New travel regulations for entry into Mexico

February 9, 2010 4:42:57 PM PST
You may not be allowed to cross the border on your next trip to Mexico. New travel regulations mean big changes for people trying to leave the country and get back in. The Mexican government is using these new measures to improve security on its side of the border.

While these changes could make travel delays even worse along the U.S.-Mexico border, Mexican President Felipe Calderon has said repeatedly the new measures are a necessary sacrifice. Yet some say this latest plan to tighten security isn't as foolproof as it might sound.

For decades, driving or walking into Mexico has largely been a hassle-free experience with border crossers facing very few, if any, questions. But on March 1, all of that will change. Anyone entering the country must have a valid U.S. passport.

Alicia Flores says, "It's a good plan for security, for people to travel to Mexico. People can travel with more with confidence."

The new travel requirements aimed at protecting Mexicos's border are part of a larger effort by the Mexican government to fight organized crime and to identify and catch dangerous fugitives fleeing the U.S.

"We are, of course, doing this because of international regulations," said Consul General Carlos Gonzales.

Currently, you can just walk across the border without documentation as long as you're not going more than 25 miles into Mexico. It's the one reason why so many violent offenders make their getaway south of the border.

"It's a significant problem," said Harris County District Attorney Pat Lykos.

And it's an issue Lykos has been tackling head on. She believes the oversight by Mexican authorities could lead to more arrests.

"If they know they can't cross that way now, they'll have to find another way to cross is which is going to entail more risk on their part of being apprehended," said Lykos.

While the new regulation is being billed as a security measure, critics worry about the ramifications for Mexican immigrants living in the U.S. who normally cross the border. Some see it as nothing more than bureaucratic red tape.

"It's not a bad idea, but given the level of corruption we ordinarily see among border authorities on the Mexican side it won't be any impediment for the criminals. It will be an impediment for people who are law-abiding citizens," said Maria Jimenez, an immigrants rights activist.

Mexican officials here in Houston are launching a campaign to raise awareness about the new travel requirements. In addition to a media campaign, authorities will send out bulletins to travel agencies through Mexico's tourism office.