have to go looking for opportunities to other countries.”

Romero, who holds dual citizenship, is among the tens of thousands of Mexicans living abroad who are voting by mail in the July 1 presidential election—a contest being closely watched as the country confronts soaring violence related to the U.S.-backed drug war.

The right to vote from abroad was won in 2005. Mexican nationals in 104 countries requested mail-in ballots this year, and 77% of those are from the U.S.—concentrated mostly in California, Texas, Illinois, Florida and New York.

Despite an estimated 12 million Mexican nationals living in the United States alone, only 59,087 have registered worldwide for next month’s election—45,512 in the U.S., and 1,580 of those in Los Angeles. {snip}

One reason for the low number: Casting a ballot from abroad requires a government-issued voter ID card, which can be obtained only inside Mexico. That effectively shuts out undocumented immigrants, who cannot freely cross the border.

{snip}

Romero, the Lynwood business owner, knows what it’s like not to be able to cross the border freely. He came to the U.S. illegally when he was 18. But since becoming a U.S. citizen in 1998, he has been able to return without worry to the western state of Michoacán and his hometown of Cherán, which made headlines last year after residents formed a communal militia against drug gangs.

“When we think about retiring, we want to return to our homes,” he said, passing yellowing posters hung in his workshop showing Cherán’s annual pueblo festival.

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