No. 289.

Mr. Nelson to Mr. Fish

No. 398.]

Sir: On the 11th instant, the Mexican government submitted to congress an “initiative” or draught of a proposed law, regulating the whole subject of foreign citizenship in Mexico, accompanied by a message recommending the measure to the prompt consideration of that body. With these documents was published in the Diario Oficial a circular addressed on the same date, by the acting secretary of foreign affairs, to the heads of the ministries, inserting and commenting upon a former circular, dated the 31st of January last, by which it was made known that no matter of business coming before any ministry, in which any foreigner may be directly or indirectly concerned, is to be decided without submitting copies of the documents in the respective cases to the department of foreign affairs, and soliciting therefrom information as to the antecedents of the said foreigner.

The project of law specifies a large number of cases in which the foreign resident is to be considered a Mexican citizen unless he shall, in each case, enter a new protest, before the competent authority, that he desires to preserve his original citizenship; and, what is still more singular, cases are indicated in which Mexican citizenship becomes a sort of arbitrary penalty, which may be imposed by the government upon a foreigner, in lieu of expulsion from the country, after trial, conviction, and punishment for fraud.

This project has naturally created great comment and some indignation among foreigners; but there is not the slightest probability of any such law being now passed by Congress.

I inclose copies and translations of the above-mentioned circular, (A and B;) of the message, (C and D;) and of the project of law, (E and F,) the latter in a printed slip from The Two Republics of the 20th instant.

Yours, &c.,

[Page 640]



Department of Foreign Affairs, Chancery Section.

Under date of the 31st of January last this department wrote to the department under your worthy charge, as follows:

“The department of foreign affairs needs to know all the subjects pending before the other departments in which foreigners are directly or indirectly concerned or interested, even though they may not present themselves as such; and, by reason of its own attributes, possesses information and antecedents concerning foreigners which it is indispensable, or at least useful, to take into consideration in treating of such subjects.

“Therefore the citizen president of the republic has ordered that, for the final decision of every subject pending before any department, in which any foreigner may be directly or indirectly concerned or interested, information be previously called for from this department, supplying at the same time all the data necessary for the understanding of the said subject.

“All the executive departments may thus obtain the antecedents which they ought to consult for their greater precaution and judgment in the decision of the subjects coming within their own attributes which may be presented and which have any relation with the rights of foreigners or in any way affect them.

“Which I have the honor to communicate to you for the said purpose.”

As the spirit of this order was not generally understood, probably on account of some obscurity in its terms, I now state that its object is, that there may be sent to this department the originals or copies of all petitions and documents upon matters in which foreigners are in any way interested, before making any decision thereupon, in order that the department of foreign affairs may derive from such documents the data which may be useful, immediately or in the future, for the better decision of affairs coming within its own jurisdiction, in which the same foreigners may also be interested, and in order that the other departments may also render useful the information and data which that of foreign affairs will furnish them in its turn.

I have the honor to communicate this to you for your information and for the reasons mentioned, requesting you to order that the preceding decree be strictly and punctually obeyed in your ministry.


Circular to the executive departments.




The peace and prosperity of a nation depend, in great measure, upon a prudent legislation that may define and regulate the rights and obligations of foreigners, duly respecting the general principles which constitute the common law of civilized nations, and consulting the well-considered interest of this country itself.

Hitherto we have been destitute of a complete and consistent legislation under the above conditions, and from this fact there have certainly been derived many abuses of the quality of foreign citizenship; the inferiority which, in many cases, the position of native practically has, as toward that of foreigner; the inefficacy of the laws intended to promote colonization and foreign commerce for the benefit of the republic; and frequent disagreements with friendly governments respecting the methods which they are wont to adopt, and in the just decision of certain questions brought forward by foreigners.

The complete remedy for these inconveniences ought to be consigned in the international treaties which the republic may celebrate, and especially in the laws to which, by virtue of such treaties, foreigners should become subject from their entrance into Mexican territory.

It would seem that the first object to be thus obtained would be a sobriety in the declarations made in such treaties, limiting them to what is strictly required by the general and constant practice observed as just and safe by civilized nations, in order not to limit the sphere of the legislative power of the republic in the definition of the rights of foreigners; in this way the republic will always remain at liberty to provide for its own interests according to circumstances. Fortunately the existing treaties [Page 641] with friendly nations do not in any manner limit the right of this republic to establish, in all the extension which its convenience may require, the rules to which those foreigners are to be subject who come to the country under the protection of treaties and the national laws. But the task of forming a complete code of law respecting foreigners is difficult, requiring a length of time to finish, and an experience, perhaps longer than that hitherto acquired in the midst of difficulties and subversions of order, which have prevented the utilization of the results of several partial experiments of short duration.

It is, nevertheless, indispensable to begin the work immediately, by remedying the most noticeable inconveniences, and to this end the government now presents to the congress of the union a draught of a law, which it is hoped will, if passed, produce speedy and desirable results.

In it the means of naturalization are facilitated and extended; it is prescribed as an indispensable condition for the enjoyment of certain benefits hitherto common to natives and foreigners, but which ought to be reserved for Mexican citizens; the conditions upon which the rights of foreign citizenship may be preserved are laid down; these rights are accurately defined; the exchange of or traffic in nationalities is rendered difficult, if not entirely extirpated; and for possible future cases of such abuses, there are established penalties adequate to the necessity that such abuses should not be multiplied through the impunity which they have hitherto enjoyed. Care has been taken, throughout the draught, to conciliate what may now be called the assured principles of international law, and the stipulations of the international treaties now in force in the republic, with our national legislation, and with some new rules, in every respect that has seemed important for the interest of the country. The government does not pretend to submit to congress a perfect law, adequate to all emergencies; but it believes that if congress should adopt the draught proposed, and should make it a law, with the modifications that its wisdom and patriotism may deem just and convenient, the republic would advance much in the arrangement of its legislation upon foreign citizenship. I request you to lay the inclosed draught before congress, making known the urgent recommendation of the government that the subject be immediately considered, in order that the law be passed, if thought proper, before the termination of the present period of ordinary sessions.


The Citizen Deputies, The Secretaries of the Congress of the Union, Present.




Article 1. Foreigners are naturalized in the country, and consequently acquire all the rights and obligations of Mexican citizens—

I. By obtaining naturalization papers issued by the federal government.

II. By marrying a Mexican woman without stating a determination to preserve the foreign nationality.

III. By the birth of their children within Mexican territory without making known the determination expressed in the preceding section.

IV. By becoming of age while residing in Mexican territory, without having made known within the precise term of three months from the date of such emancipation the same determination previously referred to.

V. By acquiring real estate within the republic without making known the same determination.

VI. By performing acts belonging only to Mexican citizens; unless the government, in view of the circumstances of the case, should refuse to concede them Mexican citizenship.

VII. By accepting any employment or post of an official character from the federation, or from any state or municipality.

VIII. By exercising any profession, employment, or industry that may be prohibited to foreigners.

IX. By acquiring a Mexican domicile.

Article 2. Foreigners, in order to acquire real estate situated within Mexican territory, must reside in Mexico, and even if they should preserve their foreign citizenship by making the declaration mentioned in section V of the preceding article, they shall [Page 642] be considered as Mexicans in all that relates to such real estate, and shall be subject to the provisions of the law of February 1, 1856, of those of article 8 of the law of March 11, 1842, with its interpretation of the 3d of October of the same year, and of those of other laws in force.

Foreigners who may acquire shares or privileges to be improved within Mexican soil shall be subject to the provisions of this article, with the single exception of the obligation to reside within Mexican territory.

Article 3. Every foreigner who shall celebrate a contract with the federal government, with that of any state or municipality, or with any person authorized by such government or municipality to celebrate it in its name, or who shall receive, even in a private capacity, any commission from any of the above-mentioned authorities, shall be considered as a Mexican citizen, and in no case can allege the rights of a foreigner in respect to such contract or commission.

Article 4. Transient visitors and residents, who shall not have been naturalized in accordance with the first article of this law, shall be considered as Mexican citizens, unless they prove their rights of foreign citizenship by a certificate from the book of registry of foreigners, provided for by the law of March 16, 1861, and of December 6, 1866.

Article 5. The rights which foreigners cannot enjoy without having a certificate of registry are the following:

I. Exemption from obligatory personal service in political, civil, municipal, and judicial administration, and also in the army, the navy, and in the militia of national guard of the federation or the states; in which service not included that of police, for the security and defense of settlements menaced by malefactors who have not the character of public enemies in civil or foreign war in default of the public force for security, and only for the time that the urgent necessity for defense may subsist, in the judgment of the chief local authority.

II. Exemption from every impost having for object the compensation for the obligatory personal service from which foreigners are exempt.

III. The other privileges contained in the treaties in force between Mexico and foreign nations.

IV. The right of recourse to the diplomatic channel for presenting claims against the federal government in case of denial of justice or of unjustifiable delay in its administration, after having sedulously exhausted all other legal resource.

Article 6. To obtain a certificate of registry, foreigners shall be called to prove either that they are natives of and still preserve the nationality of the country to which they claim to belong, by a certificate of some diplomatic or consular agent of that country, or of the Mexican republic, and in no other manner; or that they have been naturalized in the foreign country whose citizenship they claim, in which case they must present, as an indispensable proof, their naturalization papers, accompanied by their written protest that they desire to preserve said nationality.

Article 7. Every foreigner who shall solicit naturalization papers shall prove that he follows an honest and lucrative occupation, and that he resides within Mexican territory.

Article 8. National vessels, without any distinction, are considered parts of Mexican territory.

Article 9. The statement of the desire to preserve a foreign nationality in the cases alluded to in sections II, III, IV, and V, of article 1, shall be made by extracting or presenting the certificates of registry, in accordance with article 3 of this law; and, moreover, by having it recorded in the civil register or instrument. If in these documents it shall not appear that note has been made of the certificate of registry, and if the determination of the interested party to preserve the rights of foreign citizenship be not stated therein, those rights shall be held to be renounced.

Article 10. Every Mexican citizen or naturalized foreigner who shall fraudulently allege rights of foreign citizenship, shall be tried for fraud according to the laws.

Article 11. Every foreigner who shall fraudulently allege rights exclusively belonging to Mexican citizens, or to the citizens of another nation, shall be, according to the choice of the government, in consideration of the circumstances of the case, expelled from the national territory as a pernicious foreigner, or be brought before the competent tribunal to be tried for fraud and its consequences. In case of his being tried, the right of the government to expel him from the country as pernicious shall remain intact, even after the execution of the sentence, or to consider him naturalized, if the case should be that mentioned in section VII of article 1, if it shall think proper so to do.